August 8, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 11:16 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023
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9:03 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

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

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Two drones were shot down in the Moscow suburbs, according to Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

"There was an attempted flight over the city by two 'combat drones.' Both were shot down by our air defense," he 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," Sobyanin said.

There is an international airport in Domodedovo.

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

8:44 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Ukraine claims another Wagner camp is being built in Belarus 

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukraine’s National Resistance Center — an official body — claimed Tuesday that the construction of another camp to host Wagner Group fighters has begun in the Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus. 

“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,” the 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.” 

CNN cannot independently verify this claim. 

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, the center said, and it looks like a tent city. 

Ukraine’s National Resistance Center said it obtained this information from “underground sources.” 

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

Some context: Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko brokered a deal to cap Wagner’s failed rebellion against Moscow, after which thousands of mercenary fighters were reportedly sent to Belarus.

Moscow used Belarusian territory to facilitate its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, strengthening ties between President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko.

Poland recently accused Belarus of violating its airspace, raising tensions between the NATO member and a key Kremlin ally in an increasingly volatile security landscape in Europe.

Warsaw said two Belarusian helicopters allegedly violated the Polish airspace during training exercises on August 1, which the Belarusian defense ministry vehemently denied and dismissed as “far-fetched.”

10:36 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

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

From CNN's DJ Judd

A Ukrainian serviceman fires toward Russian troops at a position near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 5.
A Ukrainian serviceman fires toward Russian troops at a position near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 5. Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

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 continued. “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 that 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.

7:57 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

3 civilians killed and 9 injured in Kharkiv region, official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Three civilians are dead and nine others are injured in the Kharkiv region after Russian missiles hit a village near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupyansk, the regional prosecutor’s office said. 

Initially, the Russians struck the Kruhliakivka village in the Kupyansk district with four guided aerial bombs on Monday. 

“As of 1:18 p.m., the number of dead increased to three: a 45-year-old woman and two men were killed,” the office said on Telegram Tuesday. 

According to the office, when law enforcement officers and the State Emergency Service team arrived at the scene, Russians fired at the village again with MLRS rocket artillery. As a result, two police officers aged 21 and 24 as well as two rescue workers aged 22 and 46 were injured. 

A number of residential buildings were damaged and partially destroyed following the strikes. 

Andrii Besedin, the head of the Kupyansk city military administration, urged Kupyansk residents to evacuate children and those with limited mobility on Tuesday following the recent escalation of Russian shelling in the area.

6:18 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Ukraine continues to struggle breaking through Russia's defensive lines. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Weeks into Ukraine’s highly anticipated counteroffensive, Western officials describe increasingly “sobering” assessments about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory, four senior US and Western officials briefed on the latest intelligence told CNN.

The primary challenge for Ukrainian forces is the continued difficulty of breaking through Russia’s multi-layered defensive lines in the eastern and southern parts of the country, which are marked by tens of thousands of mines and vast networks of trenches.

Ukrainian forces have incurred staggering losses there, leading Ukrainian commanders to hold back some units to regroup and reduce casualties.

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • Counteroffensive updates: The Ukrainian counteroffensive hasn't been easy and is "happening probably slower" than some had hoped, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released by his office on Tuesday.
  • On the ground developments: Efforts to "eliminate" Russian forces around the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region are continuing with offensive action from Kyiv's forces, according to Serhii Kuzmin, deputy commander of the Tavria Operational and Strategic Grouping for Strategic Communications. And in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupyansk, located in the Kharkiv region, Russian shelling further escalated recently. Authorities there are urging residents to evacuate children and those with limited mobility. In the city of Donetsk, Ukrainian shelling left at least three people dead and 11 others wounded, according to the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin.
  • Attack on Pokrovsk: Two Russian Iskander missiles hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk within 30 to 40 minutes of each other, killing nine people and injuring 82 others, officials said Tuesday. Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelensky said there were two children among the injured. One of them, an 11-year-old, is in serious condition, he said. Officials and first responders in Ukraine are paying tribute to Andrii Omelchenko, who served as the Deputy Head of the State Emergency Service in the Donetsk region, was killed in the strikes. He was described as a family man and someone who was loved and respected by his colleagues.
  • Rescue worker death and injury toll: At least 78 rescuers have been killed and 280 wounded in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion while responding to missile strikes, according to Col. Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, spokesperson for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. 
  • Sanctions: The United Kingdom has added new designations under its sanctions regimes against Russia and Belarus, it announced Tuesday. Six of the new designations target Belarus-affiliated individuals and institutions; 19 target those affiliated with Russia. They include sanctions against individuals and businesses based in Russia, Turkey, Dubai, Slovakia and Switzerland.
5:40 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

9 people were killed and dozens injured in Russian attack on Pokrovsk, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Radina Gigova

Nine people were killed and 82 were injured after Russian missiles on Monday struck residential areas in the eastern city of Pokrovsk, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Rescue operations in Pokrovsk in Donetsk region were completed today in the afternoon after yesterday's rocket attack by Russian terrorists,” Zelensky said. “Nine people died. My condolences to their family and friends. 82 people were injured.” 

Zelensky also said there were two children among the injured. One of them, an 11-year-old, is in serious condition, he said.

The Ukrainian president reiterated that the fact that the second strike occurred when the rescue operation was underway indicated it was “a conscious decision of terrorists to cause the most pain and the most damage."

Zelensky noted he discussed how to protect Ukrainians more effectively “from the Russian invaders” during the phone call Tuesday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 

"We are preparing to upgrade our aviation with modern aircraft and it is the Netherlands that can become a leader in the issue of F-16s for Ukraine," he said. 

8:28 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

Putin discusses cooperation, preparations for BRICS summit with South Africa's president

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in Moscow, Russia, on March 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in Moscow, Russia, on March 21. Contributor/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

"The President of South Africa gave a positive assessment of the results of the recent Russia–Africa Summit in St Petersburg, which are bound to further promote cooperation between Russia and African nations," the statement read. 

Putin met with 17 heads of African states for a two-day summit in July in an attempt to strengthen ties with African countries.

"Following their separate meeting on July 29, Vladimir Putin and Cyril Ramaphosa discussed a number of practical issues of bilateral cooperation, with a focus on enhancing trade, economic and investment ties," the statement read. 

"The presidents expressed a mutual desire to continue constructive cooperation on the current international agenda, including preparations for the upcoming BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on August 23–24," the statement added. 

Putin will take part in the summit via video link, according to state news outlets TASS and RIA Novosti. While the Russian leader will not be physically present, will be represented instead by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Putin's absence is due to the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing an arrest warrant for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova in March, over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia amid the brutal invasion. Last month, the ICC chief pressured South Africa to do "the right thing" and arrest Putin if he arrived for the summit of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).

Some context: Speaking at a news conference with the chair of the African Union on July 28, Putin laid out the ways he says Russia plans to help African countries. Moscow will provide aid to “strengthen national health systems, improve their reliability, technical equipment, efficiency and resilience in the fight against epidemics,” he said.

A "large-scale program of assistance" for combatting infections in African countries will total 1.2 billion rubles (or about $13 million USD) running into 2026, according to Putin.

Putin also said Russia will “continue to supply African countries with grain on a commercial basis and free of charge.”

It was also during this summit that Ramaphosa and several other African leaders presented a 10-step peace initiative to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. At the time, Putin said the Kremlin is “carefully” considering the African leaders’ proposal, and blamed Kyiv for not coming to the table.

3:29 p.m. ET, August 8, 2023

At least 3 dead and 11 wounded in Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk city, Russian-appointed official says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Rescuers work with heavy machinery, at the site of a building destroyed during a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on August 8.
Rescuers work with heavy machinery, at the site of a building destroyed during a Russian missile strike in Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on August 8. Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

At least three people are dead and 11 others, including a child, are wounded after shelling in the city of Donetsk by the Ukrainian military, according to the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin.

"Over the course of the day, Donetsk was subjected to intensive shelling by Ukrainian armed formations," the Russian-appointed official said on Telegram. "Currently, we know of three dead in the Kyivskyi district. Another 11 people were wounded in the Kyivskyi, Voroshilovskyi and Kuibyshevskyi districts, among them a child."

Pushilin added that a number of civilian infrastructure facilities were hit, while alleging the use of cluster munitions by the Ukrainian military. CNN is not able to independently verify this claim. 

"Enemy shelling damaged 24 residential houses in Donetsk and Yasinovata and 10 civilian infrastructure facilities, including a school in Donetsk, a kindergarten in Makiivka, and a factory in Shakhtarsk. There were 95 incidents of shelling [...] including cluster-type artillery," Pushilin claimed.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has claimed that twin Russian attacks on the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk, located in the Donetsk region, killed five civilians, an emergency worker and a service member.

11:16 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Tributes pour in for emergency service officer killed in Russian strikes on Pokrovsk

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych

Officials and first responders in Ukraine are paying tribute to an emergency service officer who was killed in Russian strikes in Pokrovsk.

Andrii Omelchenko who was killed Monday in the “double tap” attack on the city. He was described as a family man and someone who was loved and respected by his colleagues.

Omelchenko, who served as the Deputy Head of the State Emergency Service in the Donetsk region, was among the first responders to the site of a Russian strike on a residential area in Pokrovsk. He was killed after a second missile hit the same area 40 minutes later, according to officials. 

“We are deeply mourning the death of Andrii Omelchenko, Colonel of the Civil Defense Service,” Ihor Klymenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, wrote on Telegram. 

His friend and colleague Taras Solodovnyk, Deputy Head of the Emergency Response Department in Donetsk region, said he was a decent, professional and sensitive man.

“He treated his subordinates very well. He always helped… He loved his family very much," Solodovnyk said.

Omelchenko, 52, is survived by his wife, daughter and grandson, according to Solodovnyk. A Donetsk region native, Omelchenko moved to Mariupol in 2014 and lived there until 2022, he added. 

According to Colonel Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, spokesman for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, at least 78 rescuers have been killed and 280 others wounded since the war started.