October 7, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:54 PM ET, Fri October 7, 2022
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8:26 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

It's half past 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

As Ukraine continues to press its offensives in the east and south and criticism of Putin's war effort piles up in Russia, here are the latest developments:

  • Putin's private army faces setbacks: An exclusive CNN investigation has revealed that Wagner mercenaries sent to prop up Russia's war in Ukraine have been plagued by morale and supply issues.
  • Kyiv sweeps the south: President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukrainian forces have retaken more than 500 square kilometers of territory in the southern Kherson region in less than a week.
  • Peace Prize in time of war: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 was awarded to human rights advocates in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
  • Biden warns of nuclear crisis: The US President warned of "Armageddon" if Russia were to launch a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, though a US official played down the remarks, saying the administration had seen no change in Russia's nuclear posture for now.
  • "I don't have exact numbers": Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied a Russian media report which said 700,000 Russians had fled the country since Putin announced a mobilization drive last month. CNN has not confirmed the report.
6:28 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Russian Orthodox Church sends Putin birthday wishes, says God ordained him to lead country

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian Patriarch Kirill celebrates a Christmas service at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, Russia, late on January 6.
Russian Patriarch Kirill celebrates a Christmas service at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, Russia, late on January 6. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church praised President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of his 70th birthday Friday, claiming he was ordained by God to rule Russia. 

“The Lord placed you at the helm of power so that you could perform a service of special importance and great responsibility for the fate of the country and the people entrusted to your care," Patriarch Kirill said in a letter to the Russian President.

Kirill called priests to pray for Putin’s health for two days, Friday and Saturday.

Some context: Kirill has been a prominent public supporter Putin's war in Ukraine, despite the fact that it’s killing many of the church’s civilian parishioners.

His firm endorsement of the Kremlin and the war has also led to isolation from the religious community, with Pope Francis earlier warning him not to become "Putin's altar boy."

The UK government sanctioned Kirill for his support of the war in June.

In September, Kirill was also notably absent from the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a gathering of international religious leaders.

6:17 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties plays "a pioneering role" in documenting war crimes

By Kara Fox

Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), another of Friday's Nobel Peace Prize winners, was established in 2007 to promote human rights values in Ukraine and strengthen democracy in the country.

The committee commended its work on strengthening Ukrainian civil society and the pressure that it's put on authorities to "make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy."

The group has played a key role in identifying and documenting war crimes against the Ukrainian population since Russia's invasion in February, according to the Nobel committee.

"The center is playing a pioneering role in holding guilty parties accountable for their crimes," it said.

CCL said they were proud to have won the accolade on Friday, Reuters reported.

"Morning with good news. We are proud," they said.

Live updates: Read the latest on the Nobel Peace Prize here.

6:15 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

What is Memorial, the Russian human rights organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize?

By Kara Fox

An employee inspects archive documents at the office of human rights group Memorial in Moscow, Russia on November 15, 2021.
An employee inspects archive documents at the office of human rights group Memorial in Moscow, Russia on November 15, 2021. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian human rights organization Memorial, one of the winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union to expose the abuses and atrocities of the Stalinist era.

The group "wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten," according to the Nobel committee.

Memorial's work is "based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones," it said, noting that the group has been at the "forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law."

The Nobel committee highlighted the work of the group during the Chechen wars, during which they gathered and verified information on abuses and war crimes perpetrated on the population by Russian and pro-Russian forces.

The head of Memorial’s branch in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was killed in 2009 as a result of this work, according to the Nobel committee.

Last December, Russia's Supreme Court ordered the closure of Memorial International, ruling that the group had fallen afoul of Russia’s “foreign agent” law. But Memorial said the real reason for the shutdown was that authorities did not approve of its work.

The ruling was a huge blow to Russia’s hollowed-out civil society organizations, which have increasingly fallen victim to President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

Live updates: Read the latest on the Nobel Peace Prize here.

6:15 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Ales Bialiatski: The Belarusian who "devoted his life to promoting democracy"

By Kara Fox

Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, one of the winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, is the founder of Viasna (Spring), a human rights organization that has documented and protested the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners.

As one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in the mid-1980s in Belarus, he has "devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country," the Nobel committee said Friday.

Government authorities have long sought to silence him. He has been detained without trial since 2020.

Despite this "tremendous personal hardship, Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus," the committee said.

Live updates: Read the latest on the Nobel Peace Prize here.

5:40 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Nobel Peace Prize won by human rights advocates in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus

By Rob Picheta

Human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, founder of the organisation Viasna (Belarus), receives the 2020 Right Livelihood Award at the digital award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 3
Human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, founder of the organisation Viasna (Belarus), receives the 2020 Right Livelihood Award at the digital award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 3 (Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/Reuters)

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to human rights campaigners in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski and two organizations from Russia and Ukraine – Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties, respectively – were announced as the winners of the 2022 award on Friday morning.

Left to right: Tanya Lokshina, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia of Human Rights Watch, Yelena Zhemkova, Executive Director of International Memorial, Alexander Cherkasov, Chairman of the Council of Memorial Human Rights Center, Tatiana Glushkova, member of the Council of Memorial Human Rights Center, and Tatiana Margolina, Member of the Board of Perm Memorial, hold a press conference in the office of the Memorial human rights group in Moscow, on November 18, 2021.
Left to right: Tanya Lokshina, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia of Human Rights Watch, Yelena Zhemkova, Executive Director of International Memorial, Alexander Cherkasov, Chairman of the Council of Memorial Human Rights Center, Tatiana Glushkova, member of the Council of Memorial Human Rights Center, and Tatiana Margolina, Member of the Board of Perm Memorial, hold a press conference in the office of the Memorial human rights group in Moscow, on November 18, 2021. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

The winners were honored for “an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power” in their respective countries.

“They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

Their win comes seven months after Russia launched a full-scale war on Ukraine, with the assistance of Belarus.

The three winners will share the prize money of 10,000,000 Swedish Krona ($900,000). The Nobel Prizes will be officially presented to the laureates at a ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.  

Live updates: Read the latest on the Nobel Peace Prize here.

2:28 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Morale is plummeting in Putin’s private army as Russia’s war in Ukraine falters

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne, Melissa Bell, Joseph Ataman and Renee Bertini

A Wagner recruitment billboard in Russia, part of the group's recent public recruitment.
A Wagner recruitment billboard in Russia, part of the group's recent public recruitment. (CNN)

The Ukrainians’ bodies lay side-by-side on the grass, the earth beside them splayed open by a crater. Dragged to the spot by Russian mercenaries, the victims’ arms pointed to where they had died. 

“Let’s plant a grenade on them,” a voice says in husky Russian, in what appears to be a plan to booby-trap the bodies. 

“There is no need for a grenade, we will just bash them in,” another says of the Ukrainian soldiers who will come to collect the bodies. The mercenaries then realize they have run out of ammunition. 

These events seen and heard on battlefield video, exclusive to CNN, along with access to Wagner recruits fighting in Ukraine, and candid, rare interviews CNN has conducted with a former Wagner commander now seeking asylum in Europe, combine to give an unprecedented look at the state of Russia’s premier mercenary force. 

While problems of supply and morale, as well as allegations of war crimes have been well documented among regular Russian troops, the existence of similar crises among Wagner mercenaries, often described as President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books shock troops, is a dire omen for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Wagner forces have for several years enjoyed global notoriety. But as Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine comes apart at the seams, and the announcement of a “partial mobilization” for much-needed conscripts has prompted more than 200,000 Russian citizens to flee to neighboring countries, the cracks in this supposedly elite force are showing.

Limited official information about Wagner and long-standing Kremlin denials about its existence and ties to the Russian state have only added to its infamy and allure, while helping the group to cloud analysis of its exact capabilities and activities. 

In reality, though, Wagner – like Russia – is struggling in Ukraine, according to the video testimony of the group’s own mercenary fighters.

Read the full report here

2:28 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Despite Biden’s warnings, US has seen no change in Russia’s nuclear posture

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Jeff Zeleny

A US official said Thursday evening that despite President Biden's warning that the world is the closest it has been to a nuclear crisis since the 1960s, they have still seen no change to Russia's nuclear posture as of now. 

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre's statement on Tuesday -- that there has been no indication of a change in Russia's posture and therefore no change in the U.S. posture -- still stands, the official said. 

According to a source familiar with his thinking, Biden was speaking clearly about the threat officials believe Russia poses at a fundraiser in New York Thursday evening.

While there is no question Russia’s nuclear posture is being taken seriously, a senior US government official said the President’s language at the fundraiser caught other officials across the government off guard.

The official expressed surprise at the President’s remarks, saying there were no obvious signs of an escalating threat from Russia.

2:28 a.m. ET, October 7, 2022

Biden delivers stark warning about the dangers of Putin's nuclear threats 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 6.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 6. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images). 

During a fundraiser in New York Thursday night, Biden gave a sober and stark warning about the dangers of Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats about using nuclear weapons as his country's military experiences set backs in Ukraine, according to notes from the print pool. 

“First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” Biden warned during the fundraiser, according to the pool. 

He added: "I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?… Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”

“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Biden said of Putin, according to the pool. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming.”

"I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon," Biden added, according to the pool.