October 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Jack Guy, Elise Hammond and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1:52 a.m. ET, October 25, 2022
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11:25 p.m. ET, October 23, 2022

Zelensky dismisses Russian claims that Ukraine plans to detonate a dirty bomb

From CNN's Mariya Knight

During his nightly address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mocked Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's claims to Western defense officials earlier in the day that Ukraine is planning to explode a so called "dirty" nuclear bomb.

Zelensky said Shoigu had called the defense ministers of the United States, Britain, France and Turkey in a phone "merry-go-round" to claim Ukraine planned to explode a weapon combining conventional explosives and uranium.

"Everyone understands everything well, understands who is the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war,” Zelensky said.

“And there’s only one individual who can use nuclear weapons in our part of Europe, and this person is the one who ordered Comrade Shoigu to call somewhere.”

Zelensky also accused Russia of planning to stage a false flag operation. “If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means only one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” he said.

Zelensky called on the world “to react in the toughest possible way” against the Russian threats.

1:10 a.m. ET, October 24, 2022

US official says Russia's purported fears of Ukraine using a dirty bomb are "transparently false"

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Natasha Bertrand

Russia’s defense minister accused Ukrainians of planning to use a so-called dirty bomb — a claim that was strongly refuted by US officials on Sunday as a Russian false flag operation.

The allegation from Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu came during a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday, the second call in three days between the two top officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the two discussed the situation in Ukraine but did not provide further details. It was Shoigu who initiated the phone call to Austin, according to a senior US administration official.

A second official familiar with the conversation said Shoigu made the claim about the planned usage of a dirty bomb, a weapon that combines conventional explosives and uranium. That claim, which the Kremlin has amplified in recent days, has been strongly refuted by the US, Ukraine and the United Kingdom as a Russian false flag operation.

Shoigu has made similar comments to his French and British counterparts as well.

“We reject reports of Minister Shoigu’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told CNN in a statement. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”

The US is also watching very closely for any intelligence that Russia has a specific plan to blow up a major dam near Kherson where Russia has ordered citizens to evacuate, the official said.

Joint statement: Later Sunday, the US State Department released a joint statement with the foreign ministers of France and the UK that also called Shoigu’s allegations false and reiterated their unified support for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

On Friday, Austin called Shoigu, the first call between the two in several months. Before Friday, the two had not spoken since May.

CNN's Jonny Hallam and Kylie Atwood contributed reporting.

4:19 a.m. ET, October 24, 2022

Freed Ukrainian women recount torture and other brutal treatment in Russian prisons

From CNN's Clarissa Ward, Brent Swails, Tim Lister and Scott McWhinnie

Women walk towards their relatives as part of all-female prisoner swap with Russia on October 17.
Women walk towards their relatives as part of all-female prisoner swap with Russia on October 17. (Ukrainian Presidential Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been imprisoned unlawfully in Russia since the start of the war, according to human rights groups.

The lucky ones are eventually used as bargaining chips in prisoner swaps. On Monday, 108 women, including 12 civilians, were released from captivity in Russia as part of one such swap.

Some of these Ukrainian women have alleged brutal mistreatment by their captors — including torture by electric shock and scalding. The Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform interviewed one of them — naming her only as Hanna O. She is 26, Ukrinform says, and had served in the 36th Marine Brigade.

Hanna O. had been in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol but left when the Russians began bombarding it. She said she had spent just over six months in captivity. “They treated us like animals,” she told Ukrinform.

“They’d beaten the girls, they tortured the girls with electric currents, beaten them with hammers, that’s the lightest thing. They’ve hung them up.
“Those who had tattoos… they wanted to cut off our hands, cut off the tattoos, scalded us with boiling water just because you are there, because you are with the marines, because you speak Ukrainian.”

International law is clear that civilians should be treated as protected persons and cannot be held as prisoners of war. The act of forcibly transferring Ukrainian civilians to another country is a war crime.

According to a Human Rights Watch Report in July, “International humanitarian law also prohibits hostage-taking. Detaining civilians for the purpose of using them in future prisoner exchanges would constitute the war crime of hostage-taking.”

Read the full report here.

9:15 p.m. ET, October 23, 2022

"We're going to have to find balance": Republican lawmaker weighs in on aid for Ukraine

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

In an interview Sunday, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace said lawmakers will need to "find balance" in aiding Ukraine as US President Joe Biden questions her party's commitment to helping combat the Russian invasion.

Mace, appearing on State of the Union, was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper whether she supported House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s assertion that the GOP would not write a “blank check” to Ukraine if they are in the majority.

“It is something that we're going to have to find balance on next year,” she said, due to the threat of a recession and Republican promises to cut government spending.

"If we keep — keep writing these blank checks to other countries, if we increase the deficit spending or government spending any more than we already have, we're going to — we are going to exacerbate the situation," Mace continued. "But make no mistake. Ukraine is very important, not only to the United States economy, but to countries all around the world."

She said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “lost his marbles,” but argued McCarthy’s comments do not risk further emboldening him. Instead, she pointed at US infighting as a whole.

“The divisions that we have, and unwilling to work together on some of these issues and just the fighting, it makes us look weak on the world stage,” she told Tapper.

Biden questions Republican commitment: Biden has seized on McCarthy's comments and similar remarks from some Republicans, framing the position as undermining US leadership in an increasingly volatile world.

"These guys don’t get it," Biden said at a fundraiser in Philadelphia Thursday. "It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine — it’s Eastern Europe, it’s NATO. It’s real, serious, serious consequential outcomes. They have no sense of American foreign policy.” 

9:16 p.m. ET, October 23, 2022

Ukraine and UK refute Russian claim that Kyiv and the West plan to escalate conflict 

From CNN's Allegra Goodwin and Dennis Lapin

British defense minister Ben Wallace on Sunday refuted claims by his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that Ukraine was planning to escalate the conflict with help from Western countries.  

Shoigu made the allegations in a call with Wallace, which the UK Defense Ministry said was held at the Russian Defense Ministry’s request. Wallace warned Shoigu that “such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” according to a statement from the ministry. Wallace “observed that both Ministers were professional and respectful on the call,” the statement added.

Shoigu warned Wallace of his concerns Ukraine would use a “dirty bomb,” against Russia, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement. 

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba vehemently dismissed the suggestion his country would use such a bomb — a weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives.

“Russian lies about Ukraine allegedly planning to use a ‘dirty bomb’ are as absurd as they are dangerous. Firstly, Ukraine is a committed NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty) member: we neither have any ‘dirty bombs’, nor plan to acquire any. Secondly, Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves,” Kuleba tweeted Sunday.