September 6, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Chris Lau, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:46 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023
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4:39 a.m. ET, September 6, 2023

Top Ukrainian commander reports "difficult" situation on the eastern front

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A Ukranian soldier takes up a position near Bakhmut, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on Monday, September 4.
A Ukranian soldier takes up a position near Bakhmut, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on Monday, September 4. Libkos/AP

Fierce fighting is raging near Bakhmut as Ukrainian forces try to drive entrenched Russian troops out of the hotspot city on the "difficult" eastern front, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces said Wednesday.

Bakhmut was captured by Russian forces in May but Ukrainian forces have made slight progress to the south and northwest of the city in recent weeks.

The overall situation on the eastern front "remains difficult," Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a statement on Telegram.

“The enemy is not abandoning its plans to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, stubbornly preparing to take revenge and seize the operational initiative,” he said.

Near Kupiansk in northeastern Ukraine, Russia is “finalizing the preparation of assault units and firing at Ukraine’s positions with artillery and mortars on a daily basis,” Syrskyi said.

Russia is also replenishing its troops in the Lyman area, about 25 miles north of Bakhmut, he said.

The Ukrainian military’s main tasks are to hold its positions near Kupiansk and Lyman, and advance on the Bakhmut front, he added.

2:50 a.m. ET, September 6, 2023

Kyiv repels Russian missile attack, officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Smoke rises in the sky over the city after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on September 6.
Smoke rises in the sky over the city after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on September 6. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Ukraine's air defenses rebuffed a Russian missile attack on Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. 

In a Telegram post, the Kyiv city military administration said all cruise missiles and presumed ballistic missiles fired by Russia were destroyed.

No casualties were reported and fires caused by missile fragments have been extinguished, Ukraine's State Emergency Service said.

1:27 a.m. ET, September 6, 2023

At least 1 killed as Russian drones target Ukraine's Danube ports

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

An agricultural worker was killed and grain infrastructure damaged after Russian drones attacked a Danube River port, a Ukrainian official said Wednesday.

In a Telegram post, Oleh Kiper, chief of the Odesa region military administration, said several settlements were hit in the attack on Izmail district.

Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukrainian shipping infrastructure since it pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in July. The accord’s collapse pushed up global food prices and fueled fears that the world’s poorest countries would struggle to feed their populations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkey's leader Tayyip Erdogan on Monday amid efforts to bring Moscow back into the critical deal, but no major breakthroughs came from the meeting.

12:01 a.m. ET, September 6, 2023

It's early in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest headlines here

From CNN staff

US officials are urging North Korea to cease any arms negotiations with Russia amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss a potential deal to supply Moscow with weapons for its war in Ukraine.

The US National Security Council said Monday that arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are "actively advancing," after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang in July in an attempt to convince it to sell artillery ammunition to Moscow.

Russia has declined to comment on the claim.

Here's what you need to know about Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • US warns North Korea: US officials say Pyongyang will "pay a price" if it strikes an arms deal with Moscow. Any sale of weapons to Russia is "not going to reflect well on North Korea and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a press briefing Tuesday. He did not elaborate on the potential repercussions for North Korea, which is already under sanctions imposed over its weapons of mass destruction program.
  • On the ground: Ukrainian forces are trying to expand their gains around the southeastern Zaporizhzhia village of Robotyne after they were able to breach Russian defenses, according to Ukrainian sources. Efforts are now focused on widening the bridgehead, with fighting near Verbove, a few kilometers to the east.
  • Frontline visit: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited combat brigades in the eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday, his office said in a statement. He discussed the needs of the unit, including "provision of artillery shells, missiles for the frontline air defense systems, evacuation vehicles and electronic warfare equipment," it said.
  • Russian aircraft covered: Russian forces have started covering some of their attack aircraft with car tires, which experts say could be a makeshift attempt to protect them from Ukrainian drone strikes. Satellite imagery from Maxar of Engels Airbase, deep inside Russia, shows two Tu-95 strategic bombers with car tires on top of the airframes. CNN could not independently verify why the tires were placed on the aircraft.
  • British tank destroyed : Footage purportedly recorded near the village of Robotyne in southern Ukraine shows what a Western source said is a recently destroyed UK-donated Challenger 2 tank. It's the first known instance of a Challenger 2 being destroyed on the battlefield since the UK provided Ukraine with the capability earlier this year.
  • Billionaire accused: The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has accused Ukrainian-born Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman of financing Russia's war. He's the chairman of Alfa Group, a private conglomerate operating primarily in Russia and former Soviet states that spans banking, insurance, retail and mineral water production. Fridman declined to comment on the SBU’s accusations.
9:03 p.m. ET, September 5, 2023

Belarus stops its citizens from renewing passports overseas

From CNN’s Julia Kesaieva

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree that would prevent its citizens from renewing their passports from outside the country, the presidential office said on Tuesday.

The decree outlines which notarial acts are allowed be performed by diplomatic missions of Belarus. The list does not include renewing or issuing new passports.

At least 200,000 to 500,000 people have fled Belarus since a government crackdown that followed Lukashenko’s disputed re-election in August 2020, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

"We're working with host countries to solve the situation & preparing the New Belarus passport," Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya posted on social media. "While the state abandons its duty to care for its citizens, we won't!”

What Minsk says: The decree intends to improve “the order of administrative procedures and optimizing the activities of diplomatic missions and consular offices of Belarus,” a statement from the presidential office said.

The decree does not go into effect until published by the presidential office.

10:41 p.m. ET, September 5, 2023

North Korea would "pay a price" for any arms deal with Russia, US warns

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

US officials have warned North Korea it will “pay a price” if it strikes an arms deal with Russia, after saying that negotiations were “advancing” between the two nations.

If Pyongyang provides weapons to Moscow to use in the war against Ukraine, it is “not going to reflect well on North Korea and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a press briefing on Tuesday.

Sullivan did not elaborate on the potential repercussions for North Korea, which is already under United Nations and US sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction program.

“We have continued to convey privately as well as publicly to the North Koreans — and asked allies and partners to do the same — our view that they should abide by their publicly stated commitments that they’re not going to provide these weapons,” Sullivan said.

On Monday, the National Security Council claimed arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are “actively advancing,” after Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang in July in an attempt to convince it to sell artillery ammunition.

The council’s spokesperson Adrienne Watson said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expects “discussions to continue,” including “leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia,” but did not say when or where a potential meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia might take place.

CNN has asked the Russian embassy in Washington for comment. The Kremlin declined to comment on the claim, with a spokesperson saying on Tuesday: “We have nothing to say on the subject.”

Read the full story here.

5:12 a.m. ET, September 6, 2023

Video appears to show destroyed British tank in Ukraine, source says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

A screengrab from a video posted on social media and allegedly recorded near Robotyne, Ukraine, purportedly shows a recently-destroyed UK-donated Challenger 2 tank.
A screengrab from a video posted on social media and allegedly recorded near Robotyne, Ukraine, purportedly shows a recently-destroyed UK-donated Challenger 2 tank. From Social Media

Video footage purportedly recorded near the village of Robotyne in southern Ukraine, and posted on social media shows what a Western source says is a recently destroyed UK-donated Challenger 2 tank. 

The tank was being used as part of Ukraine's counteroffensive arsenal, according to the source. 

The video, seemingly filmed from a civilian vehicle, shows a destroyed tank as the car drives through a war-torn road. CNN could not independently verify where the footage was recorded.

“It is a Challenger 2,” a source, who is associated with the West and has knowledge of the battlefield, told CNN on background.

The source added that the crew of the tank “survived the initial attack on the vehicle.” The source spoke on the condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media on the record about sensitive battlefield logistics.

“It’s a testament to the quality and the level of these capabilities, compared to Soviet equipment Ukraine was using before,” the source added. 

This is the first known instance of a Challenger 2 tank being destroyed on the battlefield since the UK provided Ukraine with the capability earlier this year.

8:47 p.m. ET, September 5, 2023

Russia covers aircraft with car tires, potentially to protect them from Ukrainian drones

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Gianluca Mezzofiore

Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies
Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Russian forces have started covering some of their attack aircraft with car tires, which experts say could be a makeshift attempt to protect them from Ukrainian drone strikes.

Satellite imagery from Maxar of Engels Airbase, deep inside Russia, shows two Tu-95 strategic bombers with car tires on top of the airframes. 

CNN could not independently verify why the tires were placed on the aircraft, but experts say it could be a crude attempt at not only adding another layer of protection against Ukrainian drones but also to reduce the aircrafts' visibility, especially at night.

Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies
Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

The makeshift attempt may have limited effect in terms of mitigating damage, according to Francisco Serra-Martins of drone manufacturer One Way Aerospace, whose drones have been used by Ukrainian forces.

"It may reduce the thermal signature for exposed strategic aviation assets placed on airfield aprons, but they will still be observable under infrared cameras," he told CNN.

Steffan Watkins, an open-source research consultant who tracks aircraft and ships, said while the move "seems pretty goofy," Russian forces appear "to be trying to do the best they can to up-armor the planes that are otherwise sitting ducks."

"Whether it works depends on what the warhead is on the missile/drone," he said, adding that the tires could be used to stop fragmentation of an airburst above the plane from piercing the aircraft.

Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies
Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

A NATO military official told CNN the alliance had seen the makeshift attempt. 

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

“We believe it's meant to protect against drones,” a NATO military official told CNN. “We don't know if this will have any effect.”

11:05 p.m. ET, September 5, 2023

Ukraine accuses Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman of financing invasion

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Charles Riley

Mikhail Fridman attends a conference of the Israeli Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, on September 17, 2019.
Mikhail Fridman attends a conference of the Israeli Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, on September 17, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Reuters

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has accused Ukrainian-born Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman of financing Russia's war against Ukraine.

Fridman is chairman of Alfa Group, a private conglomerate operating primarily in Russia and former Soviet states that spans banking, insurance, retail and mineral water production. He has a net worth of $11.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. Fridman is also chairman of Alfa Bank, Russia’s fourth-biggest financial services firm and its largest private bank.

Alfa Bank was hit last week by sanctions that will prevent it from raising money through the US market. Fridman is one of the few Russian oligarchs who have spoken out against Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the beginning days of the war, he called the conflict a "tragedy" for both Ukrainians and Russians.

The SBU made the following claims in a statement:

  • Since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Fridman has “poured” around 2 billion rubles (about $20 million) into several military factories in Russia, including the Tula Cartridge Plant, which produces ammunition for the army, and the Urals Optical-Mechanical Plant, which produces high-tech equipment for combat aircraft and helicopters.
  • He uses the assets of the Alfa Group for the mass distribution of dry rations, clothing and other products under the trademark “Russian Army,” which are supplied to the military. 
  • He organized the collection of material and technical assistance for the needs of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.
  • His insurance companies are carrying out insurance for military equipment, as well as life and health insurance for Russian soldiers.

Investigators have notified Fridman of the allegations "on the basis of collected evidence," the statement added.

"The suspect is currently hiding from justice abroad. Comprehensive measures are underway to bring him to justice. The perpetrator faces up to 8 years in prison with confiscation of property," it said.

CNN reached out to Fridman, who declined to comment on the SBU’s accusations.