September 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Ivana Kottasová, Eliza Mackintosh, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:40 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022
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1:02 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Zelensky adviser: Ukrainian counteroffensive continues but has "slowed down slightly"

From CNN’s Zeena Saifi

Ukrainian soldiers stand on a road in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on September 12.
Ukrainian soldiers stand on a road in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on September 12. (Kostiantyn Liberov/AP)

As Ukraine continues to liberate swathes of territory from Russian occupation in the east, presidential military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says the country’s counteroffensive has “slowed down slightly.”

“The counteroffensive continues but has slowed down slightly because most of the Ukrainian forces are fighting to capture the city of Lyman, to open our way into the Luhansk region. We will intensify our strikes and liberate new territories in a different way,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview.

Lyman, an important rail hub, is roughly 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of the strategically important Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukrainian forces have taken 6,000 square kilometers of land since the beginning of the month. His adviser also said they conducted a storm operation that liberated “more than 300 settlements in four days.”

“We prepared carefully for this. It has taken months of planning. We used reconnaissance and accuracy, we used our allies, especially the United States army, for information on this, and we used Western weapons,” Zelensky added.

During the recent offensive, Ukrainian forces managed to capture Russian weaponry that would support around three brigades in their fighting, Arestovych told CNN. He also said Russia suffered “huge casualties” and lost some soldiers who Ukraine had captured as prisoners of war. Asked by CNN whether they will be afforded the rights they are entitled to under the Geneva convention, he said “absolutely.”

“We are a European army and a European country, we follow international law. We do not break the Geneva Convention or other international conventions about the rules of war… We give them rights and the possibility to call home, their mothers, and fathers…and to speak with journalists if they want,” Arestovych continued. 

Arestovych said Ukrainian forces used disinformation to trick Russian soldiers on the battlefield by making them think they were going to strike at Kherson.

“They thought we were going to start the main strike on the city of Kherson. We did start our strike on Kherson, but it was an assisted strike, not the main strike. The main strike we provided in the east of our country, and the Russians were completely surprised about this, because two months before, we were only speaking about the Kherson region. That’s why we liberated territory in four days that Russians tried to keep for about four months.” he said.

12:43 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Ukrainian official warns about abandoned ammo and Russian soldiers still at-large in Kharkiv region

From Kostan Nechyporenko in Kyiv

A Ukrainian official said that despite the retreat of Russian forces from much of the Kharkiv region, the area remains dangerous — with some Russian soldiers "wandering in the forests" and huge amounts of abandoned ammunition yet to be secured.

Stepan Maselskyi, head of the Izium district military-civilian administration, told CNN Tuesday that there is no power, electricity and water in most settlements.

There are also "major problems with gas in most of the communities, very serious damage to gas pipelines. There is no provision of medical services. Medical services were not provided during the occupation," he said.

Maselskyi told CNN by phone that there is a "very big danger [with munitions left behind]. A lot of ‘booby traps,’ a lot of explosive items left, scattered."

He said that near Balakliya, which was re-taken last week, one person was killed by a mine on Tuesday. "Many sappers work in the area, but the [liberated] territory is very large. It takes time to de-mine everything and defuse all explosive objects," he said.

There are "a lot of places where ammunition was left, abandoned," he added.

According to Maselskyi, "Some [Russian soldiers] are still wandering in the forests of the Izium region. ... All measures are now being taken to detain them."

He referred further comment to the military.

"The occupiers looted everything they could," Maselskyi told CNN. "From households of people who had evacuated, everything was taken away. We try to prevent looting by locals. We immediately take the liberated settlements under the protection of the National Police."

Maselskyi said it would be a while before residents could return home.

"It is dangerous now, until the territory is de-mined and the shells are dismantled. Until we are completely sure that the territory is clear of mines, tripwires and that the occasional occupiers are not hiding anywhere — only then will special bodies allow entry," he said.

Maselskyi said restoring electricity and water is a top priority. "We have a week of hard 24/7 work ahead. And only after that we will make a decision: when to give permission to return," he said.

12:25 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Analysis: Europe is unlikely to escape winter recession, despite Ukrainian counteroffensive

From CNN's Julia Horowitz

Even if the conflict continues to swing in Ukraine’s favor, Europe is unlikely to dodge a recession this winter, given the energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion in February.

“I don’t think it’s likely [that] suddenly Ukraine pushes back Russian forces, the war ends, Russian gas flows to Europe resume [and] prices come down,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Natural gas futures in Europe have dropped almost 50% after hitting a record in late August. They fell 20% last week alone as Ukraine’s troops advanced. But they’re still about 460% higher than a year ago, following Russia’s announcement that it would shut the crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

It’s also not clear what Putin’s next moves will be as his forces retreat. He could cut remaining supplies of gas to Europe that continue to flow through Ukraine, worsening the region’s energy crisis, or revert to even more worrying forms of brinkmanship if he believes he’s been backed into a corner.

Europe has been racing to stockpile energy supplies so households and businesses can retain access to power and heat as the weather gets colder. The endeavor has been successful so far, with storage facilities at 84% of capacity, though at a huge cost.

Governments have also rolled out generous support packages to try to shield consumers and small companies from the effects of surging prices. The United Kingdom and Germany, along with other EU countries, have announced more than 500 billion euros ($509 billion) in subsidies for bills and other interventions aimed at softening the impact.

Even so, a contraction in economic activity in the coming months looks inevitable, economists warn. Output in the United Kingdom stagnated in the three months to July, according to data released Monday. Meanwhile, Germany’s Ifo Institute has slashed its estimate for growth in Europe’s biggest economy.

“We are heading into a winter recession,” Timo Wollmershäuser, the institute’s head of forecasts, said Monday.

Most forecasters think Europe’s economy will contract in the last three months of 2022 and the first three months of 2023. What happens after that remains uncertain.

Read more:

11:48 a.m. ET, September 13, 2022

US secretary of state concerned Russia might "stir the pot" with Armenia and Azerbaijan to distract from Ukraine

From CNN's Michael Conte, Jennifer Hansler, Aren Melikyan and Eleni Giokos

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was concerned about whether Russia might try “stir the pot” between Armenia and Azerbaijan “to create a distraction from Ukraine.”

“But, if Russia can actually use its own influence for good, which is to again calm the waters, end the violence, and urge people to engage in good faith on building peace, that would be a positive thing,” added Blinken during a press gaggle while touring the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University in Indiana.

Blinken said he spoke last night with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and “urged them to do everything possible to pull back from any conflict and to get back to talking about building a lasting peace between their countries.”

“We’d seen the outbreak of hostilities again, something that is in no one’s interest,” said Blinken.

Some more context: Armenia’s prime minister says that at least 49 Armenian soldiers were killed after fresh clashes erupted on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan this week.

In an address to Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, "At present, we have 49 (service personnel) killed in action, confirmed by the Ministry of Defence. But I have to admit as well, that this number is unfortunately not the final one."

11:28 a.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Russian forces lost hundreds of pieces of equipment during Kharkiv retreat, analysts say

From CNN's Tim Lister

An abandoned Russian tank is seen in a village on the outskirts of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on September 11.
An abandoned Russian tank is seen in a village on the outskirts of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on September 11. (Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

Scores of images and videos have emerged in recent days of tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment abandoned by Russian forces in their hasty retreat from the Kharkiv region.

While those losses are hard to quantify, it's clear that the Russians lost or abandoned hundreds of pieces of equipment, including more modern hardware. Analysts believe that, for example, one Russian tank division may have lost half its combat power.  

According to the Ukrainian military's General Staff, during the week beginning Sept. 6, 590 pieces of Russian equipment were destroyed. 

"Enemy losses were 86 tanks and 158 armored fighting vehicles, 106 artillery systems, 159 vehicles and 46 units of other equipment," the General Staff claimed.

CNN cannot independently verify the figures cited, but an independent group, Oryx — which has collated Russian losses since the campaign began — said it has verified a surge of losses among Russian units compared to August. Most have been incurred in Kharkiv, though the Russians have also lost equipment in Kherson and Donetsk. 

A wrecked Russian military vehicle is seen in Balakliya, Ukraine, on September 11.
A wrecked Russian military vehicle is seen in Balakliya, Ukraine, on September 11. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In one day alone, Sept. 11, Oryx estimated that Ukrainian forces destroyed, damaged or captured 102 pieces of Russian equipment, including 23 tanks, 13 armored personnel carriers and 25 infantry fighting vehicles. The following day, the Russians lost a further 99 pieces, according to Oryx data. 

As it only counts observed and verifiable losses in its data, Oryx says the real rate of losses is likely much higher. 

According to rolling averages compiled by Oryx, in the second week of September, Russian forces were losing an average of more than 60 pieces of equipment a day, compared to about 15 a day in the final week of August. That's the highest sustained rate of loss since several disastrous attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets river in May.

In the same period, Ukrainian verified losses were running at about 10 pieces of equipment. 

Abandoned munitions in a village on the outskirts of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on September 11.
Abandoned munitions in a village on the outskirts of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on September 11. (Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

Some of the equipment appears to have belonged to the Luhansk People's Militia rather than regular Russian forces and is likely to have been older. But substantial amounts of modern hardware were also lost.

Geolocated images show a number of updated T-80 tanks were among those damaged or destroyed, as well as mine-clearing vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

Military analyst Rob Lee of the Department of War Studies at King's College London tweeted Monday that videos showed T-80s, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles all disabled. Lee later tweeted: "Russia's 4th Tank Division has two tank regiments ... With the most recent losses in Izium, it has lost nearly a full regiment of T-80U variant tanks in Ukraine, or half its total that weren't in storage."

Ukraine Weapons Tracker, which also analyzes social media and official images, said that in one single location near Izium, "we counted no less than nine T-80U and T-80BV tanks."

Some more specialized equipment was also lost, including a Zoopark-1 radar station, which tracks the positions of enemy firepower. Other videos show Ukrainian soldiers showing off captured Russian Tor and Osa short-range surface-to-air missile systems in the Kharkiv region. There are also images of Russian Orlan-10 drones retrieved by Ukrainian forces, apparently undamaged.

Some analysts believe Russian forces left equipment behind because of a lack of fuel. 

According to the Institute for the Study of War: 

"Russian troops likely withdrew from the area in great haste, and social media posts show abandoned tanks and other heavy military equipment near Izium, which indicates that Russian troops failed to organize a coherent retreat."

The loss of so much armor and other equipment may also complicate the Russians' task of reconstituting units and forming a new defensive line inside the Luhansk region.

Ukrainian service members prepare to transport a Russian tank captured in the Kharkiv region on September 11.
Ukrainian service members prepare to transport a Russian tank captured in the Kharkiv region on September 11. (Press service of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Reuters)

4:18 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Ukraine asks US for long-range weapons amid counteroffensive, source says

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin attends a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the American military's Ramstein Air Base in Germany on September 8.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin attends a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the American military's Ramstein Air Base in Germany on September 8. (Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters)

Ukrainian government officials are asking the US for additional weapons systems and ammunition amid a major counteroffensive that has successfully pushed Russia out of key cities in northeast Ukraine.

Against the backdrop of this fresh momentum, Ukrainian officials told US lawmakers that the Ukrainian military needs new equipment to sustain the push. Specifically, they say they need long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, which can fire as far as 180 miles, according to a source who has seen the list and described it to CNN.

The US has been reluctant to provide the ATACMS out of concern that they could be used to fire into Russia and potentially escalate the conflict further. But in an analysis published last week, two top Ukrainian generals — Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi and Lt. Gen. Mykhailo Zabrodskyi — said that Ukraine is at a disadvantage because the Russians have assets that can fire as far as 1,200 miles, whereas the Ukrainians’ systems have a maximum range of around 60 miles. 

“Thus, from the onset of the large-scale aggression, Russian weapons could hit targets 20 times farther than the Ukrainians,” they wrote. 

When Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was asked why the US has not sent ATACMs to Ukraine yet, despite Ukrainians’ request for them, Austin said the US is in “constant communication” with Ukraine about what weapons they need and stressed, “it’s not just about one particular weapon or weapons system.”

“It’s about how you integrate these systems and how you integrate the efforts of various elements in the inventory to create effects that provide advantages to the Ukrainians,” Austin said during a press conference in Prague on Sept. 9.

The source said that the Ukrainians also said they need 2,000 more missiles for their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which the US began providing earlier this summer, plus additional Harpoon anti-ship missiles and more drones and tanks.

The wishlist was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

The Biden administration has committed nearly $15 billion in security assistance to Ukraine this year alone.

CNN reported last week that the Pentagon is preparing a detailed analysis and working out how to support Ukraine’s military in the medium and long term, including after the war with Russia has ended, according to three defense officials.

The efforts are being led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and would build on the billions of dollars in military aid the US has given to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

4:18 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

US refutes Russia's claims of the US developing biological weapons in Ukraine

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a news conference in Washington on March 10.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a news conference in Washington on March 10. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Reuters)

US officials refuted Russia’s false claims made earlier this year of the US developing biological weapons in Ukraine during a meeting of the Biological Weapons Convention last week in Geneva, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday.  

“The United States delegation, led by Special Representative Kenneth D. Ward, effectively exposed Russia’s disinformation tactics and dispelled Russia’s spurious allegations seeking to malign peaceful U.S. cooperation with Ukraine,” Price said. “In the presence of delegations from 89 countries, the United States and Ukraine presented a thorough, in-depth series of presentations that strongly refuted Russia’s absurd and false claims of U.S. biological weapons development and bio-labs in Ukraine.”

At the meeting — which Russia called for — both American and Ukrainian delegations explained the work that the two countries are actually doing together, Price said.

“Technical experts from the U.S. and Ukrainian delegations unambiguously explained their cooperation and U.S. assistance related to public health facilities, biosafety, biosecurity, and disease surveillance as part of the broader U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. The United States and Ukraine also highlighted how such activities are consistent with—and further support—the provisions of the BWC, particularly Article X, which promotes cooperation and assistance by States Parties,” Price said.

Russia made accusations that Kyiv was developing biological weapons and preparing a chemical attack in March of this year. At the time the US called the US's UN Mission spokesperson Olivia Dalton said the move was "exactly the kind of false flag effort we have warned Russia might initiate to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack."

At the meeting last week Russia also attempted to get certain delegations to agree to a statement about the convention before it was even over, Price added. They did this by “distributing a proposed “joint statement” to select delegations with its conclusions from the meeting before the United States and Ukraine even began our presentations,” Price explained.

“The United States takes seriously its obligations under the BWC and therefore participated fully, transparently, and with integrity in the Article V process,” Prices said, adding that Russia does not take those obligations seriously.

4:18 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

List of Russian municipal deputies calling for Putin’s resignation grows to nearly 50, local official says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Navy Day Parade in Saint Petersburg on July, 31.
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Navy Day Parade in Saint Petersburg on July, 31. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Nearly 50 municipal deputies have now signed a petition demanding the resignation of President Vladimir Putin, 29 more than on Monday, according to one of those involved.

Ksenia Thorstrom, a municipal deputy of the Semenovsky District in Saint Petersburg, told CNN: 

“Now we have 47 verified signatures. Their geography has expanded significantly.”

“My colleagues and I wanted to support the deputies from Smolninsky, who were recently summoned to the police and will soon have a trial,” Thorstrom said. 

The petition says: “We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of its president Vladimir Putin are detrimental to Russia’s and its citizens’ future. We demand Vladimir Putin's resignation from the post of the President of the Russian Federation."

“We decided to make our appeal so short that there would be less reason to find any fault with it from the authorities and so that as many municipal deputies as possible would sign the petition,” Thorstrom said. 

Last week, the deputies of the Smolninskoye municipality of St. Petersburg called on the State Duma of the Russian Federation to bring charges of treason against Putin in order to remove him from office due to the war in Ukraine. Now those deputies face charges of "discrediting" the Russian army, according to a tweet by one of them, Nikita Yuferev. 

Municipal deputies are local officials with limited political influence. The petition follows Russia’s first regional and municipal elections since the start of the war, in which pro-Kremlin candidates were overwhelmingly successful.

4:18 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

White House official heralds "swift and stunning" Ukrainian advances on Russian-held territory

From CNN's Betsy Klein

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House on August 4.
National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House on August 4. (McNamee/Getty Images)

The White House reiterated some cautious optimism regarding Ukraine’s recent advances on Russian-held territory Tuesday, with John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, saying it has been “swift and stunning.”

“They certainly have some momentum, particularly up there in the northeast part of the country in that Donbas region. You saw just from that report how swift and how stunning their advances have been," Kirby said during an appearance on “Good Morning America.”

"There is more fighting to go, though, and in particularly down in the south where the Ukrainians are also trying to break through near Kherson city. They've made some incremental progress there. They're facing a stiffer Russian resistance down south, but clearly up in that northeast region, there's some momentum here by the Ukrainians, there's no doubt about it,” Kirby said.

He noted that “weeks of planning” went into the offensive.

Pressed on threats to Russian President Vladimir Putin inside Russia, Kirby said the US is watching closely.

“It is very interesting to see, isn't it now, that he's facing some public rebukes not just from opposition figures, but from actual elected officials inside Russia. That's not insignificant, and we'll see where this goes. And we're already starting to see signs that they're going to probably start to crack down on some of these dissident elected officials. We'll watch this carefully. But it is noteworthy that now even elected municipal officials are coming out speaking against Mr. Putin,” he said. 

When asked if the US believes the table has been set for a diplomatic settlement, Kirby said, “I don’t know that we know we’re there yet,” saying he would defer to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Mr. Putin has shown no inclination to stop the prosecution of this war against the Ukrainian people, as we saw with his retaliatory strikes and in Kharkiv just over the over the weekend. So I don't think we're there yet. Obviously, President Biden fully supports a diplomatic end of this war, an end that we'd like to see today if possible, but I just don't know that we're on the horizon right now,” he said.