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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Sept. 18


A woman walks in front of a destroyed building in Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region, Sept. 18, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

11:07 p.m.: The top U.S. general cautioned on Sunday it remained unclear how Russia might react to the latest battlefield setbacks in Ukraine and called for increased vigilance among U.S. troops as he visited a base in Poland aiding Ukraine's war effort, Reuters reported.

The remarks by U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were a reminder of the risks of the conflict intensifying as the United States and its NATO allies aid Ukraine from a distance and Kyiv wages a so-far successful counter-offensive against Russian forces.

"The war is not going too well for Russia right now. So it's incumbent upon all of us to maintain high states of readiness, alert," Milley said in Warsaw after the base visit.

Milley reviewed the base's air defenses, which include Patriot missile batteries that would be a last line of defense should Russia decide to attack the base - risking war with the U.S.-led NATO military alliance.

9:12 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised his country there would be no letup in the counteroffensive that has reclaimed towns and cities from Russian troops, as shelling continued Sunday across a wide stretch of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Zelenskyy ran through a list of towns that Ukraine has taken back in its lightning push across the northeast.

“Maybe now it seems to some of you that after a series of victories we have a certain lull," he said in his nightly video address. "But this is not a lull. This is preparation for the next series... Because Ukraine must be free — all of it.”

8:45 p.m.: In the northeastern corner of Ukraine, where the Russian army was pushed all the way back across the border into Russia after holding the area for months, there are still bodies on the battlefield, lying where they fell on farm fields or inside burned-out tanks. The Associated Press followed along with a small group of Ukrainian soldiers who braved artillery shells to collect the bodies – both Ukrainian and Russian – and to search for evidence of war crimes.

7:27 p.m.:

6:43 p.m.: The contingent of Ukrainian troops participating in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has returned home to help in the fighting against invading Russian troops, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Jacques Ndjoli, who serves on Congo's parliamentary defense committee, told the BBC that the Ukrainian withdrawal of some 250 troops represented a relatively serious loss to the mission.

When the withdrawal of Ukraine's aviation unit was announced in March, some diplomats warned it could leave the U.N. mission seriously short of helicopters.

Ukraine had eight helicopters in the mission, about one-third of the total U.N. fleet there.

The Congo is battling various rebel groups based in the thick forests in the eastern regions of the African nation.

Ukraine has pulled troops out of other U.N. peacekeeping missions since Russia’s full-scale invasion was launched in February.

5:17 p.m.:

4:33 p.m.: A funeral ceremony was held for a Ukrainian soldier who was an active participant in the 2014 Maidan revolution and was killed a few days ago during fighting with Russian troops in the northeastern city of Izium, The Associated Press reported.

Roman Khosenko's relatives and friends, Ukrainian soldiers and others attended the ceremony, which was held at Independence Square in Kyiv.

"He was a very purposeful young man who was a volunteer at heart and a very skilled military man on the outside," said Mykola, 40, a Ukrainian soldier who knew Khosenko, nicknamed Yashka.

They both were fighting as volunteers in 2014.

Mykola said that they were not together when Khosenko was killed, but he knew he was in Izium when an aerial bomb hit a shelter he was in.

3:45 p.m.: Britain's Princess of Wales met Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, at Buckingham Palace on Sunday, a day before the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth, Reuters reported.

Zelenska will represent Ukraine in the absence of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Monday at Westminster Abbey, where scores of world leaders will join King Charles and the rest of Britain's royal family for the service.

Catherine and her husband, William, were given the titles Princess and Prince of Wales, respectively, after William's father, Charles, ascended the throne 10 days ago.

3:15 p.m.: The First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, is in tears as she visits Westminster Hall where The Queen is Lying-in-State.

3:10 p.m.: Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia has intensified and widened attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure after Moscow suffered battlefield setbacks as part of Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the east and south of the country. “As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government," the ministry said in its September 18 intelligence update. RFE/RL reports, the comments come after the Ukrainian military has made dramatic gains in its effort to recapture territory occupied by Russian forces since early in the war.

Kyiv has retaken control of hundreds of towns and villages in the Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country, while managing minor advances in the south near Kherson.

1:25 p.m.: After a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast of the country, the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin started is now being fought on his doorstep, just nine miles north of the Russia – Ukraine border with artillery strikes hitting military targets in Russia and Russian officials in cities and towns along the border ordering hasty evacuations, The Washington Post reports.

Russian citizens are starting to seriously feel the impact of the war directly is another new source of pressure on Putin, who returned home this weekend from a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan where he faced a remarkable public rebuke by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and questions about the war from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

1:15 p.m.: Saint Javelin doesn’t grace the stained-glass windows of any church. Her halo is a shade of yellow closer to that of sunflowers and wheat than the golden orb on a traditionally canonized saint. Instead of an infant, she tenderly cradles a Javelin — an American-made, handheld antitank missile, The Washington Post reports.

Saint Javelin is not a church-sanctioned saint, but in just a few months, she’s developed a robust following and she has raised over 1 million dollars for the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian invasion.

1:10 p.m.: According to Reuters, following a visit at a military base in Warsaw, US General Mark Milley cautioned that it was still unclear how Russia might react to the latest battlefield setbacks in Ukraine and called for vigilance among U.S. troops as he visited a base in Poland aiding Ukraine's war effort. He called for increased vigilance. "The war is not going too well for Russia right now. So, it's incumbent upon all of us to maintain high states of readiness, alert," he said.

12:30 p.m.: Uklraine’s Kharkiv counteroffensive surprised the Russian military. Ukraine deliberately deceived Russian forces about its military maneuvers. Watch RFE/RL for the whole story.

11:25 a.m: As new evidence emerges of war crimes by the Russian military Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, said to ABC News Sunday that "It's so important for everyone to see the true face of this aggression and the terrorist attack Russia is waging.” In an interview with ABC "This Week" Markarova said, "It's tortures, rapes, killings. War crimes of massive proportions."

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin and pop singer Alla Pugacheva pose for a photo during an awards ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin, Dec. 22, 2014.
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin and pop singer Alla Pugacheva pose for a photo during an awards ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin, Dec. 22, 2014.

11 a.m.: Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, hugely popular since Soviet times, says she wants to be placed on Russia’s foreign agents list in solidarity with her husband who has been designated as one. The statement by Pugacheva on Instagram on Sunday is a notable slap from a prominent figure at Russian authorities, who have stifled dissent in recent years. Pugacheva’s husband, singer and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, has criticized Russia’s sending troops into Ukraine. He was added to the foreign agents register on Saturday by the justice ministry for allegedly conducting political activities on behalf of Ukraine and receiving Ukrainian funding. The term carries a strong pejorative sense and implies additional government scrutiny, The Associated Press reports.

10:05 a.m.: According to the Vatican News Service, Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, a top Vatican envoy and his entourage came under fire while distributing supplies near the city of Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine. There were no injuries. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t know where to run. Because it is not enough to run, you have to know where to go,” said the Polish-born cardinal, whose position makes charitable contributions in the name of the Pope, The Associated Press reports.

9:25 a.m.: Joy and trepidation, a Ukrainian couple said about returning to their hometown of Balakliia that Ukraine recaptured last week after six months of Russian occupation. Natalia Yelistratova and her husband were among the town’s residents who returned by a special train that was launched on September 14. As the train cut through misty woodland and passed destroyed buildings, most of the passengers sat in somber silence. Once in Balakliia, Yelistratova and her family walked through their war-torn town, home to 27,000, before the war. Their apartment block had minor damage from shelling.

A neighboring block's windows and balconies were smashed, and the facade pockmarked by shrapnel, Reuters reports.

"It’s as if we’re in Chernobyl. Nature has taken over," said her daughter, Olena Miroshnichenko. "No-one did anything, for half a year, nobody trimmed the grass and bushes. Everything is overgrown."

Nataliia Yelistratova with her husband Mykhailio and daughter Olena Miroshnychenko stand at a platform of a railway station after arrival to their hometown of Balakliia, which was recently liberated by the Ukrainian armed forces
Nataliia Yelistratova with her husband Mykhailio and daughter Olena Miroshnychenko stand at a platform of a railway station after arrival to their hometown of Balakliia, which was recently liberated by the Ukrainian armed forces

8:45 a.m.: Izium Mayor Valerii Marchenko said on Sunday that the exhumation works will continue for nearly two more weeks “because there are many burials” in the recently liberated city in Kharkiv Oblast.

8:35 a.m.: Prosecutors in an area of Ukraine where Russian forces recently retreated in after a Ukrainian counteroffensive are accusing Russia of torturing civilians in the Kharkiv region that was recently freed, The Associated Press reports.

In an online statement, prosecutors in the region said they found a basement where Russian forces allegedly tortured prisoners in the village of Kozacha Lopan, near the border with Russia.

In images they released, they showed a Russian military TA-57 telephone with additional wires and alligator clips attached to it. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of using the Soviet-era radio telephones as a power source to electrocute prisoners during interrogation.

An Ukrainian serviceman stands in a basement which, according to Ukrainian authorities, was used as a torture cell during the Russian occupation, in the retaken village of Kozacha Lopan, Sept. 17, 2022.
An Ukrainian serviceman stands in a basement which, according to Ukrainian authorities, was used as a torture cell during the Russian occupation, in the retaken village of Kozacha Lopan, Sept. 17, 2022.

Russian shelling hit cities and towns across a wide stretch of Ukraine during the night, officials said Sunday, while the British defense ministry warned that Russia is likely to increase its attacks on civilian targets as it suffers battlefield defeats.

“In the last seven days, Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure even where it probably perceives no immediate military effect,” the ministry said in an online briefing. “As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government."

Overnight shelling also hit a hospital in the city of Mykolaiv, a significant Black Sea port, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said. He said there was also shelling in other parts of the region, and two people were wounded, The Associated Press reports.

6:30 a.m.:

6 a.m.: Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has urged people to allow authorities to restore security measures to newly liberated settlements in the Kharkiv region as shelling continues in the area, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

5:20 a.m.:

4:30 a.m.: Vlada and Kostyantin Liberov were among the first civilians to enter the territory of Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region behind the successful lightning counteroffensive that sent the occupying Russian forces reeling in retreat.

“In our conversations with locals, it seemed the occupation was bearable,” Vlada said in a dual video interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service. “They were all very happy to see their homes returned to their native country, to hear Ukrainian again. They really are -- and we saw this with our own eyes -- greeting Ukrainian soldiers with tears of joy.”

Before Russia launched its massive, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Liberovs worked as wedding photographers and photography instructors in the Black Sea port city of Odesa. Since then, however, they have traveled the country to document the war. Their photographs have appeared on the social media pages of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and elsewhere. Read their story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

3:26 a.m.:

1:26 a.m.: By all accounts except the Kremlin’s, Russia is struggling with military manpower shortages as its invasion of Ukraine continues in its seventh month.

Western estimates say Russia may have suffered 25,000 combat fatalities and as many as 80,000 total casualties so far in fighting that has achieved none of the Kremlin’s stated objectives.

Moscow, though, has shied away from declaring war and mobilizing its full military reserves, most likely out of fear of the domestic political consequences that could arise from sending men from urban areas or the professional classes into combat. Instead, Russia has relied largely on contract soldiers recruited from remote and impoverished regions. Read the full story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

12:20 a.m.: The Joint Coordination Center (JCC) reports Saturday that 11 vessels carrying a total of 280,161 metric tons of grain and other food products left Ukrainian ports over the last two days under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The five vessels that began their outbound voyage on Friday, are:

  • Breeze from Odesa to Hamburg, Germany, carrying 47,200 metric tons of rapeseed.
  • Annabella from Chornomorsk to Constanţa, Romania, carrying 8,500 metric tons of rapeseed.
  • CS Cihan from Odesa to Egypt, carrying 6,400 metric tons of soya beans.
  • Navin Vulture from Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, to Piraeus, Greece, carrying 7,500 metric tons of corn and barley.
  • Octopus from Yuzhny/Pivdennyi to Constanţa, Romania, carrying 6,500 metric tons of corn.

The six vessels that began their outbound voyage on Saturday, are:

  • Horus from Chornomorsk to China carrying 53,012 metric tons of sunflower meal and 9,694 metric tons of barley.
  • Baroness from Chornomorsk to Ravenna, Italy, carrying 30,900 metric tons of wheat.
  • Ikaria Angel from Chornomorsk to Djibouti, carrying 30,000 metric tons of wheat.
  • Velvet Rose from Chornomorsk to Nantong, China, carrying 29,350 metric tons of sunflower meal.
  • Gozo from Odesa to Spain, carrying 26,000 metric tons of wheat.
  • Pacific Rose from Yuzhny/Pivdennyi to Porto Marghera, Italy, carrying 20,000 metric tons of soya beans and 5,105 metric tons of corn.

Destinations indicated are based on information received at the JCC and may change based on commercial activity. Grains that reach a destination may go through processing and be trans-shipped to other countries.

As of Saturday, the total tonnage of grain and other foodstuffs exported from the three Ukrainian ports is 3,539,257 metric tons. A total of 339 voyages (184 inbound and 155 outbound) have been enabled so far.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.

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