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1 min ago

UN secretary-general arrives in Ukraine ahead of meetings with Ukrainian and Turkish leaders

From CNN’s Petro Zadorozhnyy

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Lviv on Wednesday ahead of his meetings with the leaders of Ukraine and Turkey, according to the office of his spokesperson.

Guterres will be in Lviv Thursday for bilateral issues and will travel to Odesa on Friday to discuss the grain deal, the UN previously announced.

Guterres will hold a trilateral meeting with Ukrainian leaders and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the inner workings of the Black Sea grain deal, according to spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. He also plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the UN said.

In July, Ukraine and Russia agreed to a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Guterres will travel to Istanbul on Saturday. The Russians are aware of the secretary-general’s plans, Dujarric said.

CNN’s Richard Roth contributed reporting to this post.

37 min ago

41% of Ukrainian schools ready to resume classes in September, despite war, education minister says

From CNN’s Petro Zadorozhnyy and Vasco Cotovio

Nearly half of Ukraine’s schools and universities are ready to resume classes in September, the country’s education minister Serhiy Shkarlet said on Tuesday.

“Currently, about 41% of all educational institutions have the opportunity to start education in the traditional format,” Shkarlet said.

“The highest indicators of readiness for the educational process in the face-to-face form are in the Lviv region – 83%, Chernivtsi region – 78%, and Kyiv city – 68%,” he added. “Other regions continue active work in creating proper and safe conditions in educational institutions for offline learning.”

The education minister said schools would have shelters and that principals should invite parents in a bid to assure them of the safety of the building.

“It is very important that parents have the opportunity to make sure with their own eyes that their children will be safe in educational institutions,” he said. “Therefore, I urge school principals to give parents the opportunity to see the conditions of students in shelters in the event of an “Air Alarm” signal and to be in constant communication with them.”

“Principals can offer to organize parent meetings, which are traditionally held before the beginning of the new school year, in protective buildings,” he concluded.

1 hr 5 min ago

Extent of casualties at Wagner base hit by Ukrainian strike on the weekend is still unclear

From CNN’s Tim Lister

Mystery still surrounds the extent of damage and casualties following a Ukrainian strike on the weekend against an apartment block in the Luhansk region being used by Russian private military contractors known as Wagner.

The building in the town of Popasna was said to be the local headquarters of the Wagner PMC group in Luhansk. Video and images from the site suggest extensive damage, but there are few details about casualties.

Ukrainian officials have suggested there were dozens of casualties.

“For now, we will not divulge the details. But if, in the end, it turns out that more than 100 members of the Wagner leadership have died, this will not be news to us,” said Serhii Hayday, the Ukrainian official who is head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday and other Ukrainian officials have also suggested that a post on one of the pro-Wagner Telegram channels earlier this month had allowed Ukrainian forces to identify and attack the building, which is some 15 to 20 kilometers from the front line.

Hayday said that Ukrainian forces “hit an enemy HQ whose whereabouts were established, thanks to a Russian journalist.”

That post appeared on the Grey Zone channel, run by Russian journalist Sergei Sreda, and was viewed at least 181,000 times before being deleted.

“Arrived to Popasna, visited the Wagner headquarters. I was greeted like family.” the post read. It included a photograph that showed the address of the building in Popasna. 

The Grey Zone has more than 260,000 subscribers. However, there have been no posts on the channel since Aug. 13 — the day before the strike.

Another Telegram channel associated with Wagner has also gone silent.

Since April, Wagner contractors have been prominent among Russian and pro-Russian infantry units in Luhansk and Donetsk.

59 min ago

Kyiv was behind at least 3 explosions in Crimea, according to a Ukrainian government report

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

A satellite image from August 10 shows the charred remains of at least seven aircraft after explosions at Saki air base. 
A satellite image from August 10 shows the charred remains of at least seven aircraft after explosions at Saki air base.  (Planet Labs)

Ukraine was behind at least three explosions in Crimea — at Saki air base, an ammunition depot in Maiske and an air field in Gvardeyskoe — according to a Ukrainian government report circulated internally and shared with CNN by a ​Ukrainian official. ​

The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media. ​

The report describes the Saki air base as a hard but one-time loss for Russian military infrastructure in the peninsula, with subsequent attacks as proof of Ukraine’s systematic military capability in targeting Crimea. 

The air base was rocked by explosions on Aug. 9, which destroyed at least seven Russian warplanes and killed at least one person​. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility on the record.

Another set of explosions were reported in Crimea on Tuesday — this time at an ammunition depot in Maiske and at an airfield in Gvardeyskoe. Russian officials said the incident in Maiske had been the result of sabotage​, but they did not specify the kind of sabotage or who they believed was responsible. 

2 hr 17 min ago

Ukraine defense official suggests counteroffensive to retake territory may begin soon

From CNN’s Oleksandra Ochman and Vasco Cotovio

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence has hinted the start of a long-awaited and touted counteroffensive to retake territory lost to Russia could be starting soon, its spokesperson said in a televised address on Wednesday.

“In the near future, there will be very acute events on the entire front,” said Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson for the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

“This is not about binding to any dates, however, we have to consider [the] factor of the Independence Day of Ukraine,” Yusov added, referencing the country’s independence day on Aug. 24. 

“The Main Directorate of Intelligence has been saying for a long time that August and September will be extremely important periods for the further development of events on the entire front,” Yusov said.

Ukrainian officials have been announcing a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake occupied territory — specifically in the south — for weeks, but so far they’ve limited their actions to striking Russian supply lines, air bases and ammunition depots, with very small gains at the front. 

3 hr 47 min ago

It’s mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

A building burns following a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine on August 17.
A building burns following a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine on August 17. (Operational Command South of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Reuters)

Here are the latest developments:

Targets struck across Ukraine

Four people were injured overnight after Russian forces struck the port city of Odesa with anti-ship missiles strategic bombers, a local Ukrainian military official said.

Further north, Russian fighter jets flying in Belarusian airspace launched missiles targeting Zhytomyr, a major transportation hub, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was also targeted.

More questions in Crimea

For the second week in a row, the peninsula on the Black Sea was rocked by a mysterious blast at a Russian military installation. Explosions at a key Crimean air base last week killed one, injured nine and destroyed several Russian warplanes. Then, on Tuesday, a Russian ammunition depot in the region went up in smoke, wounding two people.

The Kremlin said the first incident was caused by the accidental detonation of ammunition — though satellite imagery appeared to show that a deliberate attack had taken place — while the Tuesday blast was the result of a fire.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for either incident, but silence could be intentional. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this month that Kyiv will not end the war against Russia until it retakes the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The battle for Donbas

Fierce fighting still rages across the key eastern Ukrainian region as Russia continues its advance. The Kremlin’s forces are shelling targets in Donbas up to 800 times a day, according to one Ukrainian official.

Russia is trying to push Ukraine’s troops out of Donetsk, one of the two regions that make up Donbas. The other region is Luhansk, which is effectively under Russian control.

Meanwhile, Russian forces reportedly tried to advance again from north of the key city of Sloviansk, but their offensive was unsuccessful and they withdrew, the Ukrainian military said.

3 hr 45 min ago

Beijing will send troops to Russia to participate in Vostok-2022 drills, Chinese defense ministry says

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Irene Nasser

China’s People’s Liberation Army will send troops to Russia to participate in the “East-2022” drills, also known as Vostok-2022, the Chinese Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday. 

“China’s participation in the exercise is aimed at deepening practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of the participating countries, enhancing the level of strategic cooperation among the participating parties, and strengthening the ability to respond to various security threats,” the defense ministry said, adding that “it is unrelated to the current international and regional situation.”

The exercises will include participation from India, Belarus, Tajikistan, Mongolia and other countries, according to China’s defense ministry, and they are due to take place in late August. 

Some background: In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held “candid” talks for more than five hours, and Blinken raised concerns over Beijing’s “alignment” with Moscow. Blinken said he said he did not think China was behaving in a neutral way as it had supported Russia in the United Nations and “amplified Russian propaganda.”

Shortly before Russia began invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although US officials say they have not seen China evade tough US-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

Putin says Russia can train foreign fighters: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to supply military equipment to allied countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Moscow is open to training foreign fighters, Putin said during the “Army-2022” opening ceremony.

“We highly value the fact that our country has many allies, partners, like-minded people on different continents,” Putin said.

Putin also stressed the advantages of training foreign soldiers in Russia and said Russia invites allies to do joint military exercises.

“We also see great prospects in the training of foreign servicemen and their advanced training. Thousands of military professionals from around the world are proud alumnus of the military universities and academies of our country,” Putin said.

Russia will continue to work in this area, he said.

CNN’s Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting to this post.

4 hr 14 min ago

Record traffic reported on Crimean Bridge after Saki base explosions

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova and Vasco Cotovio

A record number of vehicles drove across the Crimean Bridge, Russian road state agency reported on Tuesday, just days after explosions rocked the Saki Air Base in Crimea’s western coast.

“During the day on August 15, 38,297 cars drove across the bridge in both directions,” the statement read.

The number was recorded hours before another set of explosions at military installations in the Crimean peninsula.

Although Russia’s state road agency said the traffic record was recorded “in both directions,” videos posted on social media and geolocated by CNN showed long lines and traffic jams in roads leading toward the Crimean Bridge, heading toward Russia, in the days after last week’s explosions.

Local officials have downplayed the size of the lines saying they were the result of stricter controls on the bridge for security reasons and not because of an increase in outward traffic.

“From the point of view that they are fleeing Crimea, this is a complete lie, there is no doubt about it,” the head of the Russian-controlled Crimean administration, Sergei Aksyonov, told Russian state TV on Tuesday.

However, last month Aksyonov acknowledged the hit on the tourism industry in Crimea, saying that a 40% decline was expected over the summer. The Russian Tourism Association made a similar prediction in June.  

5 hr 7 min ago

Finland slashes number of visa appointments allotted for Russians

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London

Starting September 1, Finland will only allow Russian citizens to schedule 500 visa application appointments per day, authorities in the Nordic nation said.

The move is designed to punish Moscow for its decision to continue to wage war in Ukraine. The Finnish government had already slashed the number of appointments per day for Russian nationals to 1,000. But with no end to the fighting in sight, Helsinki decided to act again.

Of the 500 appointments per day, Finnish authorities will only allow 100 to be used for tourist visas, according to Jussi Tanner, the director general for consular services at Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Finland has long been a popular travel destination for Russians. In 2013, prior to Russia invading and subsequently annexing Crimea from Ukraine, Russians accounted for 75% of 13 million crossings over Finland’s eastern border, according to Tanner.

The number of Russian visa applications rejected has risen tenfold since 2019 and was now at around 15%, Tanner said.

Around 425 visas are now expected to be issued per day.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, said that, while she recognizes the issue is not “black and white” and there are many Russians who do not support the invasion, many people in Europe are frustrated when they see “Russians traveling like nothing has happened.”

“Ordinary Russian people did not start the war, but at the same time, we have to realize that they are supporting the war,” Marin said at a news conference in Oslo on Monday. “I think it’s not right that Russian citizens can travel, enter Europe, enter the Schengen area, be tourists, see the sights while Russia is killing people in Ukraine. It’s wrong.” 

Finland’s decision follows European leaders on Monday exchanging arguments over a potential Schengen or European Union visa ban for Russian citizens, with the leaders of Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark agreeing to further discuss the matter. 

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