August 23, 2023 Russia-Ukraine, Prigozhin news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Caolán Magee, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sophie Tanno, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 11:11 p.m. ET, August 24, 2023
11 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:17 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Top Russian general who vanished after Wagner rebellion fired as head of aerospace forces

From CNN’s Anna Chernova 

General  Sergei Surovikin appears in this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on November 9, 2022.
General Sergei Surovikin appears in this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on November 9, 2022. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP

Gen. Sergey Surovikin, the former leader of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine, has been dismissed from his position as the head of Russia's aerospace forces, state media reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.  

Surovikin - known in Russia as "General Armageddon" due to allegations of his brutality - has not been seen in public since the short-lived mutiny led by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in June, fueling unconfirmed rumors of his detention. 

Documents shared exclusively with CNN in June suggest that Surovikin was among at least 30 other senior Russian military and intelligence officials who were secret VIP members of Wagner. 

As reported by RIA Novosti, Surovikin has been replaced by Gen. Viktor Afzalov, Chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces. 

"The ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia, Sergey Surovikin, has now been relieved of his post. Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov, Chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces, is temporarily acting as Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces," an unnamed source told RIA. 

The news of Surovikin's removal was initially reported by prominent Russian journalist and former head of the now-closed Echo of Moscow radio station, Alexey Venediktov. 

The journalist posted on his Telegram channel on Tuesday that Surovikin had been relieved of his post but would continue serving the Ministry of Defense in another capacity. 

According to sources cited by Russia’s business news outlet RBC, Surovikin's removal is due to a transfer to a different role, and states that he is currently on a short vacation. 

Surovikin’s official bio on the Russian defense ministry’s website still lists him as the head of the aerospace forces. 

CNN has reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment. 

Surovikin was made overall commander for Russian military operations in Ukraine last October. In January, the role was reassigned to Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Surovikin was made one of his three deputies.

4:50 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Lithuanian President visits Kyiv ahead of Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Niamh Kennedy

President Gitanas Nausėda of Lithuania arrived in Kyiv ahead of the Ukraine’s Independence Day.
President Gitanas Nausėda of Lithuania arrived in Kyiv ahead of the Ukraine’s Independence Day. X (formerly known as Twitter)/Gitanas Nausėda

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda is visiting Ukraine ahead of the country's Independence Day celebrations on Thursday.

Lithuania has been a strong supporter of Ukraine since the start of the war and has pushed for a robust response to counter Russia.

In a post Wednesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, Nausėda shared a photo of himself arriving in Kyiv via train.

“Back in Kyiv to celebrate Ukraine's Independence Day together with the brotherly Ukrainian nation. Ukraine's victory is near!” he wrote.

Ukrainians will commemorate the country's 1991 declaration of independence Thursday, a year after Kyiv banned celebrations over fears of potential Russian attacks.

2:27 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Russian drone attack damages grain storage and shipping facility near Danube River, Ukraine says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russia launched a drone attack on a grain storage and cargo vessel shipping facility near the Danube River in Ukraine's southern Odesa region, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday.

In a Telegram post, Odesa City Council said firefighters contained the resulting blaze but the attack damaged a production and transshipment complex.

No casualties were reported, regional military chief Oleh Kiper said.

Some context: Small ports on the Danube have become vital for Ukrainian grain exports following the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal last month. Ukrainian officials say Russian forces are deliberately targeting port infrastructure on the river, as part of efforts to block the exports — posing a threat to food security in developing nations that rely on Ukrainian grain.

4:58 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Moscow airports operating normally after foiled Ukrainian drone attack, Russian officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A woman inspects the damage sustained to a building at the Moscow International Business Center following a drone attack in Moscow, Russia, on August 23.
A woman inspects the damage sustained to a building at the Moscow International Business Center following a drone attack in Moscow, Russia, on August 23. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Airports in the Moscow region are operating normally after flights were temporarily restricted Wednesday "to ensure the safety of civil aircraft," the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport said.

"Due to the restriction of airspace use, two airplanes left for alternate airports. Passengers of these flights were delivered to the airports of destination," the agency said.

Earlier, Russia's defense ministry said it had thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack, the latest in a string of aerial assaults targeting the Russian capital that have disrupted flights and brought the war home to Russians.

2:08 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Russia bombs kindergarten in Kherson, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Six people were injured after Russian forces dropped guided bombs on a kindergarten and residential buildings in Ukraine's southern Kherson city, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday.

"The attack caused a fire, which was quickly extinguished by firefighters," said Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration.

Kherson, a city of some 300,000 people before Russia's invasion, was captured by Russian forces in March last year. The frontline city was liberated by Ukrainian forces about eight months later and since come under repeated Russian attacks.

12:00 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

It's morning in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

International support for Ukraine is pouring in on the heels of a Ukraine-Balkans summit held in Athens, Greece.

Ten Balkan and European countries signed a joint declaration to express their support for Ukraine on Tuesday.

On the sidelines of the summit in Athens, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said his country — which has long tried to tread the line between its historical ties to Russia and a potential future of closer European integration — respects Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Meanwhile back in Kyiv, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren assured in a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart that the Netherlands will remain a loyal partner of Ukraine and will continue providing support.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is returning home "with new political support and new agreements," after concluding his trip through Europe. 

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • Moscow on edge: Russian air defenses thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow early Wednesday, Russia's defense ministry said, the latest in a string of aerial assaults targeting the Russian capital. The alleged attack marks the fourth time in recent weeks that Moscow's financial district has been targeted by suspected Ukrainian drones, according to a CNN tally.
  • Black Sea drones: Two Ukrainian drones conducting reconnaissance near Crimea changed their course after Russia activated fighter jets to prevent a possible violation of the state border, Moscow's defense ministry said Tuesday. Earlier, the ministry said a Russian fighter jet destroyed a Ukrainian "reconnaissance boat" near a gas facility in the Black Sea. Recent Ukrainian attacks have brought the war to parts of the waterway that Moscow had previously considered beyond Kyiv's reach.
  • Deadly attacks: At least five people were killed and three others injured as a result of Russian shelling on Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to the region's military administration on Tuesday. Nearly half a million people remain in the Donetsk region as Ukraine continues evacuation efforts, according to Kyiv officials. 
  • Funding for Ukraine: US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday that President Joe Biden's administration is confident it’ll be able to secure additional funding for Ukraine, despite pushback from some House Republicans backing an amendment last month that would’ve stripped all Ukraine funding. Also, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday the US was “prepared to support” F-16 fighter pilot training for Ukrainian pilots in the continental US if needed.
  • Black Sea talks: Zelensky discussed alternate Black Sea routes and defense with the Croatian, Moldovan and North Macedonian leaders in Greece, according to his office. The talks come after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Also, leaders of Ukraine and Bulgaria discussed their countries’ cooperation on the Black Sea to secure a "grain corridor."
  • ICJ update: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hear Russia’s preliminary objections in the case concerning “Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” next month, the court said Tuesday. The public hearings will be held in the Hague between September 18 and 27 and will include oral arguments by Russia, Ukraine and 32 intervening states.
5:07 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023

Russia downs 3 drones over Moscow region, defense ministry says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Law enforcement officers stand next to a damaged building of the Moscow International Business Center following a drone attack in Moscow, Russia, on August 23.
Law enforcement officers stand next to a damaged building of the Moscow International Business Center following a drone attack in Moscow, Russia, on August 23. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Russian air defenses thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow early Wednesday, Russia's defense ministry said, the latest in a string of aerial assaults targeting the Russian capital.

"Two of the UAVs [...] were shot down over the territory of the Mozhaisky and Khimki districts of the Moscow region. A third was jammed before crashing into a building under construction in the Moscow City complex," the ministry said in a Telegram post.

There were no casualties, it said. 

CNN is unable to independently verify the ministry's claims. 

The alleged attack marks the fourth time in recent weeks that Moscow's financial district has been targeted by suspected Ukrainian drones, according to a CNN tally.

8:44 p.m. ET, August 22, 2023

Russian shelling kills at least 5 in Donetsk region, Ukrainian official says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

At least five people were killed and three others injured as a result of Russian shelling on Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to the region's military administration on Tuesday.

The shelling happened in the Lyman district, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration.

Three residents were killed while sitting on a bench near a home in the village of Torske, while another villager “suffered multiple chest, shoulder and hip injuries," according to the Donetsk regional prosecutor's office.

In the village of Zakitne, “a 26-year-old man suffered a skull fracture and a brain contusion,” the office said. 

The Russian shelling also killed two civilians and wounded another in Donetsk's Yampil settlement on Tuesday, Kyrylenko said in an interview with Ukrainian media. 

A total of 492,000 people remain in the Donetsk region as Ukraine continues evacuation efforts, according to Kyrylenko. 

8:42 p.m. ET, August 22, 2023

Russian jets force Ukrainian drones to change course near Crimea, Moscow says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Radina Gigova

Two Ukrainian drones conducting reconnaissance near Crimea changed course after Russia activated fighter jets to prevent a possible violation of the state border, Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday. 

In a statement, the ministry said the MQ-9 Reaper and TB2 Bayraktar drones "changed their flight direction and left the areas of aerial reconnaissance," after Russian jets were scrambled.

Earlier Tuesday, the defense ministry said Ukraine attempted a drone attack on facilities in Russia late Monday, but the drones were jammed by electronic warfare and crashed into the Black Sea northwest of Crimea.