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September 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Analyst: This is why Zelensky's Izium visit is important
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What we covered

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the country’s military “for saving our people, our hearts, children and future,” during a visit to the newly liberated city of Izium in Kharkiv region on Wednesday.
  • In a sign that Kyiv’s sustained military offensive is working, Zelensky claimed 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of land has been recaptured since the beginning of the month.
  • There is “no indication” that President Vladimir Putin’s attitude regarding the war has changed, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a day after a phone call with the Russian leader. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who spoke with Putin on Wednesday, said he feels a peace deal isn’t close.
  • Two of the main electricity lines supplying part of Kharkiv region have been restored, Ukraine’s state energy operator said, following a retaliatory Russian strike left many without power.
29 Posts

Follow the latest news on Russia’s war in Ukraine here and read more about today’s developments in the posts below.

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky was involved in a minor car crash in Kyiv, his office says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was involved in a minor car crash in Kyiv on Wednesday, according to a statement from the president’s press secretary. 

The president was examined by a doctor and did not have any serious injuries, the statement said. 

“In Kyiv, a car collided with the car of the President of Ukraine and escort vehicles. Medics accompanying the Head of the state provided the driver of the car with emergency aid and transferred him to an ambulance,” the statement read. “The president was examined by a doctor, no serious injuries were found. The law enforcement officers will find out all the circumstances of the accident.”

Local Russian official doubles down on calls for Putin to resign — even after being fined

Nikita Yuferev, a deputy in Smolninskoye Municipal District in St. Petersburg, is not backing down from his calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign — even after having to pay a fine in court for speaking out, with a threat of jail time coming next.

Yuferev said he is doing it for his children, saying that he wants them to be able to speak their minds at demonstrations and protests.

“I don’t want them to fear retaliation from the police,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett,

After receiving support from some people, Yuferev said he believes public opinion is shifting, as compared to when Putin first attacked Ukraine. In addition to offering to pay the fines and legal fees, another person offered to buy him a ticket to move his family to Mexico where he could feel safe.

“Of course, this is all anecdotal. We refused, but it shows just how much support we are getting and how our ideas are being accepted by Russian society,” Yuferev said.

Some background: By Monday, at least 47 municipal deputies had signed a petition demanding Putin’s resignation, according to one of those involved. “Their geography has expanded significantly,” Ksenia Thorstrom, a municipal deputy of the Semenovsky District in Saint Petersburg, told CNN.

Municipal deputies are local officials with limited political influence. The petition follows Russia’s first regional and municipal elections since the start of the war, in which pro-Kremlin candidates were overwhelmingly successful.

It's nighttime in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the city of Izium on Wednesday in this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office.

Days after a stunning counteroffensive forced a Russian retreat in the northeast of Ukraine, the focus has turned to the implications for the outcome of the war.

However, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who spoke by phone Wednesday with President Vladimir Putin, said he felt that “we are far away from the end of the war,” while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who spoke Tuesday with the Russian leader, said he didn’t think Putin’s attitude had changed.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Zelensky visits newly liberated Izium: During his visit Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the military and observed a minute of silence to honor those who had been lost in the war. Izium’s liberation is a huge strategic blow to Russia’s military assault in the east as it had become an important hub for Moscow to launch attacks southward into the Donetsk region and Kupyansk.
  • A slowing counteroffensive: Presidential military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the country’s counteroffensive has “slowed down slightly” as most Ukrainian forces fight “to capture the city of Lyman, to open our way into the Luhansk region. We will intensify our strikes and liberate new territories in a different way,” he said. Lyman, an important rail hub, is roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the strategically important city of Severodonetsk.

Here’s the map of control as it stands currently:

  • “Far away from the end of the war”: After a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he feels a peace deal to end the war isn’t close. “A ceasefire is not in sight,” he said, adding, “I would be lying if I said it would happen.”
  • “No indication” Putin’s attitude has changed: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz echoed the sentiment, speaking about his phone call Tuesday with Putin. He said there is “no indication” that the Russian president’s attitude regarding the war has changed.
  • Harsh debate in Moscow over losses: The rout of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region has led to some unusually harsh debate in Moscow. Commentators and politicians have been discussing what went wrong – frequently blaming the Ministry of Defense. The public airing of complaints is in sharp contrast to the handling of previous setbacks, such as the loss of Snake Island, where the Russian withdrawal was described as a goodwill gesture.
  • Xi Jinping to meet Putin: China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Wednesday, according to Chinese state media. Xi is expected to meet with Putin on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization talks. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Brittney Griner’s wife is encouraged by new initiative: Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, said Wednesday she is “encouraged to hear” about former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s meetings in Moscow with Russian leaders this week. Richardson and his center privately work on behalf of families of hostages and detainees, as the US works to free two Americans whom the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained: Griner and Paul Whelan.

Russian politicians and commentators cast blame and demand changes after Kharkiv setback

Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Russian Communist party, attends a plenary meeting of the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

The rout of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region has led to some unusually harsh and public debate in Moscow. Commentators and politicians have been discussing what went wrong – frequently blaming the Ministry of Defense.  

The public airing of complaints over what Russia describes as a “special military operation” in Ukraine is in sharp contrast to the handling of previous setbacks, such as the loss of Snake Island, where the Russian withdrawal was described as a goodwill gesture.

Commentators have dismissed the defense ministry’s weekend explanation that forces were being “redirected” away from Kharkiv to Donbas. 

A member of Russia’s Council for Interethnic Relations, Bogdan Bezpalko, suggested that military officials who had ignored intelligence about an imminent Ukrainian attack should be held to account.

“On the front for two months, Ukrainian Armed Forces and military equipment have been massing in that area, all Telegram channels have been writing about it,” he said on state television.

“Where was our damned reconnaissance? All of their heads should be lying on Putin’s desk.”

Bezpalko called for “limited mobilization” in Russia. “Of course, this is a tactical defeat,” he said Monday.

Discussion of a general mobilization — and calling the “special military” operation a war — is also entering the Russian parliament.

“How is a special military operation different from a war? You can stop the military operation at any time. You cannot stop the war. It ends either in victory or defeat. I’m leading you to the idea that there is a war going on,” said Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Russian Communist party, during a session Tuesday.

Some context: On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was “no discussion of this for now” on a general mobilization. When asked about criticism about the operation in Ukraine, he said it illustrated “pluralism,” adding that Russians support President Vladimir Putin and his decisions but warned there was a limit to critical opinions.

Town near Kherson city cleared of Russian forces, local Ukrainian official claims

The head of the Kherson city council says that Ukrainian forces have liberated a town on the northern approaches to the city. 

The town of Kyselivka was liberated “in close proximity to the regional center itself. The occupiers are panicking, and the local population is in a state of expectation,” Oleksandr Samoilenko told Ukrainian television.

Samoilenko’s comments were not confirmed by the Ukrainian military. 

Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for Operational Command South was asked about the reports and would only say that it is “really bad and dangerous for military personnel when officials and the media say anything about settlements that were not confirmed as liberated by the command.”

Recent satellite imagery showed a number of Russian military vehicles still in Kyselivka, which is on the main road linking Mykolaiv —which is held by the Ukrainians — and Kherson city, which is still occupied.

On Monday, the Institute for the Study of War said that satellite imagery of known Russian positions in Kyselivka, which is 15 kilometers northwest of Kherson city, showed that all but four Russian vehicles had left previous forward positions.

“The apparent withdrawal of Russian troops from this position may compromise the Russians’ ability to defend the northwestern outskirts of Kherson City and suggests that Russian troops in this area perceive an imminent threat to their positions,” the ISW said.  

Kyselivka is about 12 kilometers from Kherson’s airport, which has been used as a command post and base by Russian forces.

Commercial airline flies out of Ukraine for first time since since April 2022, flight tracking company says 

An airliner that had been stranded in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv for months flew out of Ukraine and landed in Poland on Tuesday.

The aircraft belonged to Wizz Air, according to flight monitoring site Flightradar24, and was the first time since April 2022 that a commercial plane had flown out of Ukraine, it said.

“We can confirm that the A320 HA-LWS flew from Lviv to Katowice yesterday,” Ian Petchenik, Flightradar24 Director of Communications, told CNN. The aircraft took off sometime before 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to Flightradar24 data.

The plane’s exact time of departure is unclear as it only turned on its transponder after clearing the Polish border, “likely done as a security measure,” said Petchenik.

While the Airbus A320 is registered to Wizz Air, Petchenik could not confirm whether the carrier was operating it.

CNN has reached out to Wizz Air, a low-cost carrier, for comment but has not received an immediate reply.

Petchenik also said Wizz Air still has three aircraft on the ground in the Ukrainian capital, with Hungarian registrations.

The Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry has said that it is ready to restart operations from Lviv airport if it obtains Western security guarantees. It’s unclear as yet how those would be arranged.

Putin gave "no indication" of change in his attitude on Russia's war in Ukraine, German chancellor says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a press conference at the Chancellery on September 14 in Berlin.

There is “no indication” that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attitude regarding the war in Ukraine has changed, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a news conference on Wednesday. 

“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that he has now come to realize that it was a mistake to start this war, and there is no indication that new attitudes are now emerging,” Scholz said about his phone call with Putin on Tuesday.

Scholz said he urged Russia to withdraw its troops from the region.

“It is still right to talk to each other and to say what I have to say on these issues from my point of view, because I am strongly convinced that Russia must withdraw … so that peace has a chance in the region,” Scholz said. “And every day it becomes clearer that this is the only chance. We have to talk about that, and that is what I have done.”

UN secretary-general: "We are far away from the end of the war" after call with Putin

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday he feels a peace deal to end the war in Ukraine isn’t close.

“We are far away from the end of the war,” he told reporters following a call Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“A ceasefire is not in sight,” he said, adding, “I would be lying if I said it would happen.”

The diplomat said he discussed a variety of issues with Putin including the grain deal and the possibility of Russian exports, but cautioned there are obstacles to the export of Russian food and fertilizers. “We are risking the lack of food in the world later this year.”

The two also discussed prisoners of war and Guterres quoted Putin as saying there would be no obstacles from Russia with regards to the panel conducting a fact-finding mission into last month’s prison attack in the Russian-occupied region of Eastern Ukraine. Dozens were killed. 

Guterres said he also spoke with Putin about Ukraine’s nuclear plant.

Ukrainian military says there has been a significant decline in Russian shelling in some areas

A Ukrainian soldier walks in Izium, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on September 13.

The Ukrainian military said that Russian shelling in the Kharkiv region has significantly decreased since the success of the counteroffensive there.

However, in its operational update, the military’s General Staff said that Russian artillery fire continued to bombard areas of Donetsk, especially around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. It also said Russian efforts to push forward in several districts of Donetsk had been rebuffed.

It also reported widespread Russian shelling of settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian forces are resisting efforts by Ukrainian forces to take territory in the direction of Mykolaiv and Kherson.

The military said that the Russians were trying to withdraw S-300 air defense systems “deep into the temporarily captured territories and into the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Russian air defenses have become more vulnerable since Ukraine acquired US-made the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

The General Staff said the Ukrainian Air Force had been active, carrying out 11 strikes. And Ukrainian missile units had attacked “areas of concentration of manpower and combat equipment of the enemy,” including in Kherson.

The threat of Russian cruise missile attacks still persists.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, said on Telegram that eight Russian cruise missiles had been aimed at the city of Kryvyi Rih Wednesday. He said they targeted critical civil infrastructure, but there were no civilian victims.

China's President Xi lands in Uzbekistan ahead of Putin meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, is met by Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, right, as he arrives at the Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev International Airport on September 14 in Kazakhstan.

China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Wednesday, according to Chinese state media.  

The official Xinhua news agency said Xi arrived in the city “to pay a state visit to Uzbekistan and attend the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).” 

Xi is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the SCO talks. 

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in late February.

Brittney Griner's wife says she is '"encouraged to hear" about former US governor's Moscow meetings

Cherelle Griner, the wife of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, speaks at a press conference on July 8 in Chicago.

Cherelle Griner, the wife of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, said Wednesday she is “encouraged to hear” about former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s meetings in Moscow.

“We’ve asked Governor Richardson and the Richardson Center to help us, and have been working with them for a while,” Griner said in a statement to CNN. “We are encouraged to hear that they are having meetings in Moscow.”

Some more context: Richardson and his team were in Moscow this week and held meetings with Russian leadership, CNN has learned.

The details of those meetings were not immediately clear. Richardson and his center privately work on behalf of families of hostages and detainees, and the trip comes as the Biden administration works to free two Americans whom the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained: Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

A spokesperson for the Richardson Center told CNN Tuesday that “at this point we are not able to comment on this.”

CNN reported in mid-July that Richardson had been expected to travel to the Russian capital.

Russian tour operator says it's feeling the impact of stricter EU visa rules for Russians

The Association of Tour Operators in Russia (ATOR) says it is feeling the impact of the European Commission’s stricter visa processing conditions for Russian citizens, as nine European countries now “no longer accept documents from tourists.”

Last Friday, the European Union (EU) made the decision to suspend the visa facilitation agreement with Russia, making it harder for Russians to travel in Europe.

“The visa facilitation agreement with the Russian Federation has been suspended. This means that Russian citizens will receive Schengen visas under the general conditions of the EU Visa Code,” ATOR wrote on their website Tuesday. 

ATOR describes itself as the largest association of tour operators in Russia.

According to tour operators, the list of EU countries that have so far issued and continue to accept documents for visas for tourist trips include Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Hungary and Cyprus. Notably, the visas being granted are national visa — not Schengen, which allows a tourist access to other European countries too.

“Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands no longer accept documents from tourists,” it claimed.  

In response, the European Commission referred CNN to their visa guidelines, which were posted online last Friday. The guidelines outlined how short-stay visa applications lodged by Russian citizens should now be processed. 

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said last Friday that “being a tourist in the EU is not a fundamental right.”

“Member States are advised to check thoroughly and with a great level of scrutiny visa applications from Russian citizens. Visas should be refused where consulates identify security risks,” she continued.

“The EU will remain open to those who need to be protected, like journalists, dissidents, human rights activists, and people traveling for family reasons,” Johansson said.

According to the guidelines consulates are able to “adapt their procedures” and are allowed to “take up 45 days” on deciding Russian tourist visa applications, as opposed to the “15 days in regular cases.”

“Member States should refrain from issuing multiple-entry visas with long validity, as Russian citizens may not meet the conditions for entering the EU in the long run, given the economic instability, the restrictive measures and political developments in Russia,” the new guidelines add. 

At the start of September The Czech Republic, and Latvia already started to take measures to restrict Russian travel, while Estonia banned Russians who already had visas from entering the country.

CNN contacted the foreign affairs ministries of the Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Denmark, and Belgium, and they have not responded yet to requests for comment. 

Ukrainian military says it sees signs of Russian movement into Crimea

Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, during the visit of the Ukrainian delegation to the Cologne City Hall in Cologne in April.

The Ukrainian military says it is seeing signs of a movement among Russian forces from parts of the south into Crimea.

“It’s not exactly our area of responsibility, but it’s close, so we’re watching it too. We see and understand the attempts of the occupiers to flee to Crimea and regroup there. It will be easier for us: gatherings of military equipment are a big target,” Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Operational Command South, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Humeniuk’s remarks follow comments from the mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, on Tuesday, when he claimed that “columns of military equipment have already been recorded at the checkpoint in Chongar [from Kherson into Crimea.] This was expected — the rapid Ukrainian offensive leaves them no chance.”

Fedorov also claimed that in order to take stolen goods from the Zaporizhzhia region to Crimea, Russian soldiers were breaking into garages and stealing civilian cars.

CNN is not able to verify independently Fedorov’s claims nor the reports of an exodus through Chongar. No social media video has surfaced of such movements.

What Moscow is saying: Pro-Russian officials have denied any Ukrainian advances in the south in recent days, and the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had sustained heavy losses during attempted assaults in the south. 

Ukrainian strikes continued to destroy pontoon crossings across the river Dnipro, Humeniuk said Wednesday.

“Where they try to transport heavy equipment and ammunition with the help of barges, we hit and stop this process,” she said. “Our artillery work is connected with the destruction of warehouses with ammunition — three were destroyed in the past day.”

But Humeniuk acknowledged the Russians still had stocks on the west bank of the Dnipro, which is closest to the front lines running along the Kherson regional border.

Here's a look at the territory reclaimed by Ukraine through its counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited newly liberated Izium on Wednesday — five days after the Ukrainian forces took back control of the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive continues to liberate swathes of territory from Russia’s occupation, with most of this reclaimed land is in the country’s northeast and south, according to Zelesnky.

Take a look at the map of control as it stands currently:

Zelensky says he is "shocked" by destruction in Izium

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends flag hoisting ceremony in Izium on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he is shocked by what he has seen on his visit to the newly liberated Izium district in Kharkiv.

“What we see is shocking, although we have already seen this in Bucha [near Kyiv], in the first de-occupied territories. Likewise, destroyed buildings, killed people,” he told journalists during the visit. “Unfortunately, this is part of our history today. And this is part of the modern Russian nation – what they did.”

He thanked foreign governments for sending investigators and prosecutors to Ukraine to investigate alleged human rights abuses by occupying forces.

“We all understand that this process takes time … I am sure, there will be verdicts for all this, there will be a tribunal. I don’t doubt it for a second,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that all occupied areas would eventually return to Ukraine. 

“We should send signals to our people who, unfortunately, are still under occupation. And my signal to the people in Crimea: we know that these are our people, and it is a terrible tragedy that they have been under occupation for more than eight years. We will return there. I don’t know when exactly. But we have plans,” Zelensky said.

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine

If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know about the latest developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited newly liberated Izium: Ukrainian forces took back control of the northeastern region of Kharkiv on Saturday. Zelensky thanked the military Wednesday and observed a minute of silence to honor those who had been lost in the war.

Izium’s liberation is a huge strategic blow to Russia’s military assault in the east as it had become an important hub for Moscow to launch attacks southward into the Donetsk region and Kupyansk.

About 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of territory has been liberated by Ukrainian forces so far this month, according to Zelensky. Most of this reclaimed land is in the country’s northeast and south, he added.

The counteroffensive is, however, slowing down: Ukraine is liberating swathes of territory from Russia’s occupation in the east, but presidential military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says the country’s counteroffensive has “slowed down slightly because most of the Ukrainian forces are fighting to capture the city of Lyman, to open our way into the Luhansk region. We will intensify our strikes and liberate new territories in a different way,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview.

Lyman, an important rail hub, is roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the strategically important Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

The US says Russian forces retreated back across the border: “We’ve seen a number of Russian forces, especially in the northeast, in the Kharkiv region, cross over the border back into Russia as they’ve retreated from the Ukrainian counter-offensive,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a briefing Tuesday. But Russian forces still “do exist en masse in Ukraine,” he added.

But Russia has been trying to gain ground in other parts of Ukraine: The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Ukrainian units had successfully repelled Russian attacks around the city of Bakhmut, while Russian artillery and air force are pounding settlements near the front lines across Donetsk. There was also Russian mortar and tank fire in the Zaporizhzhia region, the General Staff said.

Looting claims: The military claimed that in the south, around the city of Polohy, Russian troops were also stealing private cars. And in Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, Russians “began to massively remove furniture and household appliances from temporarily abandoned settlements.” CNN is unable to confirm the military’s claims, but there has been widespread evidence of looting in Kharkiv and other previously occupied Russian areas.

Russian shelling killed at least two people and injured six in Mykolaiv: The head of the region’s civil military administration provided this update, adding that educational institution, infrastructure facilities and residential buildings were damaged in the southern port city near the Black Sea on Wednesday. Ukrainian officials claim that they’ve taken back about 500 square kilometers of territory in the south so far, along the borders of Mykolaiv and Kherson. 

Zelensky visits newly liberated city of Izium in Kharkiv, following months of Russian occupation

"I want to thank you for saving our people, our hearts, children and future," Zelensky said as he visited Izium on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited newly liberated Izium in the northeastern region of Kharkiv on Wednesday, five days after the country’s forces recaptured the city.

Photographs on the Facebook page of an army unit showed Zelensky at a ceremony in the main square to raise the Ukrainian flag over the city’s administrative building. Hanna Maliar, the Deputy Minister of Defense, was also present.

“Earlier, when we looked up, we always looked for the blue sky. Today, when we look up, we are looking for only one thing – the flag of Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a post on the presidential Telegram channel.

“Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in the de-occupied Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village. We are moving in only one direction – forward and towards victory.”

“I want to thank you for saving our people, our hearts, children and future,” Zelensky said, according to a statement released on the Presidential website.

“It has been extremely difficult for you in recent months. Therefore, I ask you to take care of yourselves, because you are the most valuable asset we have,” he said.

“It may be possible to temporarily occupy the territories of our state. But it is definitely impossible to occupy our people, the Ukrainian people,” he said.

There was a minute’s silence at the ceremony to remember those who had been lost during military operations.

Ukrainian forces took back control of Izium on Saturday, marking a huge strategic blow to Russia’s military assault in the east.

Izium, which sits near the border between the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, was under Russian occupation for over five months and became an important hub for the invading military.

Moscow was using Izium as a launching pad for attacks southward into the Donetsk region and Kupyansk, some 30 miles to the north of Izium, as a rail hub to resupply its forces.

Russia’s collapse in northeastern Ukraine sparked fury from Putin loyalists, who condemned the Kremlin’s abandonment of Kharkiv in a rare display of stinging criticism.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová, Tim Lister, Yulia Kesaieva, Denis Lapin, Josh Pennington and Victoria Butenko contributed reporting.

Kharkiv region's electricity restored following Russian strike, says Ukraine energy operator

A power substation is seen destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv on September 12.

Two of the main electricity lines supplying part of Kharkiv region have been restored, Ukraine’s energy supplier said Wednesday, following a Russian strike on a local facility that left many without power.

“Repair crews of NPC Ukrenergo have already restored the operation of two main lines supplying Kharkiv and the Kharkiv region. Work on other lines continues and will continue until complete,” the post from Ukrainian state energy company Ukrenergo read.

According to Ukrenergo, which operates the nation’s high-voltage transmission lines, energy supply was restored across the Kharkiv region late on Tuesday. CNN cannot independently verify the claim. 

The entire region of Kharkiv was without electricity after the backup power line supplying settlements “failed,” the Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Tuesday, citing “insidious shelling by Russian (forces)” as the cause.

Last week, Ukrainian forces ruptured Russian defenses and recaptured swathes of territory in the east, marking a colossal blow for Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia responded on Sunday with missile strikes that hit large parts of eastern Ukraine including the Kharkiv power and heating plant, killing one employee and damaging critical infrastructure. 

Putin needs Xi Jinping’s help more than ever after his setbacks in Ukraine

In early February, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched down in Beijing to a warm welcome from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as the two strongmen put on a show of unity for the world at the Winter Olympics.

The summit, in which the pair touted their ever-growing ties and railed against NATO expansion, was held three weeks before Putin ordered his tanks into Ukraine. While it is not known if the topic of war came up during their conversations, one thing is clear now: seven months in, the invasion has gone anything but to plan.

Putin has just suffered perhaps his worst week since the early days of the war, when his troops were routed in Kyiv and forced to retreat.

Ukraine’s recapture in recent days of more territory than Russia has taken in all their operations since April is another humiliating loss for Putin, who has watched as his invasion falters and his list of friends on the global stage dwindles.

Criticism of Putin is growing even among his supporters in Russia, and he could, bluntly, do with a win. Fortunately for Putin, an opportunity presents itself on Thursday, when he holds his first face-to-face meeting with Xi since the invasion began, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan.

Much is made of the relationship between Russia and China, which has only strengthened since the beginning of the war. Experts say Putin will likely be counting on Beijing more than ever after his setbacks on the battlefield.

Read the full story:

TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing, on February 4, 2022. (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEI DRUZHININ/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Putin needs Xi Jinping's help more than ever after his setbacks in Ukraine | CNN

EU Commission president vows solidarity with Ukraine and will travel to Kyiv Wednesday

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that “Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable,” and that she would be visiting Kyiv on Wednesday.

Von der Leyen said European sanctions against Russia would remain in place and that the European Union’s (EU) 27-nation bloc would continue to offer financial support to Ukraine.

Speaking during her annual State of the Union address, with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska in attendance, she said: “The sanctions are here to stay, this is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement.”

“It is about autocracy against democracy and I stand here with a conviction that with the necessary courage, and with the necessary solidarity (Vladimir) Putin will fail and Ukraine and Europe will prevail. Today courage has a name and that name is Ukraine.”

“This is why today (Wednesday), I am going to Kyiv, to discuss all this with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky – and to show him what the single market is as a potential for Ukraine’s future, too,” she said.

Addressing the energy crisis Von der Leyen said the EU will propose measures to cap revenues and force fossil fuel firms to share the profits.

 “In these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefiting from war and on the back of our consumers,” the EU chief said.

 “In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it most,” she said.

Zelensky says Ukraine has liberated 8,000 square kilometers of territory

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference in Kyiv on September 9.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said approximately 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of territory has now been liberated by Ukrainian forces so far this month, with roughly half the area still undergoing “stabilization” measures. 

“Remnants of occupiers and sabotage groups are being detected, collaborators are being detained and full security is being restored. It is very important that together with our troops, with our flag, ordinary normal life comes to the de-occupied territory,” Zelensky said in his daily address Tuesday. 

In a statement Monday, Zelensky said most of the liberated territory retaken by Ukrainian forces since the start of September was concentrated in the country’s northeast and south. 

Zelensky promised to immediately resume pension payments to all Ukrainians living in recently reclaimed areas in his message Tuesday. 

“As an example, in Balakliya, in Hrakove, the payment of pensions for five months at once, for the time when we simply could not make payments due to the occupation, has already been started,” he said, adding that “Ukraine always fulfills its social obligations to people.”

At least two dead and six injured in Mykolaiv shelling Wednesday, Ukrainian official reports

Vitalii Kim, governor of Mykolaiv region, speaks to the media in Mykolaiv on June 8.

Russian shelling killed at least two people and injured six in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea on Wednesday, according to the head of the region’s civil military administration Vitalii Kim.

“At approximately 01:10 a.m. Mykolaiv was shelled. According to preliminary data, these were S-300 missiles. An educational institution, infrastructure facilities and residential buildings were damaged,” Kim said in a post on Telegram, claiming that a fire had broken out at a factory due to the attack. 

“According to preliminary data, two people were killed, three were injured, and three more citizens were treated on an outpatient basis. Detailed information is being clarified,” Kim added.  

Kim also urged citizens to stay away from power stations, due to possible shelling in their vicinity. 

The city’s mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych also posted about the shelling on Telegram. 

“After 1 a.m. this night Mykolaiv was massively shelled. Residential houses were damaged. Emergency services and municipal services are working on site. Some streets have to be cleaned in order for the transport to be able to pass,” Sienkevych said in a post on Telegram. 

“We are still collecting all the info on the consequences of shelling. I will inform you of the details later,” he added. 

Some context: On Tuesday Pro-Russian regional officials insisted that the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern areas of Kherson and Mykolaiv was being contained. 

Ukrainian officials claim that they’ve taken back approximately 500 square kilometers of territory in the south so far, along the borders of Mykolaiv and Kherson. 

Pope decries "senseless and tragic war" in Ukraine as he arrives in Kazakhstan for gathering of religious leaders

Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with authorities, civil society and diplomats at Qazaq Concert Hall in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday September 13.

Pope Francis has arrived in Kazakhstan for a three-day visit to the country.

The Pope addressed political leaders in the capital Nur-Sultan on Tuesday evening telling them that he had come at a time of “the senseless and tragic war that broke out with the invasion of Ukraine.”

On Wednesday the Pope attends the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a gathering of international religious leaders.

One religious leader who is noticeably absent is Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill, who was due to meet Francis in Kazakhstan but announced at the end of August that he would not be attending.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also due in Kazakhstan on Wednesday for separate political meetings.

The Vatican has said that there is no planned meeting between the Pope and the Chinese President.

Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane from Rome that “he was always ready to visit China.”

Pentagon has seen "a number of Russian forces" cross back into Russia from the Kharkiv region

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks with reporters on September 13.

The Pentagon said some Russian forces have crossed from the Kharkiv region back into Russia.

“We’ve seen a number of Russian forces, especially in the northeast, in the Kharkiv region, cross over the border back into Russia as they’ve retreated from the Ukrainian counter-offensive,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters during a briefing Tuesday. 

But Russian forces still “do exist en masse in Ukraine,” Ryder said.

The US was not surprised that Ukraine forces “pushed as quickly as they have” in the counteroffensive, Ryder said, but based on reports that the Pentagon has seen “on the Russian military response, it was probably the Russians” who were surprised by the push.

Ukraine says Russian troops are trying to gain ground in some regions and alleges widespread looting

Several destroyed civilian cars are seen on a road near the town of Balakliia, Ukraine in Kharkiv region on September 13.

As Ukrainian units press their offensive in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russian forces are trying to gain ground elsewhere, according to the Ukrainian military.

The military’s General Staff, in its latest bulletin, said Ukrainian units had successfully repelled Russian attacks around the city of Bakhmut, while Russian artillery and air strikes continued to pound settlements near the front lines across Donetsk.

“During the day, the enemy carried out two missile strikes, eight air strikes and conducted 13 strikes from missile artillery systems,” according to the military.

There was also Russian mortar and tank fire in the Zaporizhzhia region, the General Staff said.

Looting claims: The military claimed that in areas of Kharkiv and Luhansk, there was widespread looting from retreating Russian forces.

The General Staff said that on the Starobilsk-Luhansk highway, in the direction of Luhansk, “about 300 civilian cars, mostly with state license plates of the Kharkiv region were spotted – most on trailers driven by Russian military personnel.”

It claimed that in the south, around the city of Polohy, Russian troops were also stealing private cars. And in Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, Russians “began to massively remove furniture and household appliances from temporarily abandoned settlements.”

CNN is unable to confirm the military’s claims, but there has been widespread evidence of looting in Kharkiv and other previously occupied Russian areas.

Military shortage claims: The General Staff also claimed that the Russian military was moving up the graduation of cadets from some Defense Ministry academies, such as the Black Sea Higher Naval School, to make up for shortages of junior officers.

“The shortage of tactical-level commanders is due to the refusal of reserve officers to sign contracts amid recent events. The level of morale and psychological state of the enemy’s personnel continues to decline,” the General Staff asserted. “A significant number of servicemen do not return to military units after the end of their vacations.”

US House committees will get classified briefings on Ukraine, sources say

Relevant US House of Representatives committees will get classified briefings on Ukraine over the next two weeks, multiple sources tell CNN.

The House Armed Services Committee will be briefed on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee will also get a briefing next week, those sources said. Committee members from both parties are invited to attend.

The briefings come in the wake of Ukraine’s recent stunning advances on Russian-held territory. Lawmakers are also pushing to include additional Ukraine aid in the upcoming short-term government funding bill. Current funding expires Sept. 30.

Zelensky adviser: Ukrainian counteroffensive continues but has "slowed down slightly"

Ukraine continues to liberate swathes of territory from Russian occupation in the east, but presidential military adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says the country’s counteroffensive has slowed.

“The counteroffensive continues but has slowed down slightly because most of the Ukrainian forces are fighting to capture the city of Lyman, to open our way into the Luhansk region. We will intensify our strikes and liberate new territories in a different way,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview.

Lyman, an important rail hub, is roughly 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of the strategically important Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukrainian forces have taken 8,000 square kilometers of land since the beginning of the month. His adviser also said they conducted a storm operation that liberated “more than 300 settlements in four days.”

During the recent offensive, Ukrainian forces managed to capture Russian weaponry that would support around three brigades in their fighting, Arestovych told CNN. He also said Russia suffered “huge casualties” and lost some soldiers who Ukraine had captured as prisoners of war. Asked by CNN whether they will be afforded the rights they are entitled to under the Geneva convention, he said “absolutely.”

“We are a European army and a European country, we follow international law. We do not break the Geneva Convention or other international conventions about the rules of war… We give them rights and the possibility to call home, their mothers, and fathers…and to speak with journalists if they want,” Arestovych continued. 

Arestovych said Ukrainian forces used disinformation to trick Russian soldiers on the battlefield by making them think they were going to strike at Kherson.

“They thought we were going to start the main strike on the city of Kherson. We did start our strike on Kherson, but it was an assisted strike, not the main strike. The main strike we provided in the east of our country, and the Russians were completely surprised about this, because two months before, we were only speaking about the Kherson region. That’s why we liberated territory in four days that Russians tried to keep for about four months.” he said.

US secretary of state warns Russia might "stir the pot" with Armenia and Azerbaijan to distract from Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a State Department careers conversation at Purdue University on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was concerned about whether Russia might try to “stir the pot” between Armenia and Azerbaijan “to create a distraction from Ukraine.”

“But, if Russia can actually use its own influence for good, which is to again calm the waters, end the violence, and urge people to engage in good faith on building peace, that would be a positive thing,” Blinken said while touring the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University in Indiana.

Blinken said he spoke last night with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and “urged them to do everything possible to pull back from any conflict and to get back to talking about building a lasting peace between their countries.”

“We’d seen the outbreak of hostilities again, something that is in no one’s interest,” Blinken said.

Some more context: Russia claimed Tuesday it brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan after fighting erupted on the border between the two countries this week, bringing a decades-old conflict to the brink of reigniting.

“We are in close contact with Baku and Yerevan. An appeal was received from the Armenian leadership to assist in resolving the situation … We expect that the agreement reached as a result of Russian mediation on a ceasefire from 9 a.m. Moscow time on September 13 will be carried out in full,” the statement added.

The statement follows a call between Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin earlier Tuesday. Local media in Azerbaijan also reported on the ceasefire but said it had already been broken.