August 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Amy Woodyatt, Hannah Strange, Leinz Vales, Adrienne Vogt and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 9:39 p.m. ET, August 18, 2023
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7:31 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Ukraine says 14,000 without power in Donetsk after Russian shelling

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Vasco Cotovio

Some 14,000 people in the frontline region of Donetsk have been left without power after Russian shelling affected generation at a thermal powerplant, according to Ukraine's grid operator Ukrenergo.

“Enemy terror continues in the frontline and border regions with Russia. In Donetsk region, 110 kV overhead lines were disconnected twice due to enemy shelling. This resulted in limited electricity generation at one of the thermal power plants in Donetsk region,” Urkenergo said in a statement on Friday. “In addition, lower power overhead lines were disconnected due to hostilities in Donetsk Oblast, leaving more than 14,000 consumers without electricity.”
“Some consumers in Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions also lost power,” it added.

The operator also said that months after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, around 11,000 people were still without power in the Kherson region.

“Power engineers are working to restore the power supply, but repairs are slowed down by shelling,” it said.

Remember: Tens of thousands of people were deprived of power and clean water after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine in June, one of the biggest industrial and ecological disasters in Europe for decades. The catastrophe destroyed entire villages, flooded farmland and caused massive environmental damage.

6:53 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Ukrainian flag hung near security service building in Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Allegra Goodwin

 A Ukrainian flag was hung near a building operated by Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, several videos posted on social media and verified by CNN show.

The flag appeared to have been hung from powerlines above a road and has reportedly been taken down by the local fire department.

Russian officials have yet to comment on the incident.

Where is it? Nizhny Novgorod is Russia’s sixth largest city by population, with 1.2 million people, and is located around 400km (250 miles) east of Moscow.

6:26 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Japan scrambles fighter jets after Russian planes seen over Sea of Japan and East China Sea

From CNN's Emi Jozuko in Tokyo and Duarte Mendonca in Lisbon

A Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircraft flies between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Japan Air Self-Defense Force August 18.
A Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircraft flies between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Japan Air Self-Defense Force August 18. Defense Ministry of Japan/Reuters

Japan’s defense ministry said Friday that it scrambled fighter jets in response to two Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircrafts seen flying to and from the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea through the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan and South Korea.

The Russian air force activity came a day after Japan’s defense ministry said on Thursday that it saw Russian and Chinese naval ships crossing international waters between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island in southern Japan.

The defense ministry said it was the first time the Chinese and Russian naval ships sailed through that particular area of the sea together and had expressed “grave concern” about their joint military activities in the sea and airspace surrounding the country in recent years, saying they are “intended as a show of force against Japan.”

Some context: It's standard practice for Japan to scramble fighter jets in response to Chinese and Russian aircrafts flying close to its territory.

Japan’s relations with Russia have deteriorated since the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began 18 months ago. Tokyo has joined its Western allies in imposing sanctions on Moscow and pledged billions in humanitarian aid for Kyiv.

4:42 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Russian authorities blame Ukraine for drone strike that forced temporary Moscow airport closures

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Damage to the Expocentre building in Moscow, Russia, following a drone attack on August 18.
Damage to the Expocentre building in Moscow, Russia, following a drone attack on August 18. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

An alleged drone strike attempt on Moscow forced authorities to suspend traffic to four major airports in the Russian capital on Friday, according to the country’s civil aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya. 

“This morning, August 18, 2023, in order to ensure the safety of civil aircraft flights, flights to Moscow airports: Vnukovo, Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo were temporarily restricted. Also to Zhukovsky airport,” Rosaviatsiya said on its Telegram channel. 

Russia blamed Ukraine for Friday’s attempted drone strike on Moscow, calling it a “terrorist attack.”

“On 18 August at around 04:00 Moscow time, the Kiev regime launched another terrorist attack using a drone against facilities in Moscow and Moscow region,” Russia's defense ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“The UAV, after being hit by air defense systems, changed its flight trajectory and fell on a non-residential building near Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment in Moscow.”
“There were no casualties or fires,” it added.

During the suspension, seven flights were diverted to alternative locations: three to Nizhny Novgorod, three to St Petersburg and one to Minsk, in Belarus.

Restrictions on air travel have since been lifted and “Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky airports are operating normally,” Rosaviatsiya also said.

3:57 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

First ship to leave Ukraine since grain deal collapse has nearly reached port in Turkey

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Hong-Kong-flagged container ship Joseph Schulte transits the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey on August 18.
Hong-Kong-flagged container ship Joseph Schulte transits the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey on August 18. Yoruk Isik/Reuters

A container ship laden with grain that departed from Ukraine's southern port of Odesa on Wednesday has transited through the Bosporus and arrived in the sea of Marmara near Turkey, its final destination. 

The Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte, carrying 30,000 metric tons of cargo including food products, is the first vessel to use a temporary Black Sea shipping corridor established following the breakdown of a UN-brokered grain deal last month, Kyiv officials said.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky on Thursday hailed the "functioning of the 'grain corridor,'" as the ship sailed through the Black Sea along Romanian and Bulgarian territorial waters on its passage to Turkey. 

"Off we go with the first one," Zelensky wrote on Telegram. "We are preparing the next steps."

Some context: Russia pulled out of a UN and Turkish brokered deal in July that allowed Ukraine to move its grain via the Black Sea and warned that any ships headed to Ukraine would be treated as potentially carrying weapons. 

Last week, the Ukrainian navy issued an order declaring "temporary corridors" for merchant ships sailing to and from Ukrainian ports. However, it admitted that the military threat and mine danger from Russia remained along all routes.

On Sunday, a Russian warship fired warning shots and boarded a Turkish-owned cargo ship it claimed was headed to Ukraine, in what Kyiv said was "an act of piracy."

3:49 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Russian and Chinese warships sail close to Japanese islands

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka and Jessie Yeung

Russian and Chinese warships conduct joint patrols in the Pacific Ocean.
Russian and Chinese warships conduct joint patrols in the Pacific Ocean. Russian Ministry of Defence/Telegram

Japan expressed “grave concern” after Chinese and Russian warships sailed close to its southern islands on Thursday, just a day before its leader is expected to discuss rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific at a summit with counterparts from South Korea and the United States.

Six Chinese ships, among them missile destroyers, and five Russian vessels, some of them destroyers, sailed between Japan’s Okinawa Island and Miyako Island before moving toward the East China Sea on Thursday, according to Japan’s defense ministry.

Japan’s relations with Russia have deteriorated since the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began 18 months ago. Tokyo has joined its Western allies in imposing sanctions on Moscow and pledged billions in humanitarian aid for Kyiv.

China, meanwhile, has strengthened political and economic ties with Russia, despite maintaining it remains a neutral party in the conflict and a proponent of peace.

Read the full story here.

3:46 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Netherlands welcomes US decision on approving F-16 jets for Ukraine

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

A F-16 Fighting Falcon from Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Wing takes off from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado on May 15, 2020.
A F-16 Fighting Falcon from Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Wing takes off from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado on May 15, 2020. David Zalubowski/AP/File

The United States' decision to approve the transfer of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as soon as crew training is complete is a “major milestone,” Netherlands Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said Thursday. 

“We welcome Washington's decision to pave the way for sending F-16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Many thanks to [US Secretary of State Antony Blinken] for the good and swift cooperation.”

The US has committed to approving the transfer of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine as soon as training is complete, according to a US official.

The plan is to make sure Ukraine has the fighter jet it has long sought the moment its pilots complete training on the F-16. The training program was initially expected to start this month, but it is now unclear exactly when it will start or how long it is expected to take.

Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the lead in preparing a program to train Ukrainian pilots on the American jet, but the US is still working with other countries to see who may provide F-16s to the Ukrainian Air Force.

Hoekstra said the Netherlands would work with NATO allies with the view of providing the jets to Ukraine. 

“Now, we will further discuss the subject with our European partners,” he said. “This marks a major milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and its country.”
2:42 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Russian shelling kills 1 in Kupiansk, official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

A 61-year-old woman was killed after Russian shelling hit the eastern city of Kupiansk on Friday, a Ukrainian military official said.

Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said a 60-year-old woman was also injured in the attack.

Shelling also damaged homes in nearby areas, he added.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities ordered mandatory evacuations from Kupiansk and its surrounding areas, as Russia intensified shelling of the northeastern Kharkiv region and claimed to have captured Ukrainian positions near the city.

Some more background: Kupiansk, which lies close to the Russian border, fell to Moscow’s forces within the first week of their invasion in February last year. It remained under Russian control for several months, before a swift Ukrainian offensive liberated the city in September, along with a number of other settlements in the region.

3:56 a.m. ET, August 18, 2023

Lukashenko says Belarus would use nuclear weapons in the event of "aggression" as regional tensions rise

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Jessie Yeung

Alexander Lukashenko attends an event in Moscow, Russia on May 25.
Alexander Lukashenko attends an event in Moscow, Russia on May 25. Stringer/Getty Images

Belarus would be willing to use the nuclear weapons given by close ally Russia in the face of foreign “aggression,” President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday, as tensions rise around the country’s borders with NATO nations.

Minsk has played a key role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, with Moscow using Belarus as one of its launch pads for the invasion in early 2022, while joint Russia-Belarus military drills over the past year have fueled concerns Belarusian troops could join Russian forces in the conflict.

In June, Russian nuclear warheads were reportedly delivered to Belarus for “deterrence,” according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with state news agency Belta, Lukashenko claimed Belarus would “never get involved in this war” unless Ukrainians crossed its border. But he added: “We will keep helping Russia, they are our ally.”

He also warned that if provoked — especially by neighboring NATO countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — Belarus would “immediately respond with everything we have,” including nuclear weapons.

It’s not clear how much of Russia’s nuclear arsenal was transported to Belarus recently, and US and Western officials have not publicly confirmed that any weapons have been transferred — though senior officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said they had “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claim.

During the interview, Lukashenko said if Belarus were to come under attack, “we will not tarry, wait, and the rest. We will use the entire arsenal of our weapons for deterrence.”

"We didn’t bring nuclear weapons here in order to scare someone," he added. "Yes, nuclear weapons represent a strong deterring factor. But these are tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones. This is why we will use them immediately once aggression is launched against us."

The senior DIA officials said in July they do not believe Lukashenko would have any control over the arsenal, which would most likely be entirely controlled by Russia.

Read the full story here.