August 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Heather Chen, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Hannah Strange and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 3:18 a.m. ET, August 22, 2022
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9:45 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant might happen in early September, Russian official says 

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Tim Lister

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on August 4.
A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on August 4. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency may be able to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in early September, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian representative in Vienna where the IAEA is based.

Ulyanov said during an online briefing on Friday: “It’s too early to say anything about the details, these are all extremely sensitive issues, we are discussing and will continue to discuss the modalities of the mission, the route, the number of people who will be involved in this, how long they will stay at the station, for what tasks they are there sent."

"When the mission can take place -- forecasts do not always come true, but, according to my feelings, we can quite realistically talk about the first days of September, unless some extraneous factors that are not related to the goals arise again," Ulyanov said.

Ulyanov said that the organization of the mission is currently being discussed with the IAEA secretariat. 

"Almost every day I communicate with the director general of the agency, Rafael Grossi ... On Monday, he will appear here in Vienna, and work in this direction will intensify," Ulyanov said.

The Russian and Ukrainian sides are at odds over the arrangements for such a visit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday an IAEA mission would have to travel only through territory not occupied by Russia.

As for the status of the plant, Ulyanov said: "So far, there are no serious consequences, but, as the IAEA director general rightly said at an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council a week ago, at any moment this could end badly," Ulyanov said.

He said the situation at the plant was "extremely alarming. What the Ukrainian military is doing when shelling this nuclear facility is completely unacceptable," he said.

Ukraine has denied shelling the area, and blamed Russia for doing so as a provocation. Some facilities at the plant have been damaged.

Ulyanov said he did not think the IAEA would support Ukraine's insistence that a demilitarized zone around the plant be created.

 "I think IAEA won't support it, and for one simple reason -- the creation of demilitarized zones has nothing to do with the IAEA's mandate," he said.

Russian officials have rejected the idea of demilitarizing the plant, saying that it needs to be protected.

Amid a steady stream of accusations by each side, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday that Ukrainian recklessness was to blame for posing "a threat to the largest nuclear facility in Europe with potential risks for a huge territory, not only adjacent to this plant, but far beyond the Ukrainian borders."

"Our air defense systems in the region have been strengthened, we are taking all measures to ensure the safety of the station," Ryabkov said, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Ryabkov said that the presence of the Russian military guarding the nuclear plant was a guarantee that such a Chernobyl scenario would not be realized.

7:33 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Russia appoints new commander for its Black Sea fleet

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen and Uliana Pavlova  

Russian has appointed a new commander for its Black Sea fleet based in annexed Crimea, state news agency TASS reported Friday.  

Vice-Admiral Viktor Sokolov replaces Igor Osipov, who was in command of the Black Sea fleet since May 2019, according to TASS.

Sokolov had been serving as the Naval Academy chief since 2020. He served as the Northern Fleet deputy commander from 2013 until 2020. 

Some background: The change of command comes amid heavy losses and a recent string of explosions at Russian military facilities in occupied Crimea, which is on the northern coast of the Black Sea.   

Since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moscow's Black Sea fleet has been suffering losses. Most notably in April, Ukraine said its missiles sunk Russia’s flagship warship Moskva. Russia claims the warship sank after a fire caused munitions to explode. 

9:01 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

UN chief António Guterres praises grain export deal during visit to Odesa port

From CNN's Jorge Engels and Tim Lister

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19. (Saviano Abreu/UN)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday arrived on a visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa.

After meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the western city of Lviv on Thursday, Guterres praised a UN-brokered deal between Kyiv and Moscow to resume safe passage for merchant ships from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, and said that there were signs that global food markets were beginning to stabilize.

"As we speak, more than 560,000 metric tons of grain and other food produced by Ukrainian farmers is making its way to markets around the world," the UN chief said, adding that wheat prices dropped by as much as 8% following the signing of the agreement, according to remarks distributed by his office.

In less than a month since the grain deal was signed, 25 cargo ships had departed Ukrainian ports loaded with more than 600,000 tonnes of grain and food supplies, Guterres said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19. (Saviano Abreu/UN)

But he warned that supply chains are still disrupted, energy and transportation costs are still high, and that Russian fertilizers needs to reach global markets. “Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023."

He called on wealthy nations to “also open their wallets and their hearts” to countries “bearing the brunt of the global food crisis.”

“Let us take inspiration from Odesa. Today, Odesa is more than just a shipping center. This port is a symbol of what the world can do when we commit to working together for the common good,” Guterres added.

9:51 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Turkey's Erdogan to discuss Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant concerns with Putin

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference on August 18 in Lviv, Ukraine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference on August 18 in Lviv, Ukraine. (Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that he will discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after holding talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“We will discuss this issue with Mr. Putin, and we will ask him specifically for Russia to do its part in this regard as an important step for world peace,” Erdogan said in an interview with reporters on his flight back from Lviv.

Zelensky called for Russia to remove all mines in the area, Erdogan said, according to the text of the interview. 

Erdogan held trilateral talks in Lviv with the Ukrainian leader and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Erdogan expressed concerns about the ongoing conflict around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, warning of danger of “a new Chernobyl.” 

Experts are wary of comparisons to Chernobyl, saying a repeat of the disaster is incredibly unlikely and that the main threat is to the area closest to the plant itself.

6:22 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Pro-Russian official in Zaporizhzhia rejects UN’s proposal to demilitarize the nuclear plant

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova  

As Russia and Ukraine blame each other of endangering the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in central Ukraine, a pro-Russian local official told Russian state news agency that the UN’s proposal to demilitarize the site is “an irresponsible statement.” 

"This is out of the question. This is an irresponsible statement. A person who either does not understand the risks, or, on the contrary, understands and pushes for tragedy and irreparable consequences, could offer to leave the nuclear power plant unprotected and in danger. Such a statement calls into question the level of competence of the UN Secretary-General," Vladimir Rogov told RIA Novosti.  

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the demilitarization of the vast nuclear plant after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv on Thursday.  

"Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided. The area needs to be demilitarized," Guterres said.   

Russian military personnel and some equipment have been based at the nuclear plant since it was occupied early in March. 

5:37 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Ukrainian nuclear power operator claims Russians plan to disconnect units at Zaporizhzhia

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman

Ukraine's state-run nuclear power operator, Energoatom, is claiming that Russian forces at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are "planning to stop the working power units in the near future and disconnect them from the communication lines supplying power to the Ukrainian power system."

Energoatom's assertion is the latest in a barrage of accusations made by each side about security and military action at and around the plant, the largest nuclear complex in Europe. The lack of independent access to the plant makes it impossible to verify what is happening there.

The Ukrainian operator said that "currently, the Russian military is looking for suppliers of fuel for diesel generators, which must be turned on after the shutdown of power units and in the absence of an external power supply for nuclear fuel cooling systems."

While pro-Russian officials are on record as saying their intention is to divert electricity produced at Zaporizhzhia to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, no timeline for such action has been announced. 

Energoatom also said that the Russians had told the management of the plant "to limit the admission of personnel to the plant today, August 19. Only operative personnel who ensure the operation of the power units are allowed on the site."

An administrative worker at the plant told CNN Friday that "we planned to be at work today but on Thursday evening the manager announced that we are sitting at home." The worker has spoken with CNN on previous occasions; their identity is not being disclosed for their security.

Energoatom blamed Russian forces for several artillery strikes that occurred in the area late Thursday. It said the strikes were at short range. 

CNN is unable to verify what strikes occurred, nor who was responsible. Over the past month, a number of rockets and shells have landed on the territory of the plant, according to satellite imagery analyzed by CNN.

5:07 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Europe's largest nuclear plant is under threat. But experts say a Chernobyl-sized disaster is unlikely

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Fears of nuclear calamity have been renewed in recent days amid intensified shelling around the massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russian forces seized back in March.

Attacks at the complex, which have ramped up as fighting flares in Ukraine's south, have sparked concerns about the specter of nuclear disaster, leading the United Nation's watchdog and world leaders to demand that a mission be allowed to visit the site and assess the damage.

So just how real is the risk that the fighting poses?

Nuclear experts are keen to defuse some of the more alarmist warnings, explaining that the main threat is closest to the plant itself. Experts are particularly wary of any comparisons to the Chernobyl disaster, a repeat of which is incredibly unlikely, they said.

Leon Cizelj, president of the European Nuclear Society, believes it's "not very likely that this plant will be damaged." He told CNN that "in the very unlikely case that it is, the radioactive problem would mostly affect Ukrainians that live nearby," rather than spreading throughout eastern Europe as was the case with Chernobyl.

"If we used past experience, Fukushima could be a comparison of the worst-case scenario," Cizelj added, referring to the serious but more localized meltdown at the Japanese plant in 2011.

Read the full story here.

5:03 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Several Ukrainian civilians killed and injured in Russian missile attacks in the south

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman

Ukrainian officials reported missile and artillery attacks by Russian forces overnight Thursday on several towns and cities in the south, including Mykolaiv and Kryvih Rih.

The regional administration in Mykolaiv said the river port was attacked again with S-300 missiles. Three missiles hit the Petro Mohyla Black Sea university, causing extensive damage.

South of the city, the town of Halytsynove was struck by Russian rockets Thursday, destroying several residential buildings and injuring three people.

In neighboring Dnipropetrovsk, the head of the regional administration, Valentyn Reznichenko, said there was a night of "massive enemy attacks" with the cities of Nikopol and Kryvih Rih hit.

One man was killed in a village near Kryvih Rih, he said. And a 12-year boy was injured when Russian missiles hit his home near Synelnykove, which is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the front lines.

Nikopol -- which is on the opposite side of the Dnipro River to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant -- was hit by 10 artillery shells, according to Reznichenko. Power had been disrupted and there was extensive damage, he said.

5:05 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Russia expects IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant soon

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen in the city of Enerhodar, Ukraine on August 4.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is seen in the city of Enerhodar, Ukraine on August 4. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russia has said it expects to welcome the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine in the near future.

Ivan Nechaev, deputy director of the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said during a press briefing on Thursday: "We expect that in the very near future there will be a trip to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant of IAEA experts, which was fully agreed upon in June and frustrated by the leadership of the UN Secretariat."

Nechaev also called the proposal for a demilitarized zone around the facility “unacceptable” and blamed Ukraine for provocations. 

"In order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, it is necessary to force the Ukrainian units to stop shelling," he said.