September 5, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Amy Woodyatt, Simone McCarthy, Tara Subramaniam and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 2259 GMT (0659 HKT) September 5, 2022
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8:34 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Ukraine says it has inflicted losses on Russian forces in southern region of Kherson

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

The Ukrainian military says offensive action in the southern region of Kherson continued Sunday, with air strikes and artillery brought to bear against Russian forces.

The military's Operational Command South said that the air force carried out 21 strikes, while "rocket and artillery units continue to carry out fire missions intensively. Crossings through the Dnipro and Inhulets (rivers) are under close fire control."

The command said the Russians had lost six tanks and other equipment, including nine howitzers.

An ammunition depot at Tomyna Balka and a pontoon crossing near the village of Lvove were also destroyed, as well as the command post of the 35th Army in the Kakhovka district, it said.

But the Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian forces continued to conduct defensive operations, attacking more than a dozen settlements in northern Kherson with artillery and air strikes.

"After intensive shelling by the Defense Forces of areas where the enemy is concentrated in the Kherson region, Russian invaders imposed a ban on the movement of local residents. In particular, people are prohibited from crossing the Dnipro River both by bridges and by watercraft," the General Staff added.

The Kherson region military administration said that amid the combat, most of the region was once again without electricity.

6:47 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Ukrainian official suggests IAEA mission to  Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was "ineffective"

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during a visit by members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during a visit by members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday. (International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)/Handout/Reuters)

A senior Ukrainian official says the government is still waiting for a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and has suggested the IAEA mission is "ineffective."

"We do not understand whether everything is normal there in terms of safety, cooling of the reactors, with the personnel, whether they understand the algorithms by which they work. We did not see all this in the report, and this proves that international institutions, unfortunately, are completely ineffective," Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the President's Office of President of Ukraine, told Ukrainian television Monday.

Podolyak said there should be a "nuclear audit" the plant, which included "a certain number of people who know nuclear physics and engineering technologies" working next to Ukrainian staff.

While occupied by Russian forces, the plant is run largely by Ukrainian technicians.

"There are Russian troops who do not understand what is happening there, they do not assess the risks correctly. But there is a certain number of our workers there who need some kind of protection, to have people from the international community standing next to them," Podolyak said.

The weekend appears to have passed relatively quietly in the area around the plant, which has seen persistent shelling for weeks, some of which has damaged the plant's infrastructure, according to the IAEA.

On Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said the organization knows "much more" about the state of the plant after its visit last week. A team of inspectors will have "continued presence" at the plant, Grossi said. 

6:47 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Zelensky says three settlements liberated in southern and eastern Ukraine

From Kostan Nechyporenko and CNN's Sophie Jeong

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that two settlements in the south of the country and a settlement in the eastern Donetsk region were liberated.

He did not say precisely where the settlements were and provided no timeline except that his military commanders and head of intelligence delivered “good reports” at a meeting on Sunday.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had also “advanced and regained certain heights” in the Lysychansk-Siversk direction.

3:44 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Deployment of new Russian military corps to front delayed: Ukrainian military intelligence official

From Kostan Nechyporenko and CNN's Tim Lister and Jorge Engels

Russia’s Armed Forces will not be able to field a new corps until late November due to a shortage of trained professionals and military hardware, and new troops are being outfitted with Soviet-era weapons that in many cases are not combat-ready, an official in Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence said Sunday.

"The issue of the Third Army Corps will drag on until November. The problem is: human resources, staffing with professionals. It takes three to four months to train a good enough professional,” said Vadym Skibitskyi, a representative of Ukraine’s military intelligence, according to the body’s Telegram channel.

Skibitskyi said Russia was suffering from a lack of “all the most modern” military hardware and weapons because of the heavy losses its forces suffered in February and March. Units being formed were equipped with Soviet-era weapons, he said.

“According to our estimates, 40 percent of military equipment is not combat-ready. It needs to be repaired and put in order," said Skibitskyi, according to Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence’s Telegram channel.

CNN has not been able to independently verify these claims.

Some context: Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in late August that Russia's Third Army Corps was “highly likely short of personnel and these troops have had limited training” and that the “operational effectiveness of these units is not known.”

2:10 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

German Chancellor and Ukrainian Prime Minister discuss reconstruction during Berlin meeting

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz greets Denys Schmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, for a reception with military honors at the Chancellery, Berlin, Germany, on September 4.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz greets Denys Schmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, for a reception with military honors at the Chancellery, Berlin, Germany, on September 4. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday in Berlin, where the two discussed the war in Ukraine, according to a German government readout. 

Scholz expressed his respect for the “bravery” of Ukrainians against the “Russian war of aggression", the readout said.

The two discussed the eventual reconstruction of the country, with Scholz announcing an expert conference to take place in Berlin on October 25.

They also addressed Ukraine's bid to join the European Union, a process which can take years to complete.

“With a view to Ukraine's candidate status for EU accession, which was decided by the European Council in June, the Chancellor encouraged the Ukrainian Prime Minister in his reform course and stressed that reforms in the rule of law and the judicial system in particular are just as important for attracting investment for reconstruction,” the press release said.

Shmyhal also met with the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday and said in a tweet that they discussed the "military situation, strengthening sanctions and the need to provide weapons" for Ukraine.

2:06 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Top US diplomat in Moscow leaves post, will retire

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US ambassador to Russia John Joseph Sullivan, center left, attends a memorial service for Mikhail Gorbachev at the Column Hall of the House of Unions in Moscow, Russia, on September 3.
US ambassador to Russia John Joseph Sullivan, center left, attends a memorial service for Mikhail Gorbachev at the Column Hall of the House of Unions in Moscow, Russia, on September 3. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has left his post as the top US diplomat in Moscow and will retire, the embassy announced Sunday.

Sullivan departs amid a period of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia not seen in decades. He leaves after nearly three years as ambassador in Moscow, where he oversaw the embassy as it faced increasing restrictions imposed by the Russian government.

Sullivan concluded his tenure as US envoy and departed Moscow on Sunday, the US Embassy in Russia said in a press statement.

“Following his departure, he will retire from a career in public service that has spanned four decades and five US presidents, including service as the Deputy Secretary of State and in senior positions at the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Commerce,” the statement said.

Elizabeth Rood would assume duties as Charge d’Affaires until the ambassador's successor arrives, according to the embassy.

On his last day as ambassador, Sullivan attended the public farewell ceremony for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday.

Speaking after the ceremony, Sullivan told CNN he had the honor to “represent the United States, President Biden, our government, the people of the United States to pay tribute to such a remarkable man, a great man, a statesman who changed the world, with his vision for peace, for transformation in his own country and in the world.”

6:36 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Ukrainian military appears to control town in Kherson after reported Russian withdrawal

From CNN's Tim Lister, Kostan Nechyporenko, Denis Lapin and Victoria Butenko

The Ukrainian military appears to have taken control of the town of Vysokopillya in the southern Kherson region.

"There is a flag of Ukraine above the hospital on Gagarina Street, where my grandmother and grandfather's house was. And that's great," Dasha Zarivna, an advisor to the Head of the President of Ukraine's office Andrii Yermak, said.

One social media image shows Ukrainian soldiers raising a flag on the roof of a building, said to be in Vysokopillya. CNN cannot independently verify the location of the image.

A post on a pro-Russian Telegram channel said Sunday that Russian forces had "retreated in battle order from Vysokopillya (Beryslav district). The Armed Forces of Ukraine wanted to take them, surrounded by two pincers, from Olgyne and Potiomkyne."

Those are two neighboring settlements to the east and west of Vysokopillya, which had a population of about 5,000 before the war.

Some context: Ukrainian forces appear to have made limited territorial gains in Kherson to date. But the Institute for the Study of War said Saturday that according to Ukrainian officials, the offensive was "an intentionally methodical operation to degrade Russian forces and logistics, rather than one aimed at immediately recapturing large swathes of territory."

One Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday that the current goal of Ukrainian forces in the south is the “systemic grinding of Putin’s army, and Ukrainian troops are slowly and systematically uncovering and destroying Russia’s operational logistical supply system with artillery and precision weapon strikes."

2:48 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Russian forces suffering from low morale, discipline issues, lack of combat-ready military equipment, UK Ministry of Defense says

From CNN's Kim Norgaard and Jorge Engels

A destroyed Russian tank begins to rust in woodland near Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 7.
A destroyed Russian tank begins to rust in woodland near Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 7. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Russian troops in Ukraine are still suffering from morale and discipline issues due to combat fatigue, high casualties and likely problems with their pay, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense tweeted Sunday.

“The Russian military has consistently failed to provide basic entitlements to troops deployed in Ukraine, including providing appropriate uniforms, arms and rations, as well as pay. This has almost certainly contributed to the continued fragile morale of much of the force,” the UK’s Ministry of Defense said in the statement.

Russia’s military pays its troops a “modest” base salary, increased by a “complex variety of bonuses and allowances,” according to the UK’s Ministry of Defense.

“In Ukraine, there has highly likely been significant problems with sizeable combat bonuses not being paid. This is probably due to inefficient military bureaucracy, the unusual legal status of the ‘special military operation,’ and at least some outright corruption amongst commanders,” the statement added.

CNN cannot independently verify these claims.

Some context: US and Western officials said in late August that Ukraine appears more evenly matched with Russian forces not only because of the advanced Western weaponry that Ukraine has been using, but also because the Ukrainians still have the advantage in terms of morale, unit cohesion, tactical acumen, and a superior ability to improvise on the fly.

By early August, Russia had suffered about 70-80,000 casualties, including troops killed and wounded, in its ongoing invasion, according to a Pentagon official.

8:39 a.m. ET, September 5, 2022

Ukrainian officials upbeat on progress of Kherson counteroffensive

From Kostan Nechyporenko and CNN's Tim Lister

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his nightly address on Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his nightly address on Sunday. (Reuters)

Ukrainian officials have given upbeat assessments of the progress of the military's counteroffensive in the Kherson region, nearly one week after acknowledging the operation had begun.

There are indications that Ukrainian forces have made modest gains on the ground, but also of Russian counter-attacks in some areas. Much of the fighting is along the border of Kherson with the regions of Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk.

Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military's southern command, said Ukraine was able to hit any routes the Russians could use to bring up reserves.

Ukrainian fire had caused "the destruction of command posts of many powerful units, on which the Russian leadership made a big bet. That is, these are already decapitated units," she said.

Humeniuk also said that new Russian attempts to build pontoon bridges across the river Dnipro to resupply their frontlines had been taken out.

She claimed that Ukraine's military operations would make it impossible for the Russians to stage referendums in areas they occupy. The resistance movement in the South was also "a serious factor that affects their [Russian] plans and actions, since it is both propaganda work and work to physically eliminate collaborators," she said.

In his daily video message on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky also sounded an optimistic note about the battlefield. "

"Today, our air force has a good result: downed "Calibres" [cruise missiles], attack helicopter of the occupiers, drones ... We will do everything so that Ukraine can fully protect its skies from Russian missiles and aircraft," he said.

Ukrainian artillery was "doing everything to destroy the strike potential of the invaders," Zelensky added.

Some context: Ukrainian military officials have given few details on where progress is being made and to what extent. One axis of the counter-offensive appears to be south of the city of Kryvih Rih.

The Institute for the Study of War assessed Friday that the town of Kreshchenivka may now be in Ukrainian hands, because the Ukrainian General Staff had spoken of Russian airstrikes in the area. Remotely sensed fire data also suggests multiple explosions in the district over the last two days.