September 9, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Christina Walker, Aditi Sangal, Hannah Strange, Adrienne Vogt and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 2139 GMT (0539 HKT) September 9, 2022
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2:10 p.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Pentagon: Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson has yielded "encouraging signs"

From CNN's Michael Conte and Oren Liebermann 

A senior US Defense Department official said the Ukrainian counteroffensive that began on Sept. 1 in the Kherson region has shown the Ukrainians have been “creative” in integrating military capabilities provided by the US and other countries in their operations.

“We’re watching the progress on the counteroffensive quite closely as you could imagine. ... I think we’ve seen some encouraging signs, certainly even in just the last day or two,” US Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker said Friday at a briefing with reporters, “but again, the Russians are a formidable adversary, and there’s a, I think, a long fight ahead.”

This is the first time the US Defense Department has called the Ukrainian operation a counteroffensive, a term previously avoided by department officials, including US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

3:46 p.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Russians left "many trophies" in Kharkiv region, Ukrainian military official says after touring liberated area

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

A general view of the damaged buildings as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine on September 9, 2022.
A general view of the damaged buildings as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine on September 9, 2022. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, Oleh Syniehubov, said he toured recently liberated areas of the region — and the "Russians left broken infrastructure and houses, many trophies and piles of garbage."

Syniehubov posted photographs of his tour on his Telegram channel.

"People, without exaggeration, met our soldiers with tears in their eyes....Residents, of course, need help. Most villages do not have electricity or gas. In the near future, we will restore them and bring in humanitarian aid," he said.

"But the first thing is cleansing and demining," Syniehubov said. "For those who have left, we do not recommend returning until the relevant orders of the military."

He also issued a warning to those who had collaborated with the occupation.

"No traitor will escape responsibility. Today, the head of one of the villages of the de-occupied community, who collaborated with the enemy, was detained," he said.

"The most important thing: thanks to our Armed Forces, there are already Ukrainian flags everywhere!" Syniehubov said.

1:56 p.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Ukrainian military claims Russian desertion rates are rising

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva 

The Ukrainian military has claimed that desertion among Russian forces is increasing in the southern Kherson region in the face of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in an operational update Friday, said that "due to significant losses and unwillingness to fight, the morale and psychological condition of the occupation units is significantly deteriorating and the number of deserters is increasing."

It did not provide specific evidence for the claim.

The General Staff said that in one town close to Crimea, the Russians had used helicopters "to search for fugitives and return them to combat positions."

Elsewhere, it said Ukrainian units had blocked several enemy attacks in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, away from the area where a Ukrainian advance continues. 

It also said Ukrainian combat planes had carried out more than 10 strikes in both Donetsk and the south. 

The Ukrainian Air Force appears to have been more active in recent weeks, thanks to the acquisition of US missiles capable of seeking out and destroying Russian air defense units.

Separately, the military's Operational Command South said Ukrainian units continued to suppress "concentration of manpower and combat equipment, the pontoon crossing in the Darivka area and the temporary bridge in the Nova Kakhovka area," which the Russians have erected to try to resupply forces on the west bank of the Dnipro river.

12:03 p.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Ukrainian forces continue advance deep into Russian-held territory in Kharkiv region

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Ukrainian forces have continued to advance deep into Russian-occupied parts of Kharkiv region in the country's northeast, according to multiple social media videos as well as accounts from both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian social media channels. 

The Russian 202nd motorized rifle regiment, "located in the Kharkiv region, withdrew from their positions and moved to the nearest forest. The unit was left without commanders and communications," Ukrainian intelligence said.

Ukrainian forces have advanced more than 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) eastwards into Russian-held territory across a widening front, threatening to cut off Russian forces to the south around Izium.

Russian soldiers were "calling to relatives with requests to contact the command and find out where they should go next. Some of them ask their wives to contact the hotlines of the Ministry of Defense of Russia and the Red Cross with the demand to remove them from the territory of Ukraine," the Intelligence Directorate claimed.

It provided no evidence for the assertion.

The Directorate said the Russians had sued flamethrowers in an effort to stay the Ukrainian advance but "suffered serious losses, left their positions and retreated in small groups."

"Due to the lack of logistics, they are retreating in a disorganized manner."

The Directorate also claimed that the "237th Guards Airborne Assault Regiment of the Russian Federation ceased to exist due to the death or injury of all servicemen."

A pro-Russian Telegram channel called the Kharkiv People's Republic said that a "really large force" of Russian reserves had been deployed and "were able to repel an attack by the AFU [Ukrainian forces] on Horokhovatka and prevent the cutting of the Izium - Borova bridge."

It acknowledged fighting in the area and suggested that Ukrainian forces were advancing south towards Izium.

The channel said that civilians were being evacuated from both Izium, which has been the main hub for the Russian assault southwards into Donetsk region since April. The evacuation of civilians from Kupyansk, a critical point for Russian resupply, was also continuing, it said.

"The Russian Armed Forces are preparing for defenses and a possible siege of the settlements," it said.

The channel also acknowledged that a Russian command post had been hit and a bridge disabled near Kupyansk.

It concluded that "the most optimistic scenario for the [Russian] Armed Forces command is the creation of an encirclement" of Ukrainian forces but added that the Ukrainian tactic of using small, manoeuvrable groups had been effective, adding that if they "manage to gain a foothold, it will be much more difficult to recapture the seized territories."

Through geolocation and the statements of the Ukrainian military, independent analysts and Russian military bloggers, it's estimated that Ukrainian forces have taken well over 400 square kilometers of territory this week in the Kharkiv region. 

4:47 p.m. ET, September 9, 2022

IAEA issues warning urgently calling for cessation of shelling in the area of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Carolyn Sung, Richard Roth, Kristina Sgueglia

A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on August 30.
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on August 30. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a dire warning urgently calling for the immediate cessation of shelling in the area surrounding the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant due to the risk of a “nuclear accident.” 

A “serious situation” developed after the power infrastructure feeding the city of Enerhodar — which houses the plant operators and their families — was destroyed by shelling, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement. 

The shelling has led to a complete power blackout — with no running water, power or sewage — in the city.

“Given the increased and continued shelling, there is little likelihood of re-establishing reliable offsite power to the ZNPP, especially as the shelling continually and repeatedly damages the power infrastructure,” Grossi said.

Without confidence in the restoration of offsite power, the operator is considering shutting down the only remaining operating reactor — meaning the whole plant would be fully reliant on emergency diesel generators, he explained. 

Grossi again called for the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.

“This is the only way to ensure that we do not face a nuclear accident,” he said.

Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly traded accusations for who is responsible for the shelling. CNN has been unable to verify either government’s claims.

10:04 a.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Ukraine claims further progress on southern front

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman 

As Ukrainian forces take swathes of territory in the Kharkiv region, they are also claiming successes in the southern region of Kherson.

"There is good news: we are advancing....we have advanced on the enemy's positions from two to tens of kilometers in various areas. But we are not yet announcing the names of settlements and the directions in which we are successful," Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for the defense forces in the south, said on Ukrainian television Friday.

But she said Russian forces continued to strike from the air. 

"They are weak on land, they try to hit civilian positions, populated areas, and rear areas."

Humeniuk also claimed that some Russian units were refusing to fight.

CNN is unable to verify the Ukrainian claims. Very little video evidence has emerged from the southern front in recent days about the battlefield situation.

The Russian Ministry of Defense Thursday claimed that Ukrainian forces had abandoned their positions in two locations on the border between Kherson and Mykolaiv regions due to heavy casualties.

9:00 a.m. ET, September 9, 2022

US secretary of state: War in Ukraine "likely to go on for some significant period of time"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participate in a media conference after a meeting of NATO ambassadors at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Friday, on September 9.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participate in a media conference after a meeting of NATO ambassadors at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Friday, on September 9. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday he believes the war in Ukraine “is likely to go on for some significant period of time,” noting that “there are a huge number of Russian forces that are in Ukraine, and, unfortunately, tragically, horrifically, President Putin has demonstrated that he will throw a lot of people into this at huge cost for Russia and huge cost to its future.”

Speaking at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Blinken said “we see Ukraine making real, demonstrable progress in a deliberate way” in their counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-held parts of the country. He said he didn’t want to prejudge “where it will go and how far it will get, but the initial signs are positive,” and reiterated his view the fact that Ukrainians “are fighting for their own country” will be “the most decisive factor.”

“The Russian forces in Ukraine, many of them have no idea why they're there. Some didn't even know where they were being sent. We see reports that their morale is low. And when you don't know what you're fighting for, that is something that's not sustainable,” Blinken said.

“Now, Russia has significant resources, military resources. It is acting in horrific, indiscriminate ways. Ukrainians are bearing an incredibly heavy cost,” Blinken said. “Even on the front lines now, in and around the Kherson area, even as they're making progress, they're bearing real costs, but fundamentally, they're fighting for their own homeland.”

The tops US diplomat said he believed that Russian citizens would eventually see the toll the war is bearing on them.

“How is what Putin is doing, doing anything to improve the lives of Russian people? How is this helping them? How is this assuring their own future? How is this creating opportunity for them?” he asked. “Not only is it not, it's doing just the opposite. It's cutting Russia off from the world. It's denying opportunity. It's depleting its resources, resources that go to help the Russian people.”

“In a closed information society that Putin has created and Russia, that information doesn't get there as quickly as it as an otherwise might, but I believe it will. And Russians have to ask themselves, why in the world they are losing so many lives, trying to take another country that is not theirs,” Blinken said.

8:48 a.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Russian and Turkish Presidents will meet next week and discuss the grain deal, Kremlin says

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) during a meeting in Sochi, on August 5.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) during a meeting in Sochi, on August 5. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are planning to meet in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, next week and are likely to discuss the grain deal, the Kremlin told journalists Friday.

“The [grain discussion] is essential, and a conversation between [Presidents] Putin and Erdoğan is being prepared already. We are planning to hold it in Samarkand,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a regular press briefing on Friday.

“We see that the Istanbul agreements on grain are being implemented. But we also see that this implementation is not beneficial to poor countries, for only two food cargo ships reached the ‘poor countries’ according to the UN classification,” he added.

On September 15-16, the Uzbek city of Samarkand will host the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

8:55 a.m. ET, September 9, 2022

Ukraine's counteroffensive shows the country can retake its territory and use Western weapons, official says

From CNN’s Victoria Butenko

The success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive shows that it can retake its occupied territory and effectively use modern Western weaponry, said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff.

“What does effective Ukrainian counteroffensive tell the world? [Ukraine] proved the capability of de-occupying its territories. There will be no freezing of the conflict,” Podolyak tweeted on Friday. “[Ukraine] proved that it can effectively use modern Western weapons.”

He also called on Russian troops to “get out.”