September 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 9:41 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022
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7:18 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

US doesn't see any evidence of a heightened nuclear threat after Putin's speech, official says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempt at "playing the nuclear card" in his national address earlier Wednesday along with his order for a partial mobilization was an act of weakness, a senior US administration official said Wednesday.

“Declaring a mobilization, and then refining the declaration of mobilization to try to have it both ways — on the one hand, indicating you're calling a bunch of people up, and on the other hand, saying we're not calling too many people up — that also indicates a very pressurized environment in Russia,” the official said. “And the fact that he has to resort to something he clearly didn't want to do is a reflection of the fact that his campaign in Ukraine is failing.”

The official said the US does not see any signs that indicate a heightened nuclear threat from Russia, despite Putin’s rhetoric.

“We have heard him before, wave around the nuclear card, and we heard it again in his speech today, and in fact, the language and formula he used today is quite similar to how he's spoken before,” the official said.

Still, President Biden and other US officials remain on alert for potential escalation as the conflict in Ukraine grinds ahead.

“We are watching carefully to see for any signs of potential escalation, and we are sending very clear and strong messages to Russia about the consequences of escalation,” the official said.

9:41 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Zelensky spoke to the UN. Here are the main points he made

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN General Assembly on Wednesday in a pre-recorded speech that focused on the Russian war launched on Feb. 24. 

He outlined five preconditions for peace during his speech:

  • Punishment for aggression 
  • Protection of life 
  • Restoration of security and territorial integrity 
  • Security guarantees 
  • Determination to defend oneself 

Here are the key lines from Zelensky's remarks:

  • The Ukrainian president called for Russia to be punished: "A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people," Zelensky said. "Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory" and for the murder of thousands of people.
  • Zelensky said the entire world wants peace, with the exception of Russia: "Ukraine wants peace, Europe wants peace, the world wants peace, and we have seen who is the only one who wants war," he said, alluding to President Vladimir Putin, without mentioning his name. "There is only one entity among all UN member states, who would say now, if he could interrupt my speech that he's happy with this war, with his war." Zelensky said.
  • Zelensky said he believed Ukrainian territories will be liberated over time: "We can return the Ukraine flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms, but we need time."
  • Russia should lose UN veto power: Zelensky called for Russia, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to lose its veto power. "So long as the aggressor is party to decision making in the international organization you must be insulated from them, at least until aggression stops."
  • Special tribunal to punish Russia: Zelensky called for the creation of a special tribunal to punish Russia. "This will become a signal to all would-be aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to responsibility by the world."

Zelensky received a standing ovation from most delegates after his speech. The Russian delegation remained seated and did not applaud.

6:39 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

IAEA chief met with Russian and Ukrainian ministers to discuss safety zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Jennifer Deaton

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said he met the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday in an effort to establish a safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“I’m working very very hard," he said. “The wheels are in motion.”

Grossi had meetings with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The issue needs to be resolved quickly, Grossi said.

“Getting an agreement today would have been nice, but you can imagine that these are very complex issues that require perhaps a bit more than one meeting. But we are already working on the very concrete aspects that would be required to having the zone be established," he said.

Grossi added that beyond the differences, “there is the conviction that the establishment of this zone is indispensable. Let’s be clear. This nuclear power plant is being shelled now. And so we need to protect it in some way.”

6:29 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Shelling damages cables providing power to Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor, UN watchdog says

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

A number of cables providing electricity to one of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant's reactors were damaged by shelling on Wednesday, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a statement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the shelling had temporarily forced reactor number six "to rely on emergency diesel generators for the power it needs for essential safety functions."

The five other reactors were not affected and continued " to receive power directly from the plant's off-site power line that was restored last week," IAEA added.

The plant in southern Ukraine, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. It was mostly built in the Soviet era and became Ukrainian property after its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

"Work is underway to repair the damaged cables," the IAEA's statement said.

"This once again demonstrates the urgent necessity to establish such a zone around the ZNPP. Until yesterday, there seemed to be less shelling at or near the plant, but this latest episode shows that the danger remains very real, It hasn't gone away, and we can't afford to lose any more time," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said.
6:13 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Zelensky calls for the UN to deprive Russia of its veto power in the Security Council

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for Russia to be deprived of its veto power. 

Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Zelensky said:

 "So long as the aggressor is party to decision making in the international organization you must be insulated from them, at least until aggression stops."  
5:51 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Zelensky calls for the creation of a special tribunal to punish Russia

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for the creation of a special tribunal to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.

"A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia," Zelensky said during his pre-recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Zelensky said: "This will become a signal to all would-be aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to responsibility by the world."

5:50 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Zelensky says he held 88 rounds of talks with Russia to prevent the war  

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he held 88 rounds of talks with Russia to prevent war since the start of his presidency.

"88 rounds of talks in various formats to prevent these wars just from the beginning of my presidency until Feb. 24 of this year," Zelensky said during his pre-recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

Russia launched its war in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

He added, "but Russia, instead of stopping the crime of aggression," it's started a full-scale invasion. 

And we have no choice but to defend ourselves," Zelensky said.
5:53 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Ukraine can recapture its territory but it will take time, Zelensky says

(Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Imagers)
(Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Imagers)

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he believes Ukraine will continue to liberate territory as the military mounts its counteroffensive against Russian aggression.

“We can return the Ukraine flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms, but we need time," he told the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded address.

He said Ukraine tried ending the war at the negotiating table, but concluded, “This is a war for life."

Zelensky reiterated his country needed support in the form of weapons and military assistance in order to be successful on the battlefield.

“How can we allow the Russian army somewhere on Ukraine soil knowing that they’re committing such mass murders everywhere? We cannot," he said.

We must protect life and the world must protect life," Zelensky added.
5:47 p.m. ET, September 21, 2022

Zelensky demands punishment for Russia over crimes committed in Ukraine

(UNTV)
(UNTV)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded "just punishment" for the crimes Russia has committed since the invasion of Ukraine.

"A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people," Zelensky told the UN General Assembly in his pre-recorded address.

Ukraine wanted Russia punished for trying to steal territory and for the murder of thousands of people, he said.

In addition:

"Punishment for tortures and humiliation of women and men. Punishment for the catastrophic turbulence that Russia provoked with its illegal war and not only for us, Ukrainians, but for the whole world."