September 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 7:20 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022
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8:25 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

French president calls for Russia to withdraw from Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant during phone call with Putin

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan and Xiaofei Xu

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a conference in Paris, on September 5.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a conference in Paris, on September 5. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his demand for a ceasefire in Ukraine and Russian withdrawal from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Elysee Palace said Sunday.

Macron “condemned the continuation of Russian military operations in Ukraine and reiterated his demand that they cease as soon as possible, that negotiations begin and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine be restored,” his office said in a statement.

The French President “also stressed the need to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. He recalled that the Russian occupation was the cause of the current risks to the integrity of Zaporizhzhia. He called for Russian forces to withdraw their heavy and light weapons from the plant and that the IAEA's recommendations be closely followed to ensure the safety of the site be restored,” the Elysee said.

Some more context: Zaporizhzhia is the site of the largest nuclear plant in Europe, and the facility sits on the fire line between the Russian occupiers and Ukrainian forces.

The Elysee added that Macron “will speak again to President Putin in the next few days in order to reach an agreement that guarantees the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.” 

On the issue of global food security, Macron told Putin that European sanctions against Russia do not apply to agricultural products. He also asked the Russian leader to ensure that the Ukraine grain export agreement between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, under the supervision of the United Nations "to ensure that the exported grain goes to those who need it most.”

8:21 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Ukrainian military: Russians flee strategic town in Luhansk

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Victoria Butenko 

In a statement Sunday, the Ukrainian military's general staff said that Russian forces had abandoned the town of Svatove in Luhansk region, a town that until Saturday was still 40 kilometers (25 miles) beyond the known front line of the Ukrainian advance.

Svatove has been an important hub on Russian resupply routes to the front lines further south -- along the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

"The occupiers have abandoned Svatove in Luhansk region," the general staff's office said in a Facebook post. "They rushed away in four Kamaz trucks, twenty Tigr AVs [armored vehicles] and stole over 20 cars of local residents."

CNN cannot independently verify the Ukrainian account.

The general staff's office also claimed that "as a result of the successful counteroffensive of our troops in the Kharkiv direction, the Russian troops frantically leave their positions and flee with the loot deep into the temporarily occupied territories or into the territory of the Russian Federation."

It referred to one alleged episode in which, it said "150 service members of the armed forces of the Russian Federation left in a convoy from Borshchova and Artemivka of the Kharkiv region on two buses, one truck and 19 stolen cars."

Borshchova is to the north of Kharkiv city, just a few kilometers from Ukraine's border with Russia.


8:22 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

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

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

A Ukrainian flag waves after the Ukrainian army liberated the town of Balakliya in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 11.
A Ukrainian flag waves after the Ukrainian army liberated the town of Balakliya in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 11. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

As the 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.


8:24 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

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

From CNN’s Maija Ehlinger

A view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on September 11. 
A view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on September 11.  (Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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.