August 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Amy Woodyatt and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 3:22 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022
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1:04 p.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Russian presence in south complicated by Ukrainian attacks on supply lines, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukrainian officials have said that Russia's presence in the southern Kherson region and parts of Zaporizhzhia is becoming more tenuous as supply lines are targeted daily by Ukrainian long-range systems, many of them supplied by Western allies.

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of occupied Melitopol, said that the destruction of a railway bridge south-west of the city at the weekend had further complicated Russian resupply routes.

Fedorov said on Ukrainian television that "the enemy uses Melitopol as a logistics center for the transportation, trans-shipment of ammunition and heavy weapons. The enemy transports most of the ammunition by rail. On the night August 13 - August 14, a railway bridge was blown up. The enemy still cannot restore it; the rubble is being dismantled."

Fedorov, who is not in Melitopol, also claimed: "We see the migration of military personnel from Kherson to Melitopol. Military personnel take their families out of Melitopol."

He said the Russians had stepped up security in Melitopol, which is in Zaporizhzhia region, checking the local population. "Mass filtering of local civilians continues in Melitopol, in people's homes, on the streets," he said.

Fedorov added that the Russian security service (FSB), the Russian reserve guards and special Chechen units were present in Melitopol.

He said that up to 6,000 people were waiting in line for evacuation.

"People wait for five to seven days, spend the night on the roadsides. It is faster to leave through the Crimea, people use this route as well," he said.

Meanwhile, Serhii Khlan, advisor to the head of Kherson Civil Military Administration, told Ukrainian television on Monday that continuing attacks by Ukrainian forces on bridges across the river Dnipro had caused serious difficulties for Russian forces.

"The impossibility of (the Russians) supplying ammunition allows us to say that if they cannot resolve the issue of crossing to the Dnipro right bank in the next two weeks, then they will have no other opportunity than to leave their positions."

A substantial part of the Russian occupying force is on the right (northern) bank of the Dnipro, in Kherson city and further upstream.

Khlan claimed that the Russians had moved their command headquarters to the southern bank of the Dnipro.

Operational Command South said on Sunday that the main highway connection -- the Antonivskyi bridge -- was hit again. Social media video showed a series of detonations at one end of the bridge, which links southern Kherson with the region's capital city.

Khlan said Ukrainian civilians continue to leave Kherson, even though travel has become more difficult.

He said 40% of the Ukrainians trying to get through the only official transit point to Ukrainian-held territory (at Vasylivka) were residents of the Kherson region. "Every day, between 700 and 2,000 people leave the occupied territories," he said.

9:27 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Russian official confirms names discussed in prisoner swap talks

Victor Bout, left, Paul Whelan, center and Brittney Griner.
Victor Bout, left, Paul Whelan, center and Brittney Griner. (AP Photo)

The director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department has addressed the names being discussed in the potential prisoner swap talks between Moscow and Washington.

Talking to Russian state media TASS on Saturday, Alexander Darchiev said Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence, and US citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan imprisoned in Russia, were all part of the conversation.

TASS said Darchiev was responding to a request to comment on US media reports that US officials had sent a proposal to Moscow on swapping Bout for Griner and Whelan. 

Darchiev confirmed the names had been mentioned in bilateral talks, according to TASS. 

"This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents. These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle,’" Darchiev said to TASS.
6:21 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Brittney Griner’s legal team files appeal against verdict

WNBA star Brittney Griner is seen during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4.
WNBA star Brittney Griner is seen during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Brittney Griner’s legal team has filed an appeal against a Russian court’s verdict sentencing the WNBA basketball player to nine years in prison for smuggling drugs into Russia, Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina told CNN on Monday. 

On August 4, Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court delivered the sentence and fined Griner 1 million rubles (about $16,400).

The judge said the court took into account Griner's partial admission of guilt, remorse for the deed, state of health and charitable activities.

Griner was detained in February for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug charges last month and said she accidentally packed the drugs while in a hurry.

The US State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and US officials have offered a potential prisoner swap with Russia in an attempt to bring her home safely.

5:16 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Casualties reported as Wagner base in Luhansk hit by Ukrainian strike

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Social media videos geolocated to the Russian-occupied town of Popasna show that a base used by the Wagner military contractors was hit by artillery or rocket fire at the weekend.

The Wagner group of private military contractors has played an active role in the fighting in Donbas, often deployed as infantry to advance on towns from which Ukrainian forces have withdrawn. The paramilitary group is sponsored by Russia.

Serhiy Hayday, the Ukrainian official who is head of the Luhansk region military administration, said on his Telegram channel Monday that "the Armed Forces of Ukraine once more successfully worked on the enemy headquarters."

"This time it was yesterday in Popasna, where the headquarters of PMC 'Wagner' was smashed with a well-aimed hit," Hayday said.

"The number of dead is being clarified," he added.

Over the weekend, pro-Russian Telegram accounts associated with the Wagner group showed extensive damage to a building in Popasna and said there had been casualties.

5:39 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Spike in Russian attacks in Kharkiv region, Ukraine's military says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Russian rockets launch against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Monday, Aug. 15.
Russian rockets launch against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Monday, Aug. 15. (Vadim Belikov/AP)

Russian forces have increased shelling in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, bombarding Ukrainian units trying to challenge their supply lines running into Donetsk, according to Ukraine's military.

Ukrainian officials on Monday reported rocket and artillery attacks against the Chuhuiv district south of the city of Kharkiv. Oleh Synyehubov, head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said at least 10 missiles had been fired from the Russian city of Belgorod.

One of the towns hit was Merefa, at least 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the front lines.

According to Synyehubov, five people were injured in the shelling, four of whom have been hospitalized, with two in a critical condition.

There were also rocket attacks on a residential area of Kharkiv, Synyehubov said.

In the eastern city of Donetsk — the focus of the Russian offensive —  the Ukrainian general staff on Monday reported continued artillery fire and airstrikes but said several ground assaults by Russian forces had been repelled. Ukrainian officials reported shelling of the cities of Sloviansk and Kostiantynivka, as well as Bakhmut and surrounding villages. 

Geolocated videos show Russian forces moving through an industrial plant on the edge of the town of Soledar, a target of Russian attacks for many weeks.

In the far north of Ukraine, the Sumy regional military administration reported a sharp uptick in cross-border shelling of the town of Seredyno. 

Overall, Russian forces persist with heavy indirect fire in much of Donetsk but have made only marginal territorial gains, the Ukrainian military said.

Southern battles: Across the Dnipro River from the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets were again hit by Russian rocket fire, according to the general staff.

Meanwhile, Russian shelling of Ukrainian positions behind the front lines in the Mykolaiv region persists, the general staff added.

In the south, much of the Russian fire is defensive, as they try to disrupt Ukrainian attempts to move forward into Kherson, the general staff said.  

1:03 p.m. ET, August 15, 2022

EU and more than 40 countries urge Russia to withdraw forces from Ukrainian nuclear power plant

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from Nikopol, Ukraine across the Dnipro River on April 27.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen from Nikopol, Ukraine across the Dnipro River on April 27. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

A joint statement from the European Union and 42 countries including the United States has called on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned last week that parts of the plant had been knocked out due to recent attacks, risking an "unacceptable" potential radiation leak.

“We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorized personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant," said the joint statement, dated August 12 and published Sunday to the website of the EU Delegation to the International Organizations in Vienna.
The withdrawal must take place "so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions," the statement said.
This would also "enable the IAEA to carry out its verification pursuant to Ukraine’s safeguards obligations under safe and secure conditions and in a timely manner."

Nuclear watchdog's warning: On Thursday, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the "alarming" situation at the plant had reached a "grave hour," as he called for an immediate inspection of the facility by international experts.

The joint statement expressed support for the work of the IAEA and emphasized that "the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility is unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect." 

9:26 p.m. ET, August 14, 2022

Russian forces retreating in southern Ukraine after third key bridge destroyed, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta 

Russian forces are evacuating to the left bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region after Ukrainian strikes made a third key bridge in the area impassable, Ukrainian officials said.

“We are watching how the leadership of the Russian forces uses the remains of transport routes to evacuate to the left bank of Dnipro in order to feel safe," Ukrainian military spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk told the country's media on Sunday. 

The destruction of the three bridges — including the Kakhovka bridge this weekend — has impeded the movement of heavy military equipment and the supply of ammunition to the Russians on the right bank of the river, making it ''extremely complicated to the point of being impossible,'' she added.

Attacks along southern frontline: Meanwhile, heavy Russian shelling continued in the south of Ukraine along the occupied line of defense over the weekend, Ukraine’s military said.

On Sunday night, Smerch multiple rocket launchers targeted Mykolaiv and the settlement of Bereznehuvate, killing one person and injuring another, according to Ukraine’s Operational Command South (OC South).

In the city of Mykolaiv, residential areas and port infrastructure were shelled, and communication lines and industrial facilities were damaged, leaving one civilian wounded, OC South added.

The city of Nikopol was shelled twice on Sunday night with heavy-barreled artillery, destroying five high-rise buildings, six houses, a kindergarten and other civilian infrastructure. No casualties were reported.  

Also on Sunday, the city of Marhanets was struck by Grad rockets. One civilian was hospitalized and a dozen homes and a power grid were destroyed.

Enerhodar also came under shelling on Sunday. One person was killed and two people were wounded, OC South said. 

The Ukrainian military said it destroyed two "enemy" ammunition depots in in Muzykivka and Nova Kakhovka on Saturday.

CNN cannot independently confirm all the incidents.

2:23 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Grain ship to Ethiopia ready to set sail from Ukraine

From CNN's Jorge Engels and Mariya Knight

The Liberian-flagged Brave Commander cargo ship is seen in Yuzhne, Ukraine east of Odessa on the Black Sea coast on August 14.
The Liberian-flagged Brave Commander cargo ship is seen in Yuzhne, Ukraine east of Odessa on the Black Sea coast on August 14. (Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images)

A cargo ship carrying 23,000 metric tons of wheat is ready to set sail from the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi to Ethiopia, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov announced Sunday.

The Liberian-flagged Brave Commander cargo ship arrived in Pivdennyi Friday, according to Kubrakov, and will be the first UN-chartered ship to head for an African nation, Reuters reported. It is currently moored at Pivdennyi port, according to ship tracking website Marine Traffic.

“It is the supply of grain, in particular for Ethiopia, where the situation with hunger is particularly severe,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.
“In less than two weeks, three of our ports — Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi — managed to export such a volume, which is equal to the entire agricultural export by road for July and more than two-thirds of the export by rail for the past month.”
2:42 a.m. ET, August 15, 2022

Analysis: The tide of the war is unlikely to turn any time soon

Analysis from CNN's Nic Robertson in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

Shelled shops in Siversk, eastern Ukraine.
Shelled shops in Siversk, eastern Ukraine. (Nic Robertson/CNN)

There are many observations to be made about Ukraine. But on a recent road trip, one sticks out — just how vast the country is.

Three weeks of driving from south to east in this sprawling country through front line villages, towns, past trenches and along hedgerows which are this war's strategic equivalent of high ground, is an education, and one that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use.

Almost six months on, the disastrous war that he launched is stagnating. Scenes reminiscent of World War I trench warfare and its associated incremental gains and death are taking hold.

The almost 1,000-mile-long battle front Putin opened has hardened, but the country behind is deep, and for the most part unscathed.

Thirty miles from the front, city lawns are still being mowed, while many hundreds of miles away in the capital Kyiv, fancy restaurants have reopened, where fine wines and chilled champagnes are available, and fresh caught Mediterranean fish is on the menu.

This is a fat land, with fertile farms and proud crops rich from rain and sun. If strategic depth is what's behind the front lines, Ukraine has an untapped wealth available.

Perhaps most striking is the number of military age males across the country who are not yet committed to the fight. Ukraine is at war, but not yet it seems, all in. Only some of Ukraine's potential fighting force are in bunkers buried in tree lines overlooking Russian forces.

Cobblers, authors, artists, teachers, businessmen, journalists, even a former McDonald's franchise CEO, are holding back Putin's push, but when the government needs it there are many more who can be called on.

The big takeaway is, that this is not a war that's going to be over fast, not is even clear yet if the real defining fight has begun.

Read the full analysis here.