September 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

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

Updated 0053 GMT (0853 HKT) September 15, 2022
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1:22 p.m. ET, September 14, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine has liberated 8,000 square kilometers of territory

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva and Hannah Ritchie

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference in Kyiv on September 9.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference in Kyiv on September 9. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said approximately 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of territory has now been liberated by Ukrainian forces so far this month, with roughly half the area still undergoing “stabilization” measures. 

“Remnants of occupiers and sabotage groups are being detected, collaborators are being detained and full security is being restored. It is very important that together with our troops, with our flag, ordinary normal life comes to the de-occupied territory,” Zelensky said in his daily address Tuesday. 

In a statement Monday, Zelensky said most of the liberated territory retaken by Ukrainian forces since the start of September was concentrated in the country’s northeast and south. 

Zelensky promised to immediately resume pension payments to all Ukrainians living in recently reclaimed areas in his message Tuesday. 

“As an example, in Balakliya, in Hrakove, the payment of pensions for five months at once, for the time when we simply could not make payments due to the occupation, has already been started,” he said, adding that “Ukraine always fulfills its social obligations to people.”

1:23 p.m. ET, September 14, 2022

At least two dead and six injured in Mykolaiv shelling Wednesday, Ukrainian official reports

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva

Vitalii Kim, governor of Mykolaiv region, speaks to the media in Mykolaiv on June 8.
Vitalii Kim, governor of Mykolaiv region, speaks to the media in Mykolaiv on June 8. (Edgar Su/reuters)

Russian shelling killed at least two people and injured six in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea on Wednesday, according to the head of the region’s civil military administration Vitalii Kim.

“At approximately 01:10 a.m. Mykolaiv was shelled. According to preliminary data, these were S-300 missiles. An educational institution, infrastructure facilities and residential buildings were damaged,” Kim said in a post on Telegram, claiming that a fire had broken out at a factory due to the attack. 

“According to preliminary data, two people were killed, three were injured, and three more citizens were treated on an outpatient basis. Detailed information is being clarified,” Kim added.  

Kim also urged citizens to stay away from power stations, due to possible shelling in their vicinity. 

The city’s mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych also posted about the shelling on Telegram. 

“After 1 a.m. this night Mykolaiv was massively shelled. Residential houses were damaged. Emergency services and municipal services are working on site. Some streets have to be cleaned in order for the transport to be able to pass,” Sienkevych said in a post on Telegram. 

“We are still collecting all the info on the consequences of shelling. I will inform you of the details later,” he added. 

Some context: On Tuesday Pro-Russian regional officials insisted that the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern areas of Kherson and Mykolaiv was being contained. 

Ukrainian officials claim that they’ve taken back approximately 500 square kilometers of territory in the south so far, along the borders of Mykolaiv and Kherson. 

3:33 a.m. ET, September 14, 2022

Pope decries "senseless and tragic war" in Ukraine as he arrives in Kazakhstan for gathering of religious leaders

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher traveling with the Pope

Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomats at Qazaq Concert Hall in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday September 13.
Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomats at Qazaq Concert Hall in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday September 13. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Pope Francis has arrived in Kazakhstan for a three-day visit to the country.

The Pope addressed political leaders in the capital Nur-Sultan on Tuesday evening telling them that he had come at a time of “the senseless and tragic war that broke out with the invasion of Ukraine.”

I have come to echo the plea of all those who cry out for peace, which is the essential path to development for our globalized world.”

On Wednesday the Pope attends the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a gathering of international religious leaders.

One religious leader who is noticeably absent is Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill, who was due to meet Francis in Kazakhstan but announced at the end of August that he would not be attending.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also due in Kazakhstan on Wednesday for separate political meetings.

The Vatican has said that there is no planned meeting between the Pope and the Chinese President.

Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane from Rome that “he was always ready to visit China.”

3:33 a.m. ET, September 14, 2022

Pentagon has seen "a number of Russian forces" cross back into Russia from the Kharkiv region

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks with reporters on September 13.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks with reporters on September 13. (CNN)

The Pentagon said some Russian forces have crossed from the Kharkiv region back into Russia.

“We've seen a number of Russian forces, especially in the northeast, in the Kharkiv region, cross over the border back into Russia as they’ve retreated from the Ukrainian counter-offensive,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a briefing Tuesday. 

But Russian forces still “do exist en masse in Ukraine,” Ryder said.

The US was not surprised that Ukraine forces “pushed as quickly as they have” in the counteroffensive, Ryder said, but based on reports that the Pentagon has seen “on the Russian military response, it was probably the Russians” who were surprised by the push.

3:33 a.m. ET, September 14, 2022

Ukraine says Russian troops are trying to gain ground in some regions and alleges widespread looting

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman 

Several destroyed civilian cars are seen on a road near the town of Balakliia, Ukraine in Kharkiv region on September 13.
Several destroyed civilian cars are seen on a road near the town of Balakliia, Ukraine in Kharkiv region on September 13. (Glen Garanich/Reuters)

As Ukrainian units press their offensive in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russian forces are trying to gain ground elsewhere, according to the Ukrainian military.

The military's General Staff, in its latest bulletin, said Ukrainian units had successfully repelled Russian attacks around the city of Bakhmut, while Russian artillery and air strikes continued to pound settlements near the front lines across Donetsk.

"During the day, the enemy carried out two missile strikes, eight air strikes and conducted 13 strikes from missile artillery systems," according to the military.

There was also Russian mortar and tank fire in the Zaporizhzhia region, the General Staff said.

Looting claims: The military claimed that in areas of Kharkiv and Luhansk, there was widespread looting from retreating Russian forces.

The General Staff said that on the Starobilsk-Luhansk highway, in the direction of Luhansk, "about 300 civilian cars, mostly with state license plates of the Kharkiv region were spotted – most on trailers driven by Russian military personnel."

It claimed that in the south, around the city of Polohy, Russian troops were also stealing private cars. And in Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, Russians "began to massively remove furniture and household appliances from temporarily abandoned settlements."

CNN is unable to confirm the military's claims, but there has been widespread evidence of looting in Kharkiv and other previously occupied Russian areas.

Military shortage claims: The General Staff also claimed that the Russian military was moving up the graduation of cadets from some Defense Ministry academies, such as the Black Sea Higher Naval School, to make up for shortages of junior officers.

"The shortage of tactical-level commanders is due to the refusal of reserve officers to sign contracts amid recent events. The level of morale and psychological state of the enemy's personnel continues to decline," the General Staff asserted. "A significant number of servicemen do not return to military units after the end of their vacations."

1:23 p.m. ET, September 14, 2022

US House committees will get classified briefings on Ukraine, sources say

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Melanie Zanona

Relevant US House of Representatives committees will get classified briefings on Ukraine over the next two weeks, multiple sources tell CNN.

The House Armed Services Committee will be briefed on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee will also get a briefing next week, those sources said. Committee members from both parties are invited to attend.

The briefings come in the wake of Ukraine’s recent stunning advances on Russian-held territory. Lawmakers are also pushing to include additional Ukraine aid in the upcoming short-term government funding bill. Current funding expires Sept. 30.

3:33 a.m. ET, September 14, 2022

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

From CNN’s Zeena Saifi

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

“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 8,000 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.

3:33 a.m. ET, September 14, 2022

US secretary of state warns 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

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a State Department careers conversation at Purdue University on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a State Department careers conversation at Purdue University on Tuesday, Sept. 13. (Darron Cummings/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was concerned about whether Russia might try to “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,” Blinken said 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,” Blinken said.

Some more context: Russia claimed Tuesday it brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan after fighting erupted on the border between the two countries this week, bringing a decades-old conflict to the brink of reigniting.

We call on the parties to refrain from further escalation of the situation, exercise restraint and strictly observe the ceasefire in accordance with the trilateral statements of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021," a Russian foreign ministry statement said. 

"We are in close contact with Baku and Yerevan. An appeal was received from the Armenian leadership to assist in resolving the situation ... We expect that the agreement reached as a result of Russian mediation on a ceasefire from 9 a.m. Moscow time on September 13 will be carried out in full," the statement added.

The statement follows a call between Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin earlier Tuesday. Local media in Azerbaijan also reported on the ceasefire but said it had already been broken.