September 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 1:46 a.m. ET, September 9, 2022
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7:23 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

US Secretary of State Blinken makes unannounced trip to Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Ukraine Thursday – his third visit to the country since Russia invaded more than six months ago.

The top US diplomat met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. 

His trip comes as Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive aimed at reclaiming Russian occupied areas in the south of the country. It is also coincides with a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Both Austin and Blinken visited Ukraine in late April. They still remain the highest level US officials to have traveled to the country since the war began in late February. Multiple heads of state have gone to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. US President Joe Biden has yet to travel there, though the two leaders spoke by phone in recent weeks. 

Also on Thursday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov met his US counterpart Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley at the Ramstein base. 

“Started the day with a meeting with great friends of Ukraine Lloyd Austin III @SecDef and Gen. Mark Milley @thejointstaff,” Reznikov tweeted. “We appreciate the US staunch support of Ukraine.”

“Look forward to launching #Ramstein 5 Meeting with 50+ participants,” he added.

6:00 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

In revealing analysis, Ukrainian generals discuss future of the war and effect of Russian nuclear threat

From CNN’s Mick Krever

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi waits before a meeting with US Defense Secretary and other officials in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 19.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi waits before a meeting with US Defense Secretary and other officials in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 19. (Gleb Garanich/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s top general has predicted that the war against Russia will last beyond this year, and acknowledged the effect of Moscow's nuclear arsenal in discouraging greater involvement from Ukraine's allies.

In a wide-ranging and revealing analysis published by Ukrinform, Ukrainian state media, on Wednesday, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said there is “no certain final outcome in view.”

“There is every reason to believe,” writes Zaluzhnyi,in a piece co-authored with Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, First Deputy Chairman of the National Security, Defense, and Intelligence Committee of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), that the conflict “is not going to end anywhere within 2022.”

The pair also raised a series of interesting tactical points:

  • Ukraine needs to increase the distance over which it can strike against Russia. “Only by balancing out the weapons’ operating range, thus disturbing the said center of gravity for the enemy, can we get to a turning point in the ongoing war,” they write. The generals say that they believe that being able to strike further into Russian-held territory in Ukraine would also address the fact that ordinary Russians do not feel “all the losses, failures, and most importantly, costs of this war in all its senses.”
  • Strikes on Russian bases in Crimea last month are an example of this approach. “This was done by a series of successful missile strikes on the enemy's Crimea-based air bases, first of all, the Saki airfield. The task of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for 2023 is to make these experiences even sharper and more tangible for the Russians and for other occupied regions, despite the massive distance to the targets," they write, the most explicit that Ukrainian officials have been so far in acknowledging the strikes.
  • Arms deliveries from allies have been held up because of a lack of understanding of the scale of the war. “It remains difficult for the modern-day populations worldwide, primarily for Europeans, to even fathom World War 2-style combat operations in real life,” they write.
  • The threat of Russia's nuclear arsenal has also discouraged greater arms shipments. “The possibility of direct involvement of the world's leading powers in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, bringing closer the prospect of World War 3, cannot be completely ruled out either,” they write.
  • Russia is aiming to capture all of the Donetsk region in the east, said the generals, and could take over Mykolaiv and Odesa in the south if they manage to advance on the right bank of the Dnipro River. This would allow Russian forces to threaten the city of Kryvyi Rih in the center of the country, and renewed efforts to take over Kyiv "cannot be ruled out either," they add.
5:37 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

US announces $675 million in assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Colin McCullough 

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during the Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting on September 8, at the US airbase in Ramstein, western Germany.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during the Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting on September 8, at the US airbase in Ramstein, western Germany. (Andre Pain/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden has approved an aid package to Ukraine worth up to $675 million, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Thursday.

“Yesterday, President Biden approved the latest tranche of US assistance to Ukraine, valued at up to $675 million,” Austin said in remarks delivered Thursday morning at a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Austin said this assistance includes more “GMLRS, 105 millimeter howitzers, artillery ammunition and HARMs, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and small arms.”

This is the Biden administration’s 20th drawdown of equipment from US stocks for Ukraine since last August, according to Austin.

Austin is hosting the fifth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, with representatives from 50 countries in attendance. The first meeting was held in April.

“Now, we’re seeing the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield," said Austin. "And every day, we see the resolve of the allies and partners worldwide who are helping Ukraine resist Russia’s illegal, imperial, and indefensible war of conquest. And we must evolve as the fight evolves.”

4:31 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

Pro-Russian official calls for evacuation of Kupiansk as Ukrainian forces approach

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

The Russian-installed head of the Kupiansk city administration, Vitaly Ganchev, has called on women and children to evacuate the city as Ukrainian forces approach. 

"Today, such a situation is developing in Kupiansk that we are forced to ensure the evacuation of the population, at least children, women, due to the fact that the city is constantly under terror, constant rocket attacks from the armed forces of Ukraine, which do not (desist from) attempts to destroy infrastructure of the city,” Ganchev said in a video posted on the city administration’s Telegram channel on Thursday. 

“It’s not only about Kupiansk, it’s about almost the entire Kupiansk district, the Izium district. They caused very serious material and moral damage to our population,” he added. 

Ukrainian officials have declined to comment on the offensive in the northeast of Ukraine, but footage geo-located by CNN showed Ukrainian forces in the town of Volokhiv-Yar on Wednesday, around 50 kilometers (36 miles) away from Kupiansk, and also on the outskirts of Balakliya to the south. Russian officials have also remained silent on developments in the Kharkiv region.

Russian military bloggers and analysts believe the Ukrainian push towards Kupiansk aims to cut off supply lines to the strategic city of Izium to the south. 

The Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine’s push in the east is the result of Kyiv taking advantage of Russian redeployments to the south, to stop a Ukrainian counter offensive in the Kherson region. 

“Ukrainian forces likely used tactical surprise to advance at least 20 kilometers (12 miles) into Russian-held territory in eastern Kharkiv Oblast on September 7, recapturing approximately 400 square kilometers of ground,” the institute said in its daily report on the war on Wednesday.

“Ukrainian forces likely took prudent advantage of a reallocation of Russian troops, equipment, and overall operational focus to launch localized counteroffensives toward critical points in Kharkiv Oblast.”

3:38 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

Ukraine says it repelled several Russian attacks, stays silent on offensives in Kharkiv and Kherson

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

The Ukrainian military says it has repelled several Russian offensives across the battlefield, but has remained silent about its own counter-offensives in the northeast around Kharkiv and in the south near Kherson.

“Units of the Defense Forces hold their positions and prevent the enemy from advancing. Our soldiers successfully repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Kostyantynivka, Dibrivne, Hryhorivka, Zaitseve, Mayorsk, Mykolaivka Druha, Pervomaiske and Kamyanka,” the military’s General Staff said in a situation update on Thursday morning. 

The General Staff also reported intense Russian shelling across the battlefield. 

The update goes on to claim Ukrainian forces struck a Russian base in the village of Solodkovodne, in the Zaporizhzhya region, using artillery, but did not include information on ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensives in the north-eastern and southern frontlines.

The General Staff says only that “missile troops and artillery of our land groupings of troops continue to perform tasks of counter-battery combat, disruption of the command and control system and logistical support, damage to the enemy's manpower and combat equipment,” without any specifics.

3:00 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

Body of captured British aid worker shows "possible signs of unspeakable torture”: Ukrainian minister

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie

The recovered body of British aid worker Paul Urey, who was captured in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and died in the custody of Russian-backed separatists, has signs of “possible unspeakable torture,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday. 

“Russians have returned the body of a British humanitarian worker, Paul Urey, whom they captured in April and reported dead due to ‘illnesses’ and ‘stress’ in July (and the body shows) signs of possible unspeakable torture," Kuleba tweeted, promising to identify the perpetrators of the crime and “hold them to account.”
"Detaining and torturing civilians is barbarism and a heinous war crime,” Kuleba added.

CNN cannot independently confirm Kuleba's claims and has not reviewed autopsy reports relating to his death. 

Urey – who was from Warrington, Cheshire – was captured in April and accused of being a mercenary.

Russian-backed officials reported him dead due to “chronic diseases” and “stress” in July; he was 45 years old.  

Urey suffered from a number of health conditions, including diabetes, his friend Lex Roberts told CNN. 

The DPR’s ombudsperson Daria Morozova claimed Urey was “provided with appropriate medical assistance” while held in the separatist-held region. 

The foreign office summoned Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin after learning of Urey’s death. 

In a statement, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss – who was foreign minister at the time of Urey's capture – said Urey had been carrying out “humanitarian work” to “try and help the Ukrainian people.��

“The Russian government and its proxies are continuing to commit atrocities. Those responsible will be held to account. My thoughts are with Mr Urey’s family and friends at this horrendous time,” Truss said. 

2:26 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

2.5 million people forcibly deported to Russia, Ukraine tells UN Security Council

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Laura Ly

Khrystyna Hayovyshyn, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting on September 7.
Khrystyna Hayovyshyn, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting on September 7. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Ukraine told a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday that 2.5 million people have been forcefully deported from the country as part of a Russian "filtration" scheme in which many are being tortured and killed.

Deputy Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Khrystyna Hayovyshyn told the Security Council that thousands of Ukrainian citizens are being forcefully deported to “isolated and depressed regions of Siberia and the far east." 

Among the 2.5 million people deported so far, said the ambassador, were 38,000 children -- many of whom had been ripped from the arms of their parents.

The Russian authorities are terrorizing those it deports under the pretense of searching for "dangerous" people, the ambassador said, disappearing people affiliated with the Ukrainian government or media and those with political views deemed objectionable.

The comments came as the US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield described Russian “filtration operations” as “horrifying.”  

“A growing number of eyewitnesses and survivors of 'filtration' operations tell stories of threats, harassment, and incidents of torture by Russian security forces. They’ve had their biometric data captured, identification documents confiscated, and all means of communication cut off. They’ve been subject to invasive searches, interrogation under inhumane and demeaning circumstances. It really is horrifying,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters outside the UN Security Council chamber.

But Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council that newcomers go through “registration,” not filtration, procedures.

Nebenzia said it was unfortunate that human rights groups were making what he described as unfounded allegations against Russia.

"We have wasted time" discussing this issue, he said.

"People are fleeing Ukraine, more for fear of Ukraine,” Nebenzia added.

2:25 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

Shelling damaged a backup power line at Zaporizhzhia power plant, UN nuclear watchdog says

From CNN’s Mick Krever and Sharon Braithwaite

A satellite image shows damage to the roof of a building adjacent to several of the nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on August, 29.
A satellite image shows damage to the roof of a building adjacent to several of the nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on August, 29. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

Shelling on Tuesday damaged a backup power line that would supply Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in case of emergency, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Of the three back-up lines between the (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant) and the thermal power station, one is now damaged by shelling, while the two others are disconnected, senior Ukrainian operating staff informed IAEA experts present at the plant since last week,” the IAEA said in a statement.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been held by Russian forces since early March, but is still operated by Ukrainian staff. The IAEA director general visited the power plant last week, and two IAEA experts stayed to maintain a permanent presence at the plant. 

The IAEA said the shelling damage did not “have an immediate impact” on the plant, because the electricity line was not connected to the grid at the time.

2:24 a.m. ET, September 8, 2022

Ukraine is considering shutting down Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, chief nuclear inspector says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Vasco Cotovio

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar is seen on April 27.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar is seen on April 27. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine is considering shutting down the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant due to the deteriorating security situation, said Oleh Korikov, the chief state inspector for nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine.

If conditions requiring the plant to be shut down arise, the plant and power unit No. 6 will be shut down,” Korikov said on Wednesday.

Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power station in Europe.

"The continued deterioration of the situation, the prolonged lack of power supply from an external source of electricity will force us to deploy standby diesel generators, and it is extremely difficult to top up the diesel fuel supply during the war,” Korikov added. 

Korikov said maintaining the diesel generators running would not be sustainable. 

For context: In an interview last month, Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin explained why diesel generators are not a sustainable alternative.

Diesel generators are backups to cool fuel and keep things operational, but there are caveats to using them for an indefinite time and it's a "dangerous" situation to be in, he explained.

"Reliability questions could be an issue ... because in this case, they could be required to work for an indefinite time, and they have limited capacity to constantly be in work mode," Kotin added.

Korikov's concerns are along the same lines as tensions continue at the plant.

“Four huge diesel fuel tanks are needed per day,” Korikov explained. “Potentially, we can find ourselves in a situation with no diesel fuel; it can give rise to an accident, damaging the active zone of reactors and releasing radioactive products into the environment. It will not only affect the territory of Ukraine but also produce cross-border effects.”

Currently, the plant “generates electricity and supplies it for its own needs” through an exceptional process called islanding where the plant — although disconnected from a power grid — uses its own energy to power cooling systems, according to Korikov.