September 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Tara Subramaniam, Andrew Raine, Jack Bantock, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 9:15 p.m. ET, September 22, 2022
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12:28 p.m. ET, September 22, 2022

Blinken says Russia "shredded" international order and the world "can't let President Putin get away with it"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the UN Security Council meeting amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine on September 22.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the UN Security Council meeting amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine on September 22. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

At a United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “the very international order we’ve gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes” by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The world “can’t let President (Vladimir) Putin get away with it,” Blinken told his fellow diplomats.

His remarks came amid a week of escalatory actions by Moscow, including the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops and planned “sham referenda” in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

“That President Putin picked this week, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire he started shows his utter contempt and disdain for the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly, and this Council,” Blinken said.

“President Putin is making his choice. Now it’s up to all of our countries to make ours. Tell President Putin to stop the horror he started," Blinken continued. "Tell him to stop putting his interests above the interests of the rest of the world, including his own people. Tell him to stop debasing this Council and everything it stands for."

Blinken said the areas of Ukraine that were occupied by Russia offered a view into that “less peaceful world,” noting, “wherever the Russian tide recedes, we’ve discovered the horror that’s left in its wake” — Bucha, Irpin, Izyum, where mass graves have been discovered, survivors have recounted acts of torture.

The top US diplomat called on Russia to cease its nuclear saber rattling, calling Putin’s threat to use “all weapon systems available” to Russia “all the more menacing given Russia’s intention to annex large swaths of Ukraine in the days ahead.”

Blinken also stressed the impact the war was having globally on food security, and called out Russian disinformation on WHO-approved vaccine effectiveness.

1:49 p.m. ET, September 22, 2022

Lavrov arrives to Security Council meeting about Ukraine nearly 1.5 hours after it started

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives to the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on September 22.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives to the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on September 22. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov walked into the UN Security Council meeting at approximately 11:30 a.m. ET and took his seat at the table, nearly 1.5 hours late.

The council is discussing the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine.

12:22 p.m. ET, September 22, 2022

"The echoes of Nuremberg should be heard today," ICC prosecutor for Ukraine tells UN Security Council 

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

The bodies of civilians killed by russian soldiers were found near the village of Myrotske in Bucha, Ukraine on June 13.
The bodies of civilians killed by russian soldiers were found near the village of Myrotske in Bucha, Ukraine on June 13. (Anna Opareniuk/Ukrinform/Abaca/Sipa USA)

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan on Thursday said that he believes alleged war crimes have been committed in Ukraine after he visited the country three times to investigate the war.

"One has seen a variety of destruction of suffering, and that fortifies my determination. And my previous finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe the crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed," Khan said to members of the United Nations Security Council during their meeting Thursday.

During his update to the Security Council, Khan spoke candidly of the brutal horrors he had seen in Ukraine.

"When I went to Bucha and went behind St. Andrew's Church, the bodies I saw were not fake. When I walked the streets of Borodyanka, the destruction that I saw of buildings and schools was all too real,” Khan said. “When I left Kharkiv, the bombs I heard land, gave a somber insight and a very small insight into the awful reality that is faced by well many of our brothers and sisters and children that are in a war zone."

Making reference to the Nuremberg trials that prosecuted defeated Nazis after World War II, Khan said, "The echoes of Nuremberg should be heard today." 

"Failure to uphold the promises of Nuremberg, we have seen over the last many decades to act as a reproach on all of us as leaders, not to despair or to despondency, but acts as a catalyst for further action to galvanize us as a council as international organizations and as humanity." he said.

11:30 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

EU entry for people leaving Russia will be up to individual member states, commission says

From CNN's Lauren Kent in London

The European Union is planning to establish a joint position on requests for entry made by Russian citizens fleeing their own country, a spokesperson for the European Commission said during a news conference Thursday.

The European Commission also noted that for now, each member state will need to assess entry requests on a case-by-case basis, adding that external border management of the EU must be carried out in line with EU law and comply with "fundamental rights and all of the legislation in place for asylum procedures."

Another spokesperson, the EU's lead for external affairs Peter Stano, said the EU is watching what is happening right now in Russia following Putin's announcement of so-called "partial mobilization."

"There have been protests in a number of cities across Russia. During these protests, more than 1,300 people have been detained," Stano told reporters, according to EU monitoring. "And this is showing that the Russians are voting with their feet, basically, on Putin's regime and on Putin's actions."

"We take also note of the reports that are indicating that a lot of Russians are leaving the country in a legal pathway, in a legal way. They go on train on car, and they leave through the borders, or they take flights to Turkey to Serbia to Emirates. This is what we are seeing is happening," Stano said.

"We as European Union, in principle, we stand in solidarity with the Russian citizens who have the courage and bravery to show their opposition to what the regime is doing, especially when it comes to this illegal war in Ukraine," he said, adding that concrete decisions when it comes to visa policy is in the hands of individual members states.

Asked about the numerous requests for entry from Russia, another European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer said, "We will need to have a joint position at the EU level."

10:22 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

Long lines of traffic seen at some of Russia's land borders 

From Tim Lister, Clare Sebastian, Uliana Pavlova and Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa, on September 22.
Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa, on September 22. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)

Social media video from Russia's land borders with several countries shows long lines of traffic trying to leave the country on the day after President Vladimir Putin announced a "partial mobilization."

There were queues at border crossings into Kazakhstan, Georgia and Mongolia. One video showed dozens of vehicles lining up at the Zemo Larsi/Verkhny Lars checkpoint on the Georgia-Russia border overnight Wednesday. That line appears to have grown longer Thursday. One video showed a long queue stretching into the mountains behind the crossing, with a man commenting that it was five to six kilometers long.

Another posted Thursday showed long lines at the Khaykhta crossing into Mongolia.

One man spoke over video recorded at the Troitsk crossing into Kazakhstan, where dozens of cars were lined up Thursday morning. "This is Troitsk, queues of trucks and passenger vehicles ... you can't see the start or the end of this queue ... everyone, everyone is fleeing Russia, all sorts."

A senior Kazakh official, Maulen Ashimbaev, had said Kazakhstan could not restrict the entry of Russian citizens into the country, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported earlier Thursday. But Ashimbaev, the speaker of the upper house of the Kazakh parliament, said that in order to obtain a residence permit, applicants must have a set of documents that comply with the law.

It is difficult to compare the current flow of traffic to the average in the absence of official data.

Flights from Russia to countries that do not require visas continue to be very busy and frequently sold out. A search on the Aviasales website showed there were no seats available on Moscow-Istanbul one-way economy flights until Sunday — with the lowest price almost $2,900.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Thursday dismissed reports of airports crowded with people trying to leave Russia following the announcement, calling it "exaggeration" and "fake news."

10:02 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

Putin's "partial mobilization" is a "mistake," Macron tells CNN

French President Emmanuel Macron gives an interview to CNN's Jake Tapper on September 21.
French President Emmanuel Macron gives an interview to CNN's Jake Tapper on September 21. (CNN)

French President Emmanuel Macron called Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision on "partial mobilization" of Russian citizens a “mistake.”

Macron also said it was a missed opportunity to “go to a way towards peace.”

“A few months ago Vladimir Putin conveys a message: ‘I was aggressed by NATO, they triggered the situation and I just reacted.’ Now, it’s clear for everybody that the leader who decided to go to war, the leader who decided to escalate is President Putin,” Macron said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

“And I have no rational explanation,” he added, calling the invasion the “strategy of Germany intervention” and a “post-Covid-19 consequence” due to Putin’s isolation during the pandemic.

9:43 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

Aeroflot says it will return money for air tickets to mobilized Russians

From Uliana Pavlova

Aeroflot Russian Airlines Airbus A320 civil jet aircrafts at Moscow-Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia, on September 16, 2021.
Aeroflot Russian Airlines Airbus A320 civil jet aircrafts at Moscow-Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia, on September 16, 2021. (Leonid Faerberg/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Russian state carrier Aeroflot announced on Thursday that it would return money for tickets purchased before Wednesday to those Russians who were mobilized. 

“Citizens subject to conscription who purchased tickets before September 21, 2022 (inclusive) are entitled to an involuntary [outside the control of the customer] refund on the ticket,” the company said in a statement. 

“To do this, you must personally contact the place of purchase of the ticket and present any of the documents confirming the right to terminate the contract and receive a return of the funds,” it said. 

Flights leaving Russia sold out within hours of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization on Wednesday, while costs for the few available tickets soared in price, according to Russian aggregator websites. 

8:51 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

More than 1,300 anti-war demonstrators have been arrested across Russia following President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization Wednesday, according to OVD-Info, an independent protest monitoring group. Some detainees have been directly conscripted into the Russian military, OVD-Info spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova told CNN.

Meanwhile, the UK government has confirmed the release of five British nationals who were freed alongside two US veterans, as more details of the Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap emerge.

Here are the latest headlines:

Prisoner swap: The UK government confirmed that five British nationals have been released as part of the prisoner swap between the Ukraine and Russia. Brokered by Saudi Arabia, the deal also saw nationals from the United States, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia leave detention by Russian-backed forces.

More than half of anti-war demonstrators are women: Over 1,300 anti-war protesters were detained in Russia Wednesday, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info. The watchdog said 51% of the publicly named detainees were women, with nine journalists and 33 minors also among those held.

Partial mobilization still a 'special military operation,' Kremlin insists: The protests followed President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisting Russia's actions in Ukraine remain a "special military operation" as opposed to a "war."

Kremlin denies reports of people crowding airports to leave Russia: Flight sales websites and Google trends have indicated a spike in people seeking to fly out of Russia following the partial mobilization announcement. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called reports of citizens crowding airports to leave the country an "exaggeration" and "fake news."

International officials voice fears over Ukrainian nuclear facilities: Foreign ministers and senior officials from Europe, North America and South Korea expressed "grave concern" regarding threats to the safety of Ukrainian nuclear facilities. In a joint statement, the officials criticized Russia for their seizure of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as well as their "sham referenda."

8:40 a.m. ET, September 22, 2022

"I am the happiest woman in the world," says wife of Azovstal fighter who was freed in prisoner swap

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv and Mick Krever in London

Wives of some of the scores of Ukrainian fighters released by Russia in a prisoner swap have described to CNN the disbelief and joy of hearing their loved ones had been released.

Alina Volovyk, speaking with CNN via WhatsApp, described getting a phone call from a man she did not recognize at first as her husband, Artem Volovyk, a Ukrainian Marine who fought at the Azovstal Steel Plant earlier this year, before all of Mariupol was captured by Russian forces.

“At first, I didn't understand what was going on and where he was,” Alina Volovyk recalled. “But he said, ‘Honey, I’m already in Ukraine! There was a swap.’”
“I just started screaming, my hands were shaking,” she said. “Now I am the happiest woman in the world.”

Russia on Wednesday released 215 people from its custody, including some foreign nationals who had been fighting for Ukraine. In exchange, Ukraine released 55 people, as well as Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch, whose daughter is goddaughter to Vladimir Putin.

Among the 215 people released by Russia were “188 heroes of Azovstal and Mariupol,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said overnight.

The release of the Azovstal and Mariupol fighters is a major coup for Ukrainian morale, given the huge role the defense of Mariupol played in the Ukrainian psyche early in the war. 

This is the largest single release of fighters from Mariupol. In a June prisoner swap, Russia released 144 soldiers, among whom 95 had defended the Azovstal plant. 

Ruslana Volynska, whose husband Serhii "Volyna" Volynskyi, was acting commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, told CNN via text message that she found out about the swap on the Internet.

“Later Serhii called himself, and I heard him. It was boundless joy, shock, happiness! All emotions were mixed! I cried with happiness, and could not believe that this day had come," she said.

An advisor to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor, Petro Andriushchenko, who was forced to leave his city as Russia advanced, said on Telegram that Mariupol “rejoices the return of its Heroes to Ukrainian soil. Even in the occupation!”

“I still can't believe it,” Alina Volovyk told CNN. “It seems to me that this is a dream and I will wake up soon. I couldn't sleep until 5 a.m., because I was overwhelmed with emotions.”

“Only two hours ago, when I was doing some shopping, I realized that my husband was at home and started to cry. The only thing I want now is to hug him as soon as possible,” she added.