October 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Sana Noor Haq and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 3:37 a.m. ET, October 18, 2022
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2:35 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

Kyiv attacked by "kamikaze" drones, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Victoria Butenko in Kyiv and Josh Pennington

Police block the perimeter at the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv on Monday.
Police block the perimeter at the scene of Russian shelling in Kyiv on Monday. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

Russia attacked Kyiv with "kamikaze" drones on Monday morning, according to a top Ukrainian official, who repeated calls for Western allies to supply the country with more advanced air defense systems.

“The Russians think it will help them, but these actions smack of desperation,” Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian President's chief of staff, said in a statement. “We need more air defense as soon as possible. We have no time to delay. We need more weapons to protect the sky and destroy the enemy.”

In a separate Telegram message, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the “drone attack” caused a “fire in a non-residential building.”

“Firefighters are working. Some residential buildings have been damaged. Medics are on the site,” Klitschko said.

At least three explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital at around 6:45 a.m. local time on Monday as a result of apparent Russian strikes, according to CNN's team on the ground.

2:35 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

Explosions heard in Kyiv Monday morning

From CNN’s Clarissa Ward in Kyiv and Josh Pennington

At least three explosions were heard in Kyiv at around 6:45 a.m. local time on Monday as a result of apparent Russian missile strikes, according to CNN's team on the ground.

One of the blasts was in the Shevchenkivskyi district in the center of the Ukrainian capital, according to a Telegram post from Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

“All emergency services have been sent to the site,” Klitschko said. “Air raid sirens continue. Stay in your shelters!”


12:16 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

Ukraine-Saudi relations at "most meaningful" point for 30 years, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Relations between Ukraine and Saudi Arabia are the “most meaningful” they’ve been in 30 years, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Sunday.

“And for the past week, it is worth noting the strengthening of contacts with Saudi Arabia,” Zelensky said. “There are significant agreements. Among other things, this is the decision of the partners to provide a package of humanitarian support in the amount of $400 million. It is very important. Right now, we have the most meaningful relations with Saudi Arabia in 30 years.”

Zelensky’s remarks come after Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine on Friday.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman affirmed the country’s support for Ukraine in a statement.

Grain deal: Zelensky also spoke about the Black Sea Grain Initiative, emphasizing that since July Ukraine has exported 8 million tons of food by sea.

He added that “60% of this volume was directed to Africa and Asia.”

Energy: He also addressed threats to Ukraine's energy supply, stating that “due to the Russian missile terror in some cities and regions of Ukraine, energy workers have to limit the supply of electricity so that the entire system works stably.” He called for Ukrainian residents to limit electricity supply during peak hours.

Prisoners: In addition, Zelensky spoke about Ukrainians who had been captured by Russian forces. 

“Everyone who captures the Russian military provides Ukraine with the opportunity to release our heroes,” he said. “We remember our people detained in Russia. We must liberate them, and we must liberate them all, leaving none to the enemy. But for this we need to capture the occupiers — as many as possible,” he said.
3:25 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

Ukraine claims Chechen armed forces are controlling part of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear power plant outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on October 14.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear power plant outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on October 14. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Part of the seized Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is controlled by armed Chechen forces, a Ukrainian military organization said Sunday.

The forces in question, the so-called Special Rapid Response Unit Akhmat, are led by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin: Chechen Ramzan Kadyrov.

“It is known that a part of the station has recently been controlled by a Kadyrov gang ... which placed equipment and weapons directly in turbine halls #1 and #2,” the Center of National Resistance said in a statement.

The center is a military organization designed to support and coordinate Ukrainian troops.

On Wednesday, the Chechen leader Kadyrov wrote in a Telegram post that his unit is in Enerhodar, a city adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia plant. He accused Ukrainians of firing “indiscriminately at the coastline of Enerhodar, its industrial area and the Zaporizhzhia NPP.” 

Remember: The Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest nuclear complex of its kind in Europe, was seized by Russian forces at the start of the war.

In its statement, the Center of National Resistance also claimed that “Russia is trying to connect the Zaporizhzhia NPP to its power system as soon as possible.”

“The occupiers are hastily carrying out measures to convert the spent nuclear fuel storage system at the ZNPP to Russian standards, as well as adapting all nuclear reactors of the ZNPP to use Russian fuel assemblies,” the Center wrote.

CNN cannot independently verify these claims.

More context: The Chechen Republic is a region in Russia’s north Caucasus.

Russian forces fought a brutal war for control of the territory in the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. Kadyrov was once a guerrilla who fought against Russia before switching sides.

During the Second Chechen War, which coincided with the rise of Putin, Kadyrov helped Moscow wrest control of the Chechen Republic from separatist rebels.

Kadyrov has been accused by international and independent observers of gross human rights violations in his home territory and beyond. He leads sizeable paramilitary forces that — while formally a part of Russian security structures — have personal loyalty to him.

8:32 p.m. ET, October 16, 2022

Saudi Arabia affirms support for Ukraine, calls OPEC+ decision "purely economic" 

From CNN's Mariya Knight 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman took to Twitter on Sunday to affirm the kingdom’s support for Ukraine and deny it is backing Russia in the war.

“We are astonished by the accusations that the kingdom is standing with Russia in its war with Ukraine. It is telling that these false accusations did not come from the Ukrainian government,��� Khalid bin Salman tweeted. 

He also retweeted an October 14 post from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “for supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity, resolution at the UN General Assembly” and for his willingness “to interact in the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war.” Zelensky also tweeted Saudi Arabia “agreed on the provision of macro-financial aid to Ukraine.” 

US officials have argued that an OPEC+ decision to cut production by 2 million barrels per day will drive up oil prices and could end up helping Russia reap greater revenues from energy sales, thereby driving its war machine in Ukraine.  

But Khalid bin Salman called the decision “purely economic” and shouldn’t be taken as a sign of “standing with Russia.” 

“Although the OPEC+ decision, which was taken unanimously, was due to purely economic reasons, some accused the Kingdom of standing with Russia. Iran is also a member of OPEC, does this mean that the Kingdom is standing with Iran as well?” Khalid bin Salman tweeted Sunday. 

On Wednesday, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told CNN’s Becky Anderson his country partnered with Russia to slash oil production in order to stabilize markets and denied there were political motives behind the decision, which has enraged US leaders and sparked calls to rethink ties with Riyadh.

8:32 p.m. ET, October 16, 2022

A devastating airstrike in Izium killed entire families. Their fates remained unknown for months

From CNN's Teele Rebane and Olga Voitovych

The Ukrainian government says 54 people died in a Russian assault on an apartment complex in the eastern city of Izium on March 9 — almost half of the building’s residents.

Entire families were killed in the attack, but their fates remained largely unknown until a few weeks ago. Ukrainian forces pursuing a counteroffensive reclaimed Izium after six months of Russian occupation, revealing a mass burial site on the outskirts of the city.

Most of the residents of the apartment building, 2 Pershotravneva street, were buried there among more than 400 graves, few with identifying marks other than numbers daubed on rough wooden crosses.

After speaking to a survivor, ex-residents and family members, and reviewing photos and video taken in the aftermath of the attack and following the town’s liberation, CNN can now tell the story of what happened at 2 Pershotravneva on that day.

Read the full report:

8:24 p.m. ET, October 16, 2022

With grain deal set to expire next month, Ukrainian infrastructure minister says exports will continue

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

The fragile Black Sea grain deal will continue after Nov. 22, when it is set to expire, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Sunday.

Kubrakov made the comments during a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Istanbul. They come after Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, cast doubt on the deal's future this week.

“The participating parties of the Initiative — the UN, Turkey and Ukraine — expressed their readiness to continue operating and assured maximum efforts for its successful implementation. There is no doubt that the grain corridor will continue operating after Nov. 22,” Kubrakov said. 

The minister also emphasized the importance of getting faster ship inspections by the Joint Coordination Center. This allows for “a significant increase in the volume of grain exports to the countries of Africa, Asia, and Europe and prevents the formation of inspection queues,” he said. 

Some background: The Black Sea Grain Initiative — which was brokered by the UN and Turkey — was signed by representatives from Russia and Ukraine in July.

The agreement ended five months of Russian blockade, allowing ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports in Odesa to navigate a safe corridor through the Black Sea, helping alleviate global food shortages.

Kubrakov said almost 7.7 million tons of agricultural products have been exported since the launch of the initiative, which “has stabilized food prices and countered the threat of global hunger.”

Russia casts doubt: Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said this week that Russia could leave the deal, according to Reuters. Later, Putin weighed in, saying Moscow would shut the export corridors if they are used to carry out “terrorist attacks.”

3:27 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

US won't tolerate Russian nuclear attacks in any form, national security adviser says

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters at the White House on September 30 in Washington, DC.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters at the White House on September 30 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The US will make no distinction in its response to Russia using any form of nuclear weapon in its war with Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN Sunday.

Sullivan was responding to a hypothetical question from CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union." Bash asked whether the US would treat the so-called "tactical" use of a nuclear weapon — taking out a small target or detonating in the Black Sea, for example — any differently from wide-scale attacks.

"The use of a nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine is the use of a nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine, and we're not going to slice the salami," Sullivan said, adding: "The notion that somehow there's differences in use here, I think, is a dangerous notion."

"From our perspective, we believe it is incumbent upon the United States, working with our NATO allies and partners and other responsible countries around the world, including the likes of China and India, to send a very clear and decisive message to Russia that they should not contemplate the use of nuclear weapons in this conflict," Sullivan added.

3:36 a.m. ET, October 17, 2022

Ukrainian conductor killed by Russian forces in his own home, officials say

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

A screen grab from a video shows conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko conducting an orchestra.
A screen grab from a video shows conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko conducting an orchestra. (Nikolai Ilyashenko/YouTube)

A criminal investigation has been launched into the death of a Ukrainian orchestra conductor in Russian-occupied Kherson, according to Ukrainian officials.

The conductor was reportedly shot in his own home in Kherson by Russian forces "because he refused to cooperate with them," a statement from the local prosecutor's office said Friday.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy identified the conductor as Yuriy Kerpatenko of the Kherson Regional Philharmonic Orchestra.

According to the ministry, Kerpatenko had worked with the local philharmonic since 2000 and also served as the chief conductor of the Gilea Chamber Orchestra based at the Kherson Theater in 2004.

Paying tribute, the ministry said Kerpatenko had "openly demonstrated his civic position and refused to leave occupied Kherson."

The prosecutor's office did not specify when the killing happened, but said, "the deceased stopped contacting relatives in September of this year."

"The Kherson Regional Prosecutor's Office conducts procedural management in criminal proceedings initiated based on violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder," the statement added.

The Kherson region, seen as crucial to controlling Ukraine’s southern coast and access to the Black Sea, was one of the first areas to be occupied by Russian forces when they invaded more than six months ago.