September 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer

Updated 3:10 p.m. ET, September 20, 2022
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4:04 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

Our coverage for the day has ended. Follow the latest Ukraine news here or read through the updates below.

5:41 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

At least 30 areas of Ukraine damaged by Russian attacks on Saturday, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The infrastructure of at least 30 areas across the country was damaged due to Russian attacks on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian military. 

"The enemy struck military and civilian facilities on the territory of Ukraine four times with missiles, 15 times with aviation and more than 20 times with multiple-launch rocket systems," Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine spokesman, said in a video briefing.

Shtupun said most areas affected by Russian attacks were Kharkiv, Siversk, Druzhkivka, Kostiantynivka, New York, Marinka, Krasnohorivka, Poltavka, Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia, Nikopol, Orikhiv, Myrolyubivka and Ochakiv.

At the same time, Ukrainian aviation struck 10 areas "of concentration of enemy manpower and equipment and three positions of anti-aircraft missile systems," Shtupun added.

He didn't specify the location of those areas.

3:51 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

For the first time, defense chiefs of Finland and Sweden attend NATO meeting

From CNN’s Sonnet Swire & Barbara Starr

For the first time, Finland and Sweden attended the Chiefs of Defence meeting at the NATO Military Committee Conference, according to a readout of the meeting from the US Defense Department.

Meeting in Talinn, Estonia, on Saturday, the NATO military officials "discussed military strategic developments within the Alliance, to include implementation measures for decisions agreed upon during the NATO Madrid Summit in June 2022," according to the statement.

Finland — which shares a land border with Russia — and Sweden applied for membership in the 30-nation alliance, abandoning decades of foreign policy neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO allies signed their accession protocol this summer to allow the two countries to join, and it must be ratified by the parliaments of all its members before Finland and Sweden can be protected by the NATO defense clause, which considers an attack on one member an attack against all.

Only three countries have yet to ratify the addition of Finland and Sweden into NATO: Hungary, Slovakia and Turkey.

3:10 p.m. ET, September 20, 2022

The Zaporizhzhia plant has been reconnected to Ukraine's grid. Here's the significance of the nuclear site

From CNN staff

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.
A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that one of the main power lines in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was repaired and is once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid.

Ukraine relies heavily on nuclear power – about half of its electricity comes from 15 nuclear reactors at four plants across the country, according to the World Nuclear Association.

The Russian-controlled plant, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. It was mostly built in the Soviet era and became Ukrainian property after its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is located on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river in Ukraine. The area, and the nuclear complex, has been under Russian control since the beginning of the war, but the plant is still mostly operated by Ukrainian workers.

Each of Zaporizhzhia’s reactors would cost $7 billion to replace, making the plant a target for Russians to capture undamaged, with hopes of serving its own electricity market, according to analysis by defense and security intelligence firm Janes. Should Russia keep it, Ukraine would lose 20% of its domestic electricity generating capacity.

What does its position on the front line mean?

Shelling in the surrounding towns as well as near the power plant has been common, according to local reports.

Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the site. CNN cannot independently verify either government's claims.

The international community has been on high alert about nuclear safety, yet experts believe a Chernobyl-style disaster is unlikely. Yet risks remain, one of which is potential damage to nuclear waste stored openly on site – in ponds of water and in casks, according to Petro Kotin, president of Energoatom, which runs nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

IAEA visit

On Sept. 1, a team from the IAEA visited the plant for the first time since Russia's invasion on Feb. 24. The team saw damage to the roofs of various buildings, to the special building that houses fresh nuclear fuel and solid radioactive waste storage facility. They also witnessed shelling during the visit and called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi has since called for a nuclear safety zone around the plant and surrounding area. Two IAEA members remain at the site.

3:18 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

Ukraine claims Russians are creating retreat routes from southern Kherson region

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Russian forces are preparing retreat routes from the Kherson region, Ukraine’s military claimed in an update Saturday.

In today's update, a Ukrainian military spokesperson claimed Russians sunk nine railway cars to construct a crossing in the city of Kakhovka.

"Due to the successful actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to disable all crossings across the Dnipro River on the Kherson front, the occupiers are preparing their retreat routes,” Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a social media post.

Kherson is considered crucial to controlling Ukraine’s southern coast and access to the Black Sea. It was one of the first areas to be occupied by Russian forces when they invaded nearly seven months ago.

Last week, Ukraine claimed it had inflicted further losses on Russian forces in the south, including in Kherson.

Senior US and Ukrainian officials told CNN earlier this month that Kyiv set an ambitious goal of taking back most of Russian-occupied Kherson by the end of the year.

2:07 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

Here's the latest map of control in Russia's invasion of Ukraine

These are the latest areas of Russian and Ukrainian control in Russia's war in Ukraine.

This month brought huge strategic losses for the Kremlin as Ukraine carried out counteroffensives in the northeast and south. Ukraine's military has recaptured a total of 8,000 square kilometers (about 3,088 square miles) of land, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday.

1:31 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant reconnected to national grid, UN nuclear watchdog says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta

A Russian all-terrain armored vehicle is parked outside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert mission on September 1. 
A Russian all-terrain armored vehicle is parked outside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert mission on September 1.  (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

One of the four main power lines in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been repaired and is once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid, according to a statement from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

“Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) is once again receiving electricity directly from the national grid after engineers repaired one of the four main external power lines that have all been damaged during the conflict,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi confirmed Saturday.

Grossi said that the restored line is now “providing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant with the electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions.”

“With the main line’s re-connection yesterday afternoon, the three back-up power lines are again being held in reserve,” according to the IAEA. "The three other main external 750 kV (kilovolt) power lines that were lost earlier during the conflict remain down.” 

“All the ZNPP’s six reactors are in a cold shutdown state, but they still require power to maintain necessary safety functions,” Grossi added, according to the statement.

He also warned that the situation around the plant is still dangerous.

“While the ZNPP’s power status has improved over the past week – in sharp contrast to earlier this month when all power lines at one stage were down and it depended on its last operating reactor for vital electricity supplies – the general situation for the plant located in the middle of a war zone remains precarious,” Grossi said.

On Friday, Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom said it delivered urgently needed parts to “repair the damaged power lines as well as additional fuel supplies for the plant’s emergency diesel generators that can be used as a back-up power source.”

Some background: Grossi called for a safety zone around the nuclear plant after he and his team visited the Russian-held site earlier this month.

The plant and the area around it, including the nearby city of Enerhodar, endured persistent shelling that has raised fears of a nuclear accident. Each side accuses the other of acts of nuclear terrorism, and CNN has been unable to verify either government’s claims.

Two members of the 14-person IAEA team remained behind as part of the agency’s plan to establish a continuous presence at the plant.

1:48 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

Exhumation of bodies at Izium mass burial site continues, according to Zelensky

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Sahar Akbarzai

In his Friday night address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the exhumation of bodies at a mass burial site in Izium was continuing.

"As of now, more than 440 graves have been identified. It is too early to speak about the total number of people buried there, [but] the investigation continues," the president said.  

He also said a number of civilians, including foreigners, who were held against their will by Russian forces in occupied cities and towns, have been found alive. 

Zelensky said seven students from the Republic of Sri Lanka were among foreigners who were rescued. They were studying in Kupiansk Medical College but were captured by Russian soldiers back in March and held in a basement, he claimed.

“Only now, after the liberation of Kharkiv region, these people were rescued and are being provided proper medical care,” Zelensky said. 

Zelesnky said investigations are also underway in other recaptured areas of Ukraine.

Speaking about the Russian forces, Zelensky said "evidence of their guilt is being collected."  

12:04 p.m. ET, September 17, 2022

China and India both expressed reservations to Putin over the war in Ukraine

From CNN's Rishabh Pratap, Larry Register, Heather Chen and Nectar Gan

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China on September 5, 2017. (Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images)

India and China — the biggest customers of Russian oil — both said they have "concerns" this week over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a striking rebuke on Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had remained quiet about the war, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not of war.”

“We have talked to you many times over the phone on the subject that democracy and diplomacy and dialogue are all these things that touch the world,” Modi told Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan.

Putin was quoted by the Kremlin as telling the Indian leader, “I know your position regarding the conflict in Ukraine, your concerns which you continuously express. We will do everything for all of this to end as soon as possible.”

Modi’s apparent criticism of Russia’s invasion is only the latest setback for Putin, whose forces have suffered a series of major defeats on the battlefield in recent weeks. Ukraine claims to have recaptured some 8,000 square kilometers (about 3,000 square miles) of territory.

Just a day earlier, during a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Putin acknowledged Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about the conflict.

Some background: China has so far refused to outright condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine while stepping up economic assistance to its neighbor, boosting bilateral trade to record levels in a boon to Russian business amid Western sanctions.

New Delhi, like Beijing, has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War and so far has largely steered clear of condemning outright the invasion by Russia, which remains India’s biggest arms supplier.

US reaction: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said that the concerns of China and India are reflective of global apprehension about the months-long conflict, and said he believes “it increases the pressure on Russia to end the aggression.”

“I think what you’re seeing is just a manifestation of the fact that this aggression has been an aggression against the interests of people across the planet,” Blinken said at a press conference at the State Department.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting to this post.