November 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, CNN

Updated 12:55 a.m. ET, November 9, 2022
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4:59 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

Russian spy service says it disrupted a Ukrainian "sabotage and reconnaissance group"

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mick Krever in Kyiv

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have disrupted a Ukrainian "sabotage and reconnaissance group" in the occupied southern Kherson region, and detained nine Ukrainian citizens.

The FSB said on Tuesday that it had "revealed and prevented the activities of an SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] sabotage and reconnaissance group in Kherson region, whose tasks included committing terrorist acts against high-ranking members of the military and civil administration of Kherson region."

The FSB claimed to have discovered explosives, detonators and small arms.

"As a result of investigative actions 9 Ukrainian citizens have been identified and detained," the FSB said. "The defendants were placed in custody as a preventive measure."

The Ukrainian government has not commented on the claimed arrests.

3:22 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

Russia is no longer organizing "evacuations" from parts of occupied Kherson, says Moscow-backed official

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Mick Krever

Residents evacuated from Kherson arrive in Oleshky, Kherson region, Ukraine, on October 25.
Residents evacuated from Kherson arrive in Oleshky, Kherson region, Ukraine, on October 25. (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Monday was the last day of Russia's “organized evacuation” offer for civilians from the west bank of the Dnipro River in the occupied portion of Ukraine’s Kherson region, according to a Russian-backed official.

“Most residents who decided to stay in Kherson are only now beginning to realize the gravity of the situation and my warnings,” Kirill Stremousov, the Russia-appointed deputy head of the Kherson region military administration, said on Telegram.

His comments come as an intense battle for the southern city of Kherson appears to be looming, with Ukrainian forces edging closer to the regional capital as part of a push to retake territory seized by Russian forces shortly after their invasion began in February.

Anyone who leaves the Kherson region will be given “a one-time payment of 100,000 rubles” (about $1,600) “and a housing certificate,” Stremousov added.

Some context: Evacuation offers like this have sparked concerns that Ukrainian citizens may be forced to go to Russian territory against their will. 

A Kherson city resident told CNN over the weekend they viewed the idea of getting on an “evacuation bus” to Crimea as a “one-way ticket.” CNN is not identifying the resident for their safety.

Reports emerged early in the war of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians being forcibly sent to so-called “filtration centers” before being moved to Russia. Moscow denounced the claims as lies, alleging that Ukraine has hindered its efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.

Kherson is one of four regions Russia has said it will annex from Ukraine in violation of international law. 

2:27 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

North Korea denies sending arms to Russia

From CNN's Jake Kwon, Kylie Atwood and Katie Bo Lillis

North Korea on Tuesday denied dealing arms to Russia following US accusations that Pyongyang is secretly supplying Moscow with weapons for use in the Ukraine war.

The United States was attempting "to tarnish the image" of North Korea "in the international arena," according to a statement by the vice director of military foreign affairs at North Korea’s Defense Ministry published by state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"We have never had 'arms dealings' with Russia… we have no plan to do so in the future," the statement said.

Some background: Last week, declassified US intelligence said North Korea is secretly supplying Russia with a significant number of artillery shells for use in Ukraine and is trying to hide the shipments by making it appear as if the ammunition is being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.

US officials believe the alleged surreptitious North Korean shipments — along with drones and other weaponry that Russia has acquired from Iran — are further evidence that even Moscow’s conventional artillery arsenals have dwindled during eight months of combat.

The report follows a US statement in September that North Korea intends to supply weapons to Russia including rockets and artillery shells, which Pyongyang promptly denied.

3:13 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

Russian soldiers in Donetsk complain about being sent into an "incomprehensible battle"

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Tim Lister

Ukrainian servicemen fire a mortar on a front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on November 6, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen fire a mortar on a front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on November 6, 2022. (Iryna Rybakova/Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)

In a letter purportedly sent from the front lines to a regional governor in Russia, the men of the 155th Brigade of the Russian Pacific Fleet Marines say they were thrown into an "incomprehensible battle" in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

The letter, published by a prominent Russian military blog on Monday, was sent to the governor of Primorsky Krai.

"Once again we were thrown into an incomprehensible battle by General Muradov and his brother-in-law, his countryman Akhmedov, so that Muradov could earn bonuses to make him look good in the eyes of Gerasimov [Russia's Chief of the General Staff]," it said.

"As a result of the "carefully" planned offensive by the "great commanders" we lost about 300 men, dead and wounded, with some MIA over the past 4 days," the letter said. "We lost 50% of our equipment. That's our brigade alone. The district command together with Akhmedov are hiding these facts and skewing the official casualty statistics for fear of being held accountable."

In the letter, they asked the governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, "For how long will such mediocrities as Muradov and Akhmedov be allowed to continue to plan the military actions just to keep up appearances and gain awards at the cost of so many people's lives?"

CNN cannot verify how many soldiers signed the letter nor their ranks, but Kozhemyako confirmed he had received a letter from the soldiers of the unit.

7:32 p.m. ET, November 7, 2022

US citizen recently died in Ukraine, State Department says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A US citizen recently died in Ukraine, the US State Department said Monday, the latest known American to die in the country since Russia’s invasion in February.

While the State Department did not name the individual, the International Legion of the Defense of Ukraine identified Timothy Griffin as a US citizen killed during combat in Eastern Ukraine.

Griffin had “taken part in the counteroffensive on the eastern front with his unit and was killed in action,” Ukraine’s International Legion of Defense said in a statement that called Griffin “our brother in arms.”

Both the State Department and Ukraine’s International Legion said they were in touch with family of the deceased and asked the public to respect their privacy.

At least five other Americans are known to have been killed in the country fighting alongside Ukrainian forces during the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Read more here.

3:11 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

US officials urge Ukraine to signal it is still open to diplomatic discussions with Russia

 From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Oren Liebermann

U.S White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, right, and Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak attend a news briefing, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 4.
U.S White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, right, and Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak attend a news briefing, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 4. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Senior US officials have in recent weeks been urging Ukraine to signal that it is still open to diplomatic discussions with Russia, amid concerns that public support for the country’s war effort could wane with no end to the conflict in sight and neither side willing to begin peace talks, sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

The discussions are not aimed at encouraging the Ukrainians to negotiate now — rather, the US wants Kyiv to convey more clearly that it wants to find a resolution to the conflict and that Ukraine has the moral high ground, sources said.

Officials including national security adviser Jake Sullivan began more urgently pressing the Ukrainians to shift their rhetoric after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree in early October ruling out any negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That decree came in response to Russia’s self-declared annexation of territories in eastern Ukraine following sham referendums there.

“We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia,” Zelensky said last month.

Sullivan discussed the issue directly with Zelensky during a trip to Kyiv last week, the sources said. He expressed the US’ view that categorically ruling out any talks with Putin plays into the Russian leader’s hand by fueling the Kremlin narrative that the Ukrainians are refusing to talk.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia is “open to” negotiation with Ukraine but “at the moment we do not see such an opportunity, because Kyiv turned into a law [their decision] not to continue any negotiations.”

The Washington Post first reported that the US is urging Ukraine to appear open to talks.

Read more here.

7:37 p.m. ET, November 7, 2022

Ukrainian official says Iranian ballistic missiles bought by Russia may need to be destroyed at their launch sites

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Tim Lister

Ukraine's air force says that newly arrived Western air defense systems will help deal with the new threat of Iranian ballistic missiles reportedly being purchased by Russia.

Yuriy Ihnat, Air Force spokesperson, told a briefing in Kyiv that Ukraine might target the Iranian missiles at their launch sites, which would probably be well inside Russia. 

"They must somehow be destroyed, probably from where they are launched. Because we have no effective means of fighting ballistic [missiles], except for their physical destruction at the launch stage."

Ihnat said the Iranian missiles have "a range of 300 and 700 kilometers, which in principle will not create anything new for Ukraine, because [Russian-made] Iskanders were used from the first day of the war."

"I think both the top military leadership and our partners are working on this issue, looking for effective ways to counter these new threats," Ihnat said. 

He said the Russians were unable to make progress on the battlefield and had resorted to attacking infrastructure supplying energy and water. "They want to hit energy facilities in the autumn-winter period first of all, because people's lives largely depend on them. This air terrorism will continue by all available means," he said.
"It is clear that the missiles that will be received from Iran, if it is done, will be used at the energy infrastructure facilities, and [the Russians] will continue to strike with cruise missiles as well."

CNN reported on Nov. 1 that Iran is preparing to send about 1,000 additional weapons, including short-range ballistic missiles and more attack drones, to Russia, citing officials from a Western country that closely monitors Iran's weapons program.

3:08 a.m. ET, November 8, 2022

Orthodox Church of Ukraine to allow Christmas on Dec. 25 as rift with Moscow deepens

From CNN's Jack Guy and Olga Voitovych

His Beatitude Epiphanius, Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine, center, participates in Christmas Liturgy at St. Sophia's Cathedral on January 7, 2019 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
His Beatitude Epiphanius, Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine, center, participates in Christmas Liturgy at St. Sophia's Cathedral on January 7, 2019 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

A branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox church has announced that it will allow its churches to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, rather than Jan. 7, as is traditional in Orthodox congregations.

The announcement by the Kyiv-headquartered Orthodox Church of Ukraine widens the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox believers that has deepened due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision came after “taking into account the numerous requests and taking into account the discussion that has been going on for many years in the Church and in society; predicting, in particular due to the circumstances of the war, the escalation of calendar disputes in the public space,” the Orthodox Church of Ukraine said in a statement published Oct. 18.

Each church will have the option to celebrate on Dec. 25, which marks the birth of Jesus according to the Gregorian calendar, rather than Jan. 7, which marks the birth of Jesus according to the Julian calendar, still used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In recent years a large part of the Orthodox community in Ukraine has moved away from Moscow, a movement accelerated by the conflict Russia stoked in eastern Ukraine beginning in 2014.

Read more here.