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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9:51 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. 

4:55 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Pro-Russian official says security around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant strengthened

From CNN's Tim Lister

A pro-Russian official in Zaporizhzhia says that protection around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been "strengthened" amid intensified shelling.

"The protection system of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been strengthened due to a possible attempt by the Ukrainian army to strike at the facility," said Vladimir Rogov, an official with the self-declared Russian backed Zaporizhzhia region administration.

Rogov declined to disclose further details. CNN cannot verify Rogov's claim.

Both Russian and Ukrainian sides blame each other for ongoing rocket and artillery attacks on and around the large nuclear complex.

New video emerged online on Friday showing Russian military vehicles inside a turbine hall connected to a nuclear reactor at the plant. CNN geolocated and confirmed the authenticity of the video but it remains unclear when the video was taken.

4:44 a.m. ET, August 19, 2022

Ukraine military says offensive in south continues; Russian counter-attacks foiled

From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Tim Lister

The Ukrainian military says it is continuing its offensive in the south to recapture the occupied Kherson region.

"During one of the attacks, we met with two airborne assault units," Operational Command South said on Thursday. It added that Russian forces had "tried to attack" in the direction of the towns of Oleksandrivka and Stanislav but ultimately "forced to retreat" due to the loss of tanks, armored vehicles and personnel."

"There was no success. Left with losses," it said.

The command said that Ukrainian "missile and artillery units have completed more than 200 fire missions," including the destruction of Russian plans to repair and continue to use the Kakhovka bridge, one of several disabled by Ukrainian strikes.

10:24 p.m. ET, August 18, 2022

Pro-Russian official claims artillery strikes near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Tim Lister

A pro-Russian official in Zaporizhzhia says there have been several artillery strikes in the area around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Thursday evening.

Vladimir Rogov, an official with the self-declared Russian-backed Zaporizhzhia region administration, said on his Telegram channel: "At the moment, there are at least seven hits from heavy artillery in the Enerhodar region."

Enerhodar is the town closest to the plant. 

CNN cannot verify Rogov's claim. The Russian and Ukrainian sides blame each other for rocket and artillery attacks on and around the large nuclear complex.