August 9, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Sana Noor Haq, Caolan Magee and Hannah Strange CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023
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5:24 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Ukrainian forces conducted raid across Dnipro River, Russian media say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Clare Sebastian and Sarah Dean

Ukrainian forces first established a bridgehead on the Russian-controlled east bank of the Dnipro River near the Antonivsky Bridge in June, as seen in this image from June 8.
Ukrainian forces first established a bridgehead on the Russian-controlled east bank of the Dnipro River near the Antonivsky Bridge in June, as seen in this image from June 8. Stringer/Reuters/FILE

Ukrainian forces conducted a raid across the Dnipro River in the Kherson region on Tuesday, attempting to land near the Russian-occupied village of Kozachi Laheri, state media and military bloggers said.

One Russian military blogger claimed "a total of 25 soldiers [were either] killed or captured including three officers," before adding that the group was "ambushed and the survivors are now prisoners."
He went on to say that Ukrainian forces do not control the village but they are "definitely present on our bank" — referring to the occupied east-bank of the Dnipro river.

Pro-Russian media also claimed the raid took place, posting a video of their correspondent claiming Ukrainian forces tried to land near the village of Kazachi Lagerya but that "their actions did not bring results."

Some context: Ukrainian forces first established a bridgehead on the Russian-controlled east bank of the Dnipro River near the Antonivsky Bridge in June.

On July 1, the Russian-appointed governor of occupied Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, said it had been eliminated following almost a week of heavy fighting in the area.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest update that Ukrainian forces are present on the east bank, although it remains unclear whether Ukrainian troops have established an enduring presence.

Natalia Humeniuk, head of the United Coordinating Press Center of Security and Defense Forces of South of Ukraine, dismissed the claims.

"The enemy is trying to create artificial hype and panic, drawing attention to the directions where they want to focus the efforts of the Defense Forces," Humeniuk told CNN

What Ukrainian officials say: Bohdan Senyk, head of the Public Relations Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told CNN: "We don't have any official information yet."

The nature of the raid remains unclear and CNN is unable to verify these claims.

1:46 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Russian shelling kills at least 1 in Nikopol, Ukrainian military official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych 

An 18-year-old man was killed and three other men were wounded after Russian shelling hit the southern Ukrainian district of Nikopol, a local military official said Wednesday.

Serhii Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said those injured had suffered mine-blast trauma and shrapnel wounds.

The shelling also damaged power lines, homes and a church, he added.

12:50 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Analysis: A stalled offensive could represent a huge political problem for Zelensky in the US

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12. Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images

One of Ukraine’s greatest tragedies as it pursues a critical offensive that has, so far, failed to meet its own and Western expectations is that it cannot, by itself, decide its destiny.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government is dependent on a massive pipeline of US and Western armaments. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose historical obsessions and personal power calculations thrust Ukraine into this horrific war, will also have a great say in if and when it ends.

So, while battlefield sacrifices will decide how much seized territory Ukraine recovers, the outcome of the war will also be shaped by outside factors, including shifting political forces in the US, Moscow and European capitals.

A stalled offensive and a winter stalemate, for instance, would have particular ramifications in the United States since it could heighten questions over US support for the war that will be pushed into an acrimonious election year.

Americans are braced for a potential clash between President Joe Biden, who revived the Western alliance and is Ukraine’s most critical outside supporter, and ex-President Donald Trump, a NATO skeptic who admires Putin and has pledged to end the war in 24 hours, likely on Putin’s terms. And even if Trump is not the GOP nominee in 2024, ebbing public support for the war could hurt Biden.

Therefore, for political, as well as strategic reasons, there is huge pressure on Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive this summer to produce significant battlefield breakthroughs.

But so far, the push is more of a slog than a blitzkrieg, raising the possibility the war could last at least deep into next year. If so, the elastic equation that underpins the entire conflict — involving Ukraine’s capacity to fight, Americans’ appetite for multi-billion dollar aid packages and Putin’s tolerance for horrendous casualties — will be even more taut.

Read Collinson's full analysis here.

11:59 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

It's early morning in Kyiv. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

A woman sits in her flat at an apartment building destroyed during a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 8.
A woman sits in her flat at an apartment building destroyed during a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 8. Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

A White House official says the US is aware Ukraine's counteroffensive isn't progressing as quickly as was expected, following CNN reporting that describes increasingly "sobering" assessments from Western officials about Kyiv's forces’ ability to retake significant territory.

“Even the Ukrainians … including President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, have said that they're not going as far or as fast as he would like," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

Ukraine's offensive is "not without its difficulties, but they keep trying," he said.

On Tuesday, Ukraine claimed some advances in the southern Zaporizhzhia region despite troops' movement being slowed by mines.

Hee are the latest headlines from Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Moscow targeted: Two "combat drones" were shot down in the Moscow suburbs early Wednesday, the capital's mayor said — the latest in a string of drone attack attempts this summer on Russian cities. There is no information on casualties and a response team was working on the scene, he added.
  • Wagner camp claim: The construction of a new camp to host Wagner Group fighters has begun in the Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus, Ukrainian authorities claimed Tuesday. Ukraine's National Resistance Center warned of future efforts to use the fighters "to simulate subversive activities on the border with [Ukraine's] Chernihiv region." CNN cannot independently verify the claims. 
  • Russian strikes: As Ukraine reels from the latest round of Russian missile attacks, residents in the eastern city of Pokrovsk recalled the harrowing experience of a "double-tap" strike Monday that left at least nine people dead and 82 injured. "I'd like to say to the Russians: Value the lives. Both your own and ours. And enough of all this, enough. Enough," Pokrovsk resident Liudmyla told CNN. 
  • Evacuation call: Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities are urging residents in the eastern city of Kupyansk to evacuate children and those with limited mobility following a recent escalation of Russian attacks in the area. At least three civilians were killed and nine others injured Tuesday after Russian missiles hit a village near the city in the Kharkiv region, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last year.
  • Ukrainian shelling: At least three people were killed and 11 others wounded after Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk city, the Moscow-backed head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said. He added that a number of civilian infrastructure facilities were hit, while alleging the use of cluster munitions by Kyiv's forces. CNN is not able to independently verify this claim. 
1:47 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

2 drones shot down in Moscow suburbs, city's mayor says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Sergey Sobyanin attends a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 15.
Sergey Sobyanin attends a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 15. Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Two drones were shot down in the Moscow suburbs early Wednesday, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

"There was an attempted flight over the city by two 'combat drones.' Both were shot down by our air defense," the mayor said in a message posted to Telegram. 
"One of the drones was shot down near Domodedovo, while the other was shot down near the Minsk highway."

There is an international airport in Domodedovo.

There is no information on casualties and a response team was working on the scene, he added.

9:16 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Ukraine claims another Wagner camp is being built in Belarus

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The construction of a new camp to host Wagner Group fighters has begun in the Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus, Ukrainian authorities claimed on Tuesday.

“On the border with Ukraine, in the village of Zyabrovka in the Republic of Belarus, a new camp for 'Wagner' PMC mercenaries is being built,” Ukraine's National Resistance Center said on its website. “In the future, it is planned to use them to simulate subversive activities on the border with the Chernihiv region.” 

The center said it obtained this information from “underground sources.” 

CNN cannot independently verify the claims. 

Zyabrovka is located near Gomel in southeastern Belarus, about 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine's Chernihiv region.

The camp can house around 1,000 personnel and looks like a tent city, the center said.

It claimed “there remains a high probability” that Belarus and Russia will use the camp to intimidate neighboring European countries in order to create an illusion that “the mercenaries are ready to invade the EU.” This, in turn, could make European nations “reduce their support for Ukraine,” the center claimed. 

Some context: Poland recently accused Belarus of violating its airspace, raising tensions between the NATO member and the key Kremlin ally in an increasingly volatile security landscape in Europe. Thousands of Wagner troops were reportedly sent to Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko reportedly brokered a deal to end the mercenary fighters' failed rebellion against Moscow in June.

11:38 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Ukraine's counteroffensive is "not without its difficulties," White House official says

From CNN's DJ Judd

John Kirby attends a news briefing at the White House in Washington on March 22.
John Kirby attends a news briefing at the White House in Washington on March 22. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The US is aware the Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia isn't progressing as quickly as was expected, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Tuesday.

“Even the Ukrainians … including President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, have said that they're not going as far or as fast as he would like," Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
“While they are making progress — and they are — it's incremental and it's slow and it's not without its difficulties, but they keep trying. They're still at it,” Kirby said. “There is active fighting along that front, they are definitely trying to push forward. How far they'll get, where that will be, what kind of breakthrough they might be able to achieve? I don't think anybody can say right now.” 

His comments follow reporting from CNN that describes increasingly “sobering” assessments from Western officials about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory.

And in a video released by his office Tuesday, Zelensky acknowledged the counteroffensive hasn't been easy and is "happening probably slower" than some had hoped.

"It is very difficult to be fighting for such a long time — which is obvious. All this is very difficult when you lack this or that equipment," the Ukrainian leader said in remarks from a meeting Sunday with Latin American media outlets. I know it is difficult for us but I definitely know it is more difficult for the Russians."

In terms of military aid to Ukraine, Kirby said the US will continue to provide military resources to Kyiv, including mine-clearing equipment, artillery ammunition and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

11:40 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Pokrovsk residents share harrowing accounts of deadly Russian attack

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

Local residents stand outside an apartment building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine on August 8.
Local residents stand outside an apartment building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine on August 8. Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

As Ukraine reels from the latest round of Russian missile attacks, residents in the eastern city of Pokrovsk recalled the harrowing experience of a "double-tap" strike Monday that left at least nine people dead and 82 injured.

"I heard a hum. A very, very loud hum. Then the entire building shook and the windows on our balcony blew out. Half an hour later there was a second hit — it was even louder and even scarier," Pokrovsk resident Liudmyla told CNN Tuesday. 

After the first strike, military personnel warned them to take shelter for a possible second attack — but her husband was stood on the balcony, she said.

"I heard this growing rumble and I shouted for him to get out of there," she said. "But he didn't manage, he just fell to the floor and covered his head with hands. He was literally covered in glass."

The explosion threw Liudmyla into another room. "You're flying and you don't realize where you are," she said. "I just yelled to my husband to see if he was alive. He responded, I crawled to him and shattered the glass."

She also had a message for the Russian forces laying siege to Ukraine.

"I'd like to say to the Russians: Value the lives. Both your own and ours. And enough of all this, enough. Enough," Liudmyla said.

Another resident, Alla, whose home is also close to the area that was hit, said she and her husband went outside after the first explosion. When they returned to their apartment after the second explosion, "we saw there were no windows, no balcony, no electricity," she said.

"Of course, we were very much scared," she added. "We were terribly stressed, because it was very loud. We didn't sleep the whole night. How can one sleep here, when there are no windows?"

8:39 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Kupyansk residents urged to evacuate as Russian ramps up attacks

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Yulia Kesaieva

Ukrainian authorities are urging residents in the eastern city of Kupyansk to evacuate children and those with limited mobility following a recent escalation of Russian attacks.

At least three civilians were killed and nine others injured Tuesday after Russian missiles hit a village near the city in the Kharkiv region, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last year.

"Starting from the de-occupation in September 2022, the Kupyansk community has been constantly suffering from shelling," Andrii Besedin, head of the Kupyansk city military administration, said Tuesday on national television. 

"Recently, unfortunately, the amount of shelling has escalated, increased and the range of weapons used to shell the community has also broadened."

Besedin said Russian attacks now include the use of guided aerial bombs.

City authorities launched a voluntary evacuation plan in November last year, but a number of residents have chosen to stay.

"We are actively urging people to evacuate children from the territory of our community, emphasizing that life is the most important, and it's necessary to get out of the danger zone, especially for children and people with limited mobility," Besedin said. 

Russian attacks: Moscow's forces have stepped up their offensive across the region in an effort to reclaim territory. On Monday, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on YouTube that "the Kupyansk direction was probably the hottest" as Russian forces try to regain positions lost last autumn. "They have such a plan — they want to return the territories they lost in Kharkiv region," she said.