September 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 7:20 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022
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8:45 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Kremlin says Putin aware of situation on frontline, insists Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends the 2022 Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Russia on September 6.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends the 2022 Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Russia on September 6. (Alexey Filippov/Sputnik/Associated Press)

The Kremlin on Monday insisted that Russia would achieve all the goals of the "special military operation" in Ukraine, despite its damaging setback in Kharkiv over the weekend.

“The special military operation continues and will continue until the initial goals are achieved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of the situation on the frontline, he added.

After the success of Ukraine's counteroffensive on Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry sought to present its retreat as a strategic regrouping.

"The decision was made to regroup Russian troops in the areas of Balakleya and Izium and redirect their efforts in the Donetsk direction," it said.

Peskov said Putin is aware of the said "regrouping" of Russian troops.

“Of course, all the actions of the army during the special military operation are reported to the supreme commander-in-chief [President Vladimir Putin],” Peskov told journalists. “The President is in constant round-the-clock communication with the minister of defense and with all military leaders."

9:15 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Kharkiv region loses power and water supply amid shelling

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Sarah Dean in London

Smoke rises after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv on September 12.
Smoke rises after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv on September 12. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s Kharkiv region has lost power and water supply once again due to shelling after it was previously lost on Sunday evening, Kharkiv’s mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Monday afternoon. 

“Yesterday evening situation repeats again. Due to the shelling, critical infrastructure was put out of operation, resulting in the loss of power and water supply in Kharkiv,” he said on Telegram. “Power engineers, rescuers and utility workers are working to eliminate the consequences of the shelling."

Earlier on Monday, he said 80% of the electricity and water supply had been restored in the region after Sunday’s outage. Since then, Russia has launched fresh air strikes on Kharkiv.

7:20 p.m. ET, September 13, 2022

Russia launches fresh airstrikes on Kharkiv region

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv, Saskya Vandoorne in Kharkiv and Sarah Dean in London

Russia's Defense Ministry said it bombarded Kharkiv with air strikes on Monday after losing huge swathes after its forces were routed in the area over the weekend.

Kharkiv’s Mayor Ihor Terekhov confirmed "mass shelling" in a Telegram post. He said the city center along with the Osnovianskyi and Kyivskyi residential districts were hit. 

 A CNN team in the city center reported a power outage and sounds of explosions. They are currently hearing outgoing shelling. 

Oleh Syniehubov, the head of Kharkiv’s regional military administration said a road in the Kyivskyi residential district was hit, killing one person and injuring a bypasser. 

 The local officials said further information on casualties is being clarified.

7:10 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

"Without gas or without you? Without you": Zelensky delivers pointed message to Russia

From CNN's Sana Noor Haq and Kostan Nechyporenko

Smoke rises after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv on Monday.
Smoke rises after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv on Monday. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a stark warning to Moscow on Sunday, declaring that “history will put everything in its place” amid Kyiv's offensive in the northeastern region of Kharkiv. 

In a Telegram post addressed to Russia, Zelensky asked: “Do you still think that we are ‘one nation?’ Do you still think that you can scare us, break us, make us make concessions?”

“You really did not understand anything? Don't understand who we are? What are we for? What are we talking about?,” the post read. 

“Read my lips: Without gas or without you? Without you. Without light or without you? Without you. Without water or without you? Without you. Without food or without you? Without you.”  

“Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst are not as scary and deadly for us as your ‘friendship and brotherhood,'’ Zelensky added. "But history will put everything in its place. And we will be with gas, light, water and food ... and WITHOUT you!”

CNN's Tim Lister, Darya Tarasova, Pierre Meilhan and Mariya Knight contributed reporting.

8:20 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Top Russian official claims Ukrainian troops outnumbered Russia eight-fold in Kharkiv

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

A top Russian-backed official has claimed the Ukrainian army outnumbered Russian and pro-Russian forces by eight times in the last week, following Kyiv's sweeping offensive in the east.

"Talking about the forces that have been transferred for the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army, it outnumbered our troops by about eight times, no less,” Vitaly Ganchev, the most senior Russian backed official in the northeastern Kharkiv region, told Russia 24 on Monday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Ganchev echoed other Russian officials in attempting to present Moscow's retreat as a decision to regroup further from the front line.

“Therefore, in order to preserve our personnel, I think it was decided to withdraw, regroup," he added.

CNN cannot independently verify Ganchev's claims.

Some background: Russia's recent collapse in the northeastern region of Kharkiv has been met with stinging criticism from Kremlin loyalists -- and prompted the question of how Moscow will respond to its failure.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has supplied thousands of fighters to the offensive, said "mistakes were made," in a Telegram post on Sunday. Kadyrov added that he would be contacting senior officials at the Defense Ministry to spell out his message.

Kholmogorov, a blogger and staunch advocate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also joined the chorus of criticism leveled at Moscow.

They reposted an equally scathing account by the Partizan Telegram channel from the front lines.

“The soldiers were on foot with one machine gun and a sack. Abandoned by the command, not knowing the way, they walked at random,” the post said.

“Lord, save the Russian soldiers from blows from the front and even more from blows in the back.”

CNN's Tim Lister and Darya Tarasova contributed reporting.

 

8:21 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Liberation of settlements continues, Ukrainian military says after huge success

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv, Ukraine and Sarah Dean

A Ukrainian service member stands on a Russian 2S19 Msta-S self-propelled howitzer captured during a counteroffensive operation in Kharkiv on Monday.
A Ukrainian service member stands on a Russian 2S19 Msta-S self-propelled howitzer captured during a counteroffensive operation in Kharkiv on Monday. (Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in a statement Monday “the liberation of settlements from the Russian invaders in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions continues,” stating Russian forces were dislodged from more than 20 settlements in the past day alone.

The last week has seen Ukrainian forces roll through lines of Russian defenses and recapture more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory. Over the weekend, the Russian retreat continued from border areas that had been occupied since March. Villages within five kilometers of the border were raising the Ukrainian flag.

“In the Luhansk region, the Russian military and their families left the town of Svatove, only the soldiers of the so-called ‘people's militia’ from among the local residents remained,” the statement said. Svatove has been an important hub on Russian resupply routes to the front lines further south - along the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In a separate statement Monday, Serhiy Hayday, Head of Luhansk’s regional military administration said: “The enemy has not organized any measures for evacuation - everyone escapes on their own”.

Meanwhile, Russian forces “suffered significant losses” in manpower, including the 810th Separate Brigade of Marines losing almost 85% of its personnel, as part of Ukraine’s actions in the Kherson direction, the General Staff statement said. 

Russia’s 810th Separate Brigade of Marines is permanently based in Sevastopol, part of the Black Sea Fleet. “The rest of the servicemen have an extremely low morale and psychological state, they massively refuse to return to the combat zone,” it added. 

CNN cannot independently verify the Ukrainian accounts.

Some context: Power has been restored in the Dnipropetrovsk region and 80% of the electricity and water supply is restored in Kharkiv region, local officials said Monday. 

It comes after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said large parts of eastern Ukraine, including the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, were without electricity following Russian missile strikes on Sunday.

 

3:51 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

Russia plays up China's support as it retreats in Ukraine

From CNN's Nectar Gan, Shawn Deng and Philip Wang

Li Zhanshu meets with Vyacheslav Volodin in Moscow, Russia, on September 8.
Li Zhanshu meets with Vyacheslav Volodin in Moscow, Russia, on September 8. (Pang Xinglei/Xinhua/Getty Images)

As Russian forces suffer a string of stunning defeats in Ukraine, Moscow is playing up Beijing's support for its invasion ahead of a key meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week.

Russian troops were forced to flee the strategic city of Izium -- their main bastion in northeastern Ukraine -- on Saturday after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive.

It was Moscow's worst defeat since its retreat from Kyiv in March -- and a sign that the war might be entering a new phase. Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have recaptured more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory -- more than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April.

Back in Russia, senior Russian and Chinese officials have put on a united front to pave the way for an expected meeting between Putin and Xi on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan -- their first face-to-face meeting since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And according to the Russian Parliament, a senior Chinese leader has voiced explicit support for Russia's war on Ukraine -- claims that are not included in the statement from the Chinese side, and run contrary to Beijing's previous efforts to maintain a veneer of neutrality.

On Thursday and Friday, China's top legislator Li Zhanshu -- a close ally of Xi and third-ranking leader of the Chinese Communist Party -- met with Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of Russia's State Duma, and other Russian lawmakers in Moscow after attending an economic forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok.

According to a statement from the State Duma, Li assured its members that "China understands and supports Russia on issues that represent its vital interests, in particular on the situation in Ukraine".

"We see that the United States and its NATO allies are expanding their presence near the Russian borders, seriously threatening national security and the lives of Russian citizens. We fully understand the necessity of all the measures taken by Russia aimed at protecting its key interests, we are providing our assistance," Li was quoted as saying.

"On the Ukrainian issue, we see how they have put Russia in an impossible situation. And in this case, Russia made an important choice and responded firmly," he added.

Beijing has firmly refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- or even refer to it as a "war." Instead, it has repeatedly laid the blame for the conflict on NATO and the United States.

That unequivocal supportive language is missing from the Chinese readout of the meetings. In fact, in the Chinese version, Li is not quoted as making any reference to Ukraine at all. 

Read more here

2:43 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

One killed following Russian strike on Kharkiv power plant, Ukrainian regional official says

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Mariya Knight and Kostan Nechyporenko

Firefighters work at the site of a thermal power plant damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 11.
Firefighters work at the site of a thermal power plant damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on September 11. (Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Reuters)

One employee of a Kharkiv power and heating plant has been killed following a Russian missile strike, the Head of Kharkiv Region Civil military Administration, Oleh Synehubov, said late Sunday.

“As a result of the strikes on the critical infrastructure of Kharkiv, a man - an employee of the enterprise -- died. Rescuers continue their search,” Synehubov said via Telegram.

Russian missile strikes left many parts of eastern Ukraine, including Kharkiv, without electricity, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Nine out of 11 Russian cruise missiles launched toward eastern Ukraine on Sunday evening were shot down by air defense systems, the press service for Ukraine’s East Air Force Command said via Facebook.

8:25 a.m. ET, September 12, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog chief "remains gravely concerned about the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant" as long as shelling continues

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference in Schwechat, Austria, on September 2.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference in Schwechat, Austria, on September 2. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said “he remains gravely concerned about the situation” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as long as any shelling continues, the UN nuclear watchdog said Sunday.

“Despite this damage, plant operators and engineers have been able to restore one of the reserve power lines, in very challenging circumstances, to provide the ZNPP with badly-needed external electricity,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement. 

But the IAEA chief also said “he remains “gravely concerned about the situation at the plant, which remains in danger as long as any shelling continues. To address this serious situation, consultations have begun on the urgent need to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).” 

Europe's largest

Zaporizhzhia is the site of the largest nuclear plant in Europe. The facility sits in the Russian occupied part of southern Ukraine and has been on the fire line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

The IAEA also said a back-up power line to the plant has been restored and it is providing the external electricity needed for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions.

The 330 kilovolt back-up power line enabled the plant to shut down its last operating reactor early on Sunday, according to the UN nuclear watchdog. 

“This reactor had over the past week provided the ZNPP with power after the facility was disconnected from the grid. With the line restoration, electricity needed for nuclear safety at the ZNPP once again comes from the external grid,” the IAEA said.