October 8, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Amy Woodyatt, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 8:17 p.m. ET, October 8, 2022
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10:21 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Ukraine to issue stamps commemorating Crimean bridge explosion

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Olga Voitovych 

The Ukrainian Postal Service will issue new stamps that feature the damaged Kerch Strait bridge, which connected Crimea to Russia, its CEO announced on Saturday.

“I will not wish you a good day, because it is already wonderful. The Kerch bridge is done,” Ukrposhta head Igor Smelyansky said.

The stamp will feature two figures who resemble Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in their iconic pose from the 1997 film "Titanic." 

There is also an envelope with an image of Crimea breaking handcuffs with Russia in the images shared by Smelyansky.

The price of the stamp will be 18 Ukrainian hryvnia ($0.48) each, and Kyiv plans to print 7 million copies for circulation, according to Smelyansky.

Some context: Beyond being the only bridge connecting annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland, the structure had major symbolic significance for Russian President Vladimir Putin's objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever.

1:10 p.m. ET, October 8, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog condemns renewed shelling that knocked Zaporizhzhia plant off power grid

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi holds a press conference during his visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 6.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi holds a press conference during his visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 6. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

The UN's nuclear watchdog condemned new shelling near Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which just disconnected the plant from Ukraine's power grid, according to its operator.

The resumed shelling is "tremendously irresponsible," International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Saturday in a press release.

The last power line connecting the plant to Ukraine’s power grid was damaged and disconnected Saturday due to attacks by Russian forces, according to the Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom. The plant is now relying on diesel generators.

“The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant must be protected,” Grossi said on Saturday. 

"All the plant’s safety systems continue to receive power and are operating normally, the IAEA experts were informed by senior Ukrainian operating staff at the site,” he added in the release.

"Although the six reactors are in cold shutdown, they still require electricity for vital nuclear safety and security functions. The plant’s diesel generators each have sufficient fuel for at least ten days. ZNPP engineers have begun work to repair the damaged 750 kV power line," according to the release.

Grossi stressed that the plant "must be protected” and added that he will "soon travel to the Russian Federation, and then return to Ukraine, to agree on a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant. This is an absolute and urgent imperative.”

What Russian officials say: The plant can be put back into operation, said Vladimir Rogov, who is a senior pro-Russian official in the regional Zaporizhzhia government. 

"Now the nuclear power plant has been switched back to the emergency mode of operation. The last power line that connected it with the right bank, with the territories controlled by [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky's regime, has been cut. For now, the nuclear power plant can only be powered by diesel generators, and this is an unusual means," Rogov said while speaking to the pro-Kremlin "Soloviev Live" show on Saturday.

"We have every possibility to restore the nuclear power plant and put it into operation," he added. 

9:41 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Surveillance video captures the explosion that rocked Crimean bridge

Surveillance video from cameras on the Kerch Strait bridge shows the moment a large explosion rocked the roadway, disabling the only bridge connecting annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports that top Russian officials have already blamed the attack on Ukraine, which has not formally taken credit for the blast — though government and military officials have posted several gloating messages online.

In Kyiv today, Ukrainians stopped to pose for a selfie in front of a billboard depicting the burning bridge.

1:02 p.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Analysis: What the Kerch Strait bridge explosion means for Putin and his war effort

Analysis from Jill Dougherty

Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge on October 8.
Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge on October 8. (AFP/Getty Images)

The explosion on Russia's bridge to Crimea not only strikes a blow against Russia's military effort in Ukraine, it's also a psychological blow to Moscow and a major propaganda victory for Ukraine. 

Russia began constructing the enormous 19-kilometer (about 12-mile) bridge over the Kerch Strait, spending an estimated $3.7 billion, after Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It was the physical expression of Russian President Vladimir Putin's objective to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever. The day it opened, he led a triumphant convoy over the bridge, driving a truck festooned with flags. 

Russia's propaganda industry went into overdrive, even producing a romantic comedy about the bridge called "The Crimean Bridge, Made with Love," a rom-com about two guys working on building the bridge pursuing the same cute archaeology student. The screenplay was written by Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia's main international propaganda TV channel RT.

The explosion on the Crimean bridge early Saturday was hardly extinguished before the trolling — a major weapon in this war — began.

The attack took place the day after Putin turned 70, and Ukraine's Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov published video of the bridge in flames, with a huge section of the roadway collapsing into the water, alongside a parallel video of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday, Mister President." Others online compared the bridge attack to Ukraine's April sinking of the Russian Navy's warship the Moskva.

Putin's government scrambled to insist that the damage was under control and would be repaired quickly. The state news agency TASS avoided the word "attack," reporting that a team of 380 responders, along with 90 pieces of equipment, was dispatched to "eliminate the consequences of the emergency" on the bridge. The Russian Transport Ministry said the railway section of the bridge, vital for bring troops and equipment for the war effort, would be restored by Saturday evening. Russia's Investigative Committee immediately launched a criminal investigation.

Online, Ukraine was triumphant about striking such a key Russian military and symbolic objective. And Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak warned there could be more attacks ahead in a tweet, saying "everything occupied by Russia must be expelled." 

12:59 p.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Russian defense minister appoints new commander for Ukraine operations, according to state media

From Darya Tarasova and Eyad Turki

Sergey Surovikin.
Sergey Surovikin. (Russian Defence Ministry/Zuma Wire)

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced the appointment of a new commander for what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, according to Russian state media.

The ministry said that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has approved the appointment of Gen. Sergey Surovikin as commander of Russia's "Joint Grouping of Forces" in Ukraine. 

Russian state news agency TASS said the ministry's spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, made the announcement Saturday.

Who is Surovikin? The appointment for Surovikin, who turns 55 on Oct. 11, is the latest promotion in a military career that began in 1983. He's served in several conflicts and faced sanctions by the European Union.

Surovikin first saw service in Afghanistan before commanding a unit in the Second Chechen War. He has also served as head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

He commanded several motorized rifle divisions and was instrumental in Russia's operations in Syria, when Russian combat aircraft caused widespread devastation in rebel-held areas. In 2017, he was appointed commander in chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces and was promoted to be an Army general last year. 

While in Syria, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation.

He was sanctioned by the European Union in February this year in his capacity as head of the Aerospace Forces during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

9:41 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Russia to resupply troops in southern Ukraine by sea and land corridor following bridge explosion

From CNN's Darya Tarasova

Russian troops in southern Ukraine will be resupplied by sea and land corridor, following Saturday's explosion on the Kerch bridge, the country's Ministry of Defense said.

Strategic importance: The Russian military has used the bridge extensively to resupply its forces in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. It's unclear how long the road and rail bridges across the Kerch Strait will be out of service.

The Ministry said on its Telegram channel: "The provision of the Russian group of troops involved in the special military operation in the Nikolaev-Krivoy Rog and Zaporozhye [Ukrainian: Mykolaiv - Kryvyi Rih - Zaporizhzhia] operational directions is carried out continuously in full along the land corridor and partially by sea transport."

Ukraine recaptures territory in south: Kyiv is successfully pushing ahead in its campaign to retake parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that Russia captured in the initial weeks of the war.

The Ukrainian military has recaptured 2,400 square kilometers of territory in Kherson region in the south of the country “since the beginning of the full-scale war,” a senior Ukrainian official said Friday.

9:52 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

What we know about the blast on the Kerch bridge

A helicopter drops water to extinguish fire on the Kerch bridge in Crimea on October 8. 
A helicopter drops water to extinguish fire on the Kerch bridge in Crimea on October 8.  (Stringer/Reuters)

In a major blow for Russia, at least one explosion has severely damaged the Kerch bridge connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian Federation.

The explosion early Saturday caused parts of Europe’s longest bridge to collapse, according to images and video from the scene.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear. Russian officials said a fuel truck exploded, but two spans of the road crossing in the direction of Crimea appear to have collapsed. A subsequent fire engulfed a train of fuel trucks on a separate part of the bridge.

Images of the Kerch bridge posted on social media appear to show a portion of the roadway of the vehicle and rail bridge had fallen into the waters below it. Flames could be seen burning from rail cars above.

Three dead: Russia's Investigative Committee says that preliminary information indicates three people were killed in the explosion.

Why is the bridge important? The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, on which sit key Ukrainian ports, including Mariupol. For Russia, the bridge symbolizes the physical “reunification” of Crimea with the Russian mainland. The bridge carries much of Crimea’s needs – such as fuel and goods – and has been used regularly to supply weapons and fuel to Russian forces.

The aftermath: Major transport links between mainland Russia and the annexed peninsula of Crimea — including buses and trains — were suspended, following an explosion on Kerch bridge. Weather conditions in the Kerch Strait are hindering Russia’s plans to use ferries to reach Crimea from Krasnodar, according to Russian state media.

What has Ukraine said? Ukrainian officials have started responding to the fire without directly acknowledging that Ukraine was responsible for the explosion. Among the responses, the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted on Facebook, “Air defense of the Russian Federation, are you sleeping?” alongside a video showing a section of the bridge’s road that had been completely destroyed.

In a brief post on its official Twitter account, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reacted to the explosion, saying: "The guided missile cruiser Moskva and the Kerch Bridge – two notorious symbols of Russian power in Ukrainian Crimea – have gone down. What’s next in line, Russkies?"

What is Russia's response? Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered a “government commission” to examine the Kerch Bridge “emergency” in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported, adding that the heads of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Transport are now at the scene of the incident.

Russian officials suggest that the explosion was caused by a truck blowing up on the road bridge.

The spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said the committee "has opened a criminal case about the incident at the Crimean Bridge. According to preliminary information, this morning a truck was blown up on the automobile part of the Crimean Bridge from the Taman Peninsula [the westbound lanes of the bridge], which led to the ignition of seven fuel tanks of a train travelling toward the Crimean Peninsula."

"As a result, two car lanes of the bridge partially collapsed."

The Committee also expanded on its earlier statement that a truck on the bridge had blown up.

According to Russia's Investigative Committee, the owner of the truck is resident of the Krasnodar Krai, and investigative actions have been launched at his place of residence. The route of movement of the vehicle and the relevant documentation are being studied, the committee added.

CNN is unable to verify the Russian explanation for the explosion.

8:26 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

Three fuel tanks damaged in Donetsk shelling, Russian officials say

From Olga Voitovych and Zayn Nabbi

Fire has damaged three fuel tanks in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region, according to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, following reports by Ukrainian officials that a cargo train was hit by a “powerful explosion.”

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations posted photos and video on its Telegram account showing firefighters dousing the fire at the Ilovaisk railway station on Saturday, and said the fire was a result of shelling by “Ukrainian militants.”

What happened? A cargo train in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region was hit by a “powerful explosion” Saturday morning local time, according to the adviser to the Mariupol Mayor Petro Andrushenko.

“Not only Crimea. Not only fuel tanks. There is also a cargo train in Ilovaisk. Locals report a rather powerful explosion and subsequent detonation at night. The occupiers now have big problems with supplies from both sides,” Andrushenko said, referring to the explosion involving a tanker on the Kerch bridge that links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

Pro-Russian authorities in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic confirmed the incident, releasing video Saturday showing the fire’s aftermath at a local railway station. It is unclear yet if there were casualties in the blast.

7:09 a.m. ET, October 8, 2022

At least three killed in Kerch bridge explosion

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

At least three people were killed in the explosion on the Kerch bridge early Saturday, according to Russia's Investigative Committee, citing preliminary information.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Committee said: "According to preliminary information, three people died as a result of the incident. These are, presumably, the passengers of a car that was next to the blown-up truck.

"Currently, the bodies of two victims have already been taken from the water -- a man and a woman, their identities are being established."

The Committee also expanded on its earlier statement that a truck on the bridge had blown up.

"The investigators of the Russian Investigative Committee also established the data of the truck and its owner. This is a resident of the Krasnodar Krai, investigative actions have been launched at his place of residence. The route of movement of the vehicle and the relevant documentation are being studied."