September 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara John and Rhea Mogul, CNN

Updated 0604 GMT (1404 HKT) September 12, 2022
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12:14 p.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Ukrainian official: More than 40 settlements in the Kharkiv region liberated

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

Ukrainian flags wave in the liberated town of Balakliya on Sunday.
Ukrainian flags wave in the liberated town of Balakliya on Sunday. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

As a Russian retreat in the Kharkiv region continues, a senior Ukrainian official has said that more than 40 settlements have now been liberated.

Roman Semenukha, Deputy Head of the Kharkiv region military administration, told Ukrainian television: "We can officially announce the liberation of more than 40 settlements. The situation is changing incredibly quickly and there are many, many more such [de-occupied] settlements."

Semenukha said the 40 referred only to those places where the situation was completely under control, and there were more where the Ukrainian flag had been raised.

"The situation is dynamically positive. And indeed the situation is changing," he said.

Semenukha said it was wrong to suggest the Russians were simply leaving. "There are fierce, fierce battles in many areas of the front and everything is very, very difficult. If we are talking about the military component, then you just have to be patient," he said.

10:16 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Ukrainian flag raised in areas close to the Russian border, local officials say

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

Local officials in the Kharkiv region say the Ukrainian flag has been raised in settlements close to the Russian border, confirming the continuing retreat of Russian forces in the area.

Oleksandr Kulik, an official in Derhachi northeast of the city of Kharkiv, said that the Ukrainian flag had been raised by local residents in the town of Kozacha Lopan. 

Kozacha Lopan had been occupied by the Russians since March and was an administrative center for occupation authorities. It is five kilometers from the Russian border and has been extensively damaged during the conflict.

Social media video provided by the Derhachi city council also showed residents of another settlement — Tokarivka — raising the Ukrainian flag there. Tokarivka is also close to the Russian border. 

Viktoriya Kolodochka, the head of the Tokarivka district, said Sunday: "The village was de-occupied this morning. People heard the roar of Russian military hardware. The Russians began to gather on their own in the morning and began to flee."

Kolodochka, who is not in the town but maintains contacts there, told CNN by phone that the Russians had left a lot of ammunition behind.

She also spoke of the months under occupation, which she described as "very scary." She said the occupying troops were from the Luhansk People's militia, who she said behaved like gangsters. They searched for people who had been in the security forces, confiscated phones and ransacked houses. She alleged they also beat and intimidated local residents.

"They took people to the basement of the school, beat them, electrocuted them, forced them to dig trenches, forced them to give information about people who worked in Ukrainian state bodies. But they didn’t kill anyone," she told CNN. 

Kolodochka said there had been no humanitarian aid until August when occupying forces provided some sugar and flour. She said people mainly survived on their own garden produce. She said she had left the town in April, but her parents had stayed behind.

"There are people left [in Tokarivka] who are very, very much waiting for our military," she said. "People really need help. There are ten paralyzed old ladies. There are people with diabetes and asthma. They survive as best they can. Medicines are very much needed."

As for those who had died during the occupation, Kolodochka told CNN: "There are people buried in their yards — we just buried them in their yards."

She added that there was still great uncertainty about what will happen. "People are still scared. Will they stop shooting? Is it true that the Russians have left? Or not? They are waiting for Ukrainian military so much."

But she insisted: "We will survive everything to be at home."

9:06 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

IAEA: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant's back-up power line is restored

From CNN’s Maija Ehlinger

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as seen on September 1.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as seen on September 1. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters/File)

A back-up power line to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has been restored, according to a tweet put out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sunday morning. 

The back-up line will provide the plant with the "external electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other safety functions." 

The last operating reactor at ZNPP, which is Europe's largest nuclear complex of its kind, was shut down earlier on Saturday after the transmission line was restored. 

7:06 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Ukrainian forces enter key city of Izium in a sign Kyiv's new offensive is working

From Ivana Kottasová, Tim Lister, Yulia Kesaieva, Denis Lapin, Josh Pennington and Victoria Butenko

When Ukrainian forces entered the city of Izium Saturday, it was more than a major military victory. It was a sign the war in Ukraine might be entering a new phase, one in which Russian troops are scrambling to hold onto the territory they captured over the past six months.

Russian forces were forced to flee the strategic eastern city just five days after Ukrainian forces began a new offensive eastward through the Kharkiv region.

Russians escaped and left weapons and ammo behind. City center is free," a spokesperson for the Bohun Brigade of the Land Forces of Ukraine said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

The last five days have seen the most ambitious ground assaults by the Ukrainians since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in late February. Video and satellite images geolocated by CNN show the advances have involved sustained attacks on command posts, ammunition stores, and fuel reserves far behind the front lines.

A senior US official said Ukrainian forces had achieved some success in attacking Russian supply lines, with the intention of cutting off and isolating Russian troops west of the Dnipro River.

Saturday's rapid advance did not end with Izium, as Ukraine appeared to have opened a new front against Russian defenses on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The head of the regional military administration for Luhansk, Serhiy Hayday, indicated the city of Lysychansk was the target of the new offensive.

Lysychansk was the last city in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine to fall under Russian control in July, after weeks of intense fighting. Hayday told CNN on Saturday "the occupiers, including both the collaborators and the military, are running away in a hurry."

Read the full story here:

6:41 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine has retaken another settlement in Kharkiv region

From Dennis Lapin

Ukrainian forces have liberated the settlement of Chkalovske in Kharkiv region from Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram on Sunday.

“Another freed settlement! Thanks to the 14th separate mechanized brigade named after Prince Roman the Great, the Ukrainian flag returned to Chkalovske, Kharkiv region,” Zelensky said.

In his daily video message late on Friday, Zelensky said that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had liberated and taken control of more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.

6:40 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

UK says Ukraine is making "significant gains" but fighting continues around cities including Izium

Ukrainian forces continue to make "significant gains" in the Kharkiv region, the United Kingdom's defense ministry tweeted Sunday.

It said that while Russia has "likely withdrawn units from the area," fighting continues "around the strategically important cities of Kupiansk and Izium."

This comes after a fast-moving Ukrainian offensive in the eastern Kharkiv region saw Ukrainian forces enter Izium on Saturday. The city has turned into a vital supply hub for Russian troops since they seized it more than five months ago.

6:52 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Ukraine defense chief says 3,000 square km of territory retaken, troops within 50 km of Russian border

From Dennis Lapin

In this photo released by the Ukrainian armed forces on Sunday, Ukrainian service members walk past an area that was captured from Russian forces during a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region.
In this photo released by the Ukrainian armed forces on Sunday, Ukrainian service members walk past an area that was captured from Russian forces during a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. (Press service of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Reuters)

Ukraine’s top military commander claimed that more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory has been retaken by the country's military since the beginning of the month.

“Since the beginning of September, more than 3,000 square kilometers have been returned to the control of Ukraine,” Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Sunday.

Ukrainian forces have begun to advance not only to the south and east in the Kharkiv region but also to the north, Zaluzhnyi said, adding “there are 50 kilometers to go to the state border.” 

CNN cannot independently verify Zaluzhnyi's claims.

Some background: After months of what was described by some analysts as a war of attrition, a fast-moving Ukrainian offensive beginning in the eastern Kharkiv region in recent days has forced Russian troops to retreat.

Ukrainian forces entered the strategic city of Izium, which sits near the border between the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, on Saturday. Izium, which had been under Russian occupation for more than five months, was being used as a launching pad and rail hub for attacks southward into the Donetsk region and Kupyansk.

Saturday’s rapid advance did not end with Izium, as Ukraine appeared to have opened a new front against Russian defenses on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The head of the regional military administration for Luhansk, Serhiy Hayday, indicated the city of Lysychansk was the target of the new offensive.

Lysychansk was the last city in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine to fall under Russian control in July, after weeks of intense fighting. Hayday told CNN on Saturday “the occupiers, including both the collaborators and the military, are running away in a hurry.”

7:29 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

Ukraine says Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been "completely shut down"

From CNN's Dennis Lapin, Josh Pennington and Sophie Jeong

The Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen in Enerhodar, Ukraine on July 9, 2019.
The Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen in Enerhodar, Ukraine on July 9, 2019. (Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Abaca/Sipa/AP)

The last operating reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) has been shut down after a transmission line linking the plant to Ukraine’s power system was restored, the country’s nuclear agency Energoatom said on Sunday. 

The plant, the largest nuclear complex of its kind in Europe, was "completely shut down” after the plant’s number 6 power unit was disconnected from the grid at 3:41 a.m. local time, the agency said in a statement, adding that “arrangements for its cooling and transfer to a cold state are underway.”

Energoatom said that one of the transmission lines was restored to its operational capacity Saturday, making it possible to power the plant from Ukraine’s energy system and shut down the number 6 power unit and transfer it to the “safest state – cold shutdown.” 

The reactor was disconnected from the Ukrainian grid last week and was operating in an “island mode,” generating electricity and using its own energy to power cooling systems.

Last week, a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for the "immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the nuclear power plant.

There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident arising from physical damage caused by military means," the IAEA wrote in its report.

The highly anticipated report came days after IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi led an expert mission to Zaporizhzhia, in what was the first independent look at the condition of the facility since Russia seized it at the start of the war.

3:14 a.m. ET, September 11, 2022

President Zelensky claims about 2,000 square kilometers of Ukraine retaken this month

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's nightly address on Saturday, September 10.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's nightly address on Saturday, September 10. (Official President Zelensky Facebook Page)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed the country’s military has retaken more than 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of territory since the beginning of the month.

“At this time, within the framework of active actions since the beginning of September, about two thousand kilometers of our territory have already been liberated,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Saturday.  

He also thanked the Ukrainian military who “distinguished themselves in the Kharkiv direction” and to the ones in Balakliya who “returned full control to the city.”