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
21 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:18 p.m. ET, August 19, 2022

First on CNN: Satellite images show no signs of "systemic shelling" at nuclear plant despite Putin’s claim

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Overview of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 19.
Overview of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 19. (Maxar Technologies)

Closer view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 19.
Closer view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 19. (Maxar Technologies)

There are no signs of "systemic shelling" at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show.

This counters Friday's claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Ukrainian military was conducting repeated military strikes at the plant.

The latest satellite images from Maxar Technologies were taken Friday morning.

CNN has analyzed a number of satellite images of the nuclear power plant complex located in Enerhodar, Ukraine, and it shows little to no change in damage or destruction since July 19, when a Ukrainian military strike on three tents just under 1,000 feet from one of the nuclear reactors.  

Putin made the comments to French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a Kremlin readout of the phone call.

1:08 p.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Putin agrees to UN watchdog mission to access Zaporizhzhia plant during Macron call, Élysée Palace source says

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony opening in Moscow, Russia on August 15.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony opening in Moscow, Russia on August 15. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant via territory controlled by Ukrainian forces during a call with French President Emmanuel Macron Friday, according to a source from the Élysée Palace.

Putin consented to an IAEA mission being dispatched to Zaporizhzhia, as well as a Ukrainian and French demand for the mission to not transit via Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the source said.

The source described this condition to the IAEA mission as “completely necessary, legitimate, indispensable” for the question of Ukrainian sovereignty.

The Élysée Palace earlier Friday announced that Putin indicated “his agreement” to the deployment of a mission, according to a readout.

In the call, Macron proposed the UN nuclear watchdog mission “as soon as possible” and “under conditions agreed by Ukraine and the United Nations,” per the statement. 

The two presidents will talk with each other “in the coming days” regarding the deployment to Zaporizhzhia after discussions between technical teams and ahead of the deployment, the statement added.

What the Kremlin said about the call: Putin warned Macron that "systemic shelling" by the Ukrainian military risked a "large-scale catastrophe" at the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to a Kremlin readout of the phone call.

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that the systematic shelling by the Ukrainian military on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale catastrophe that could lead to radiation contamination of vast territories,” the Kremlin statement said. 

More context: A barrage of accusations has been made by both the Russians and Ukrainians 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. 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.

The Kremlin statement also mentioned the possibility of an IAEA mission.

“The Presidents noted the importance of sending an IAEA mission to the nuclear power plant as soon as possible, which would be able to assess the real situation on the spot. The Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance,” according to the Kremlin. 

11:07 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Western officials say Russian Black Sea fleet is in defensive posture after setbacks, including Crimea attack

From CNN's Tim Lister

Western officials said that the Russian Black Sea fleet had gone into a defensive posture after a series of setbacks. They said that at least half of the Black Sea Fleet's naval aviation arm had been taken out of action in the attack on Saki air base in Crimea last week.

The naval aviation arm of the fleet, the 34th Naval Ground Attack Aviation Regiment, has two squadrons of roughly two dozen combat aircraft altogether (including Su-24M and Su-30SM aircraft), according to published accounts. Previous assessments suggested at least seven — and maybe as many as 10 — aircraft had been damaged or destroyed in last week's attack. 

Russia still has dozens of combat planes at two other bases in the Crimea, but they are not specifically assigned to the Black Sea fleet.

The officials said at a briefing on Friday that the Russian "system" was seeking to apportion blame for the losses, which the Russian defense ministry attributed to an accidental explosion of ammunition at the base.

The officials said the Ukrainian side was probably able to bring several assets to bear in Crimea and that Ukrainian forces do have the ability to operate behind Russian lines. Whether Ukrainian attacks in the south would have a strategic effect on the conflict would depend on whether Ukraine can sustain the level of activity, they added.

The officials said that Russian forces were experiencing problems in resupplying troops in the southern Kherson region, and they estimated that somewhere in the "low thousands" of additional Russian troops had been moved to the region in preparation for a possible Ukrainian offensive. 

It remained to be seen, they said, how and when that offensive might take shape. 

The officials said that the rise in rocket attacks by the Russians against Kharkiv, which have killed more than a dozen people in recent days, did not presage a Russian offensive in the area but a desire to prevent the redeployment of Ukrainian defenses elsewhere.

1:06 p.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Ukraine conflict is at an "operational standstill" and Russia faces munitions shortages, Western officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukrainian servicemen sit on infantry fighting vehicles driving down a road in the Donetsk region on August 18.
Ukrainian servicemen sit on infantry fighting vehicles driving down a road in the Donetsk region on August 18. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

The conflict in Ukraine is near an operational standstill, with neither side able to generate sufficient ground combat capability to influence the course of the war, according to Western officials.

At a briefing on Friday, the officials said both sides were having manpower issues, with nearly six months of conflict bringing serious attrition of their forces. Those manpower problems are a contributing factor to the strategic deadlock, they said. 

Speaking about the pace of the Russian offensive in the Donbas, the officials said: "There was a real high point. We aren't at that high point any more; the tempo has slowed down." 

The officials said Russia was having a "terrible time" in trying to reconstitute its forces — for example, by merging battalion tactical groups.

They also said that a "looming issue" for Russia is an increasingly acute shortage of stocks, even of basic munitions, with evidence that older munitions are being taken out of storage.

"Ultimately, that will impair the Russians' ability to launch offensives," they said.

11:11 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

It's early evening in Ukraine. Catch up here on the latest developments in the war. 

From CNN staff

These are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine today so far, as the head of the United Nations continues his visit in the country and tensions remain high over the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Zaporizhzhia plant: As alleged artillery strikes continue — with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other of endangering the safety of the nuclear power plant in central Ukraine — a pro-Russian local official told a Russian state news agency that the United Nation’s proposal to demilitarize the site is “an irresponsible statement.”

Western officials in a Friday briefing said that the main issue of concern was not a direct strike on one of the reactors but a collapse in the power supply, which would interrupt the water cooling of fuel rods. They noted that the site receives power from the grid to enable water cooling. If the grid supply were to be interrupted, backup diesel generators would kick in. If they failed, "we are in a more serious situation," the officials said. They said that at the moment there is electrical supply, the generators are intact and the workforce is at the plant.

Meanwhile, a Russian representative in Vienna said that a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency may be able to visit the plant in early September.

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

In addition, the city of Nikopol — which is on the opposite side of the plant on the Dnipro River — was hit by 10 artillery shells overnight, according to a Ukrainian official.

UN chief in Ukraine: UN Secretary-General António Guterres continued his visit to Ukraine on Friday, traveling to the port city of Odesa and praising the deal brokered by the UN and Turkey to unblock Black Sea ports for grain shipments

Guterres also said electricity generated at the Zaporizhzhia plant belongs to Ukraine, following reports that the Kremlin could divert electricity produced at the plant to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

Putin to attend G20: Indonesian President Joko Widodo told Bloomberg in an interview that Putin told him that he'd attend the G20 conference, which is scheduled for November in Bali — the first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has said Russia should be expelled from the G20, and senior members of his administration have walked out of G20 events were Russian officials were present. But boycotting the G20 was not given serious consideration since Biden and his team did not want to appear to be ceding the table to Putin. Instead, the US and other G7 nations have encouraged Indonesia to invite Zelensky as a guest participant as a show of support for Ukraine.

Attacks in southern Ukraine: The Ukrainian military said it is continuing its offensive in the south to recapture the occupied Kherson region, and Russian forces were "forced to retreat" near the towns of Oleksandrivka and Stanislav.

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

9:46 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

UN chief says electricity generated at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant belongs to Ukraine

From CNN's Jorge Engels

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes a statement during his visit to a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes a statement during his visit to a port in Odesa, Ukraine on August 19. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday said electricity generated at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant belongs to Ukraine, following reports that the Kremlin could divert electricity produced at the plant to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

“Obviously, the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity and it’s necessary – especially during the winter – for Ukrainian people. And this principle must be fully respected,” Guterres said during his visit to the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Guterres also reiterated his calls to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

His comments come after Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power operator, claimed earlier on Friday that Russian forces at the 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 claim 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. 

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 [staying] 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 and 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. 

CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman contributed reporting to this post.

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.