September 8, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Christian Edwards, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 7:22 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023
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5:26 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Women who have medical education must register for military service, says Ukraine

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Ukrainian women who have medical education must register at military enlistment offices starting October 1, the country’s Armed Forces said in a Facebook post Thursday.

“All medical women, these are doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, pharmacists, ages 18 to 60, will be required to register for military service starting October 1,” Ukraine's Armed Forces said, in accordance with a decree with Ukraine's defense ministry.

The statement added that eligibility will be determined “by the diploma and by the actual place of work.”

“Such women perform military duty on an equal footing with men. The legislation does not distinguish between women and men conscripted into the military,” the Armed Forces said. 

This means that these women, like Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60, will have to remain in Ukraine as they “may be called up for military service,” according to the Armed Forces. 

"If they (women) are on the register, then they acquire the status of conscripts. And conscripts leave abroad according to the order established for them. That is, if there are separate documents that give the right for a temporary departure -- then yes, they will be able to leave. If not, then they, like men, will be limited in their right to leave," Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Ukraine's parliament who is on the National Security Committee, said in an interview with Ukrainian news outlet RBC on Thursday. 

Pregnant women, current students or women with certain medical conditions will be exempt from service.

4:46 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

About 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war have been tortured, says Ukraine’s prosecutor general

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Items are seen inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians in Kherson, Ukraine, on November 16, 2022.
Items are seen inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians in Kherson, Ukraine, on November 16, 2022. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Roughly 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war have been subjected to torture, rape, threats of sexual violence or other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment, according to recent estimates, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin said Thursday.

Ukraine found “evidence of these horrors in all the liberated territories,” Kostin said, during a meeting with Alice Kill Edwards, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

“In Kherson region alone, 11 torture chambers have been recorded. In Kharkiv region, investigations are open into almost 100 cases of torture, where more than 700 victims have been identified," he said. 

Kostin noted that 156 suspects have been identified in cases involving various forms of torture, adding that indictments have been sent to court against 114 of these suspects.

The suspects include “Russian military personnel and representatives of the occupying authorities,” according to Kostin.

35 people have been convicted of torture and cruel treatment as war crimes, he said.

Kostin called on the world community “to destroy the Russian torture machine and ensure the punishment of each of its participants.” 

Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of torture and human rights abuses in Ukraine – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, which has been investigated and brought to light by international human rights organizations and media outlets. Russian officials have not yet commented on the latest report.

4:20 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Seeking a breakthrough: A visual guide to Ukraine’s counteroffensive

From CNN's Lou Robinson, Sophie Tanno, Tim Lister and Byron Manle

Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been underway for months, but the country’s hopes of a rapid and decisive breakthrough have long faded.

Kyiv launched the campaign aiming to recapture Russian-seized territory, especially in the south. But while there is a renewed sense of optimism, gains have been marginal and won at great cost.

As Ukrainian forces probe for vulnerabilities in Russian defenses, Moscow too is seeking to make gains, and has been trying to advance toward the city of Kupiansk, a city it seized early on in the war before losing it a year ago.

While it is impossible to get an exact, real-time picture of the situation on the ground, CNN has been taking a look at the key battles of the latest phase of the war.

The conflict so far: While Ukraine has struggled in its counteroffensive, it is important to remember the war is nowhere near where Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wanted it to be either.

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it hoped to sweep across the country and topple the government in a matter of days.

Those goals floundered due to a combination of Russian hubris and stronger than expected Ukrainian resistance. After seeing Putin quickly withdraw his forces from around Kyiv and elsewhere in northern Ukraine, the rest of the year saw significant victories for Ukraine in the Kharkiv region to the east and the Kherson region to the south.

This year has been different: Troops from both sides have been bogged down in a slow-moving conflict with no clear end in sight. The current fighting is focused on Ukraine’s south and east, with Ukrainian forces struggling to break through defensive lines Russia had months to prepare. Success means capturing a village rather than an entire city.

Here's a full view of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

5:19 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Russia is "weaponizing food, hurting the most vulnerable," says EU Council president

From CNN’s Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Charles Michel attends a press briefing ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, on September 8.
Charles Michel attends a press briefing ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, on September 8. Amit Dave/Reuters

Russia is “weaponizing food" and "hurting the most vulnerable," European Union Council President Charles Michel said Friday.

“Russia must allow ships with much needed grain to navigate in the Black Sea. The EU is providing alternative export routes through our Solidarity Lanes," Michel said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

His comments were made in a press conference held in the Indian capital New Delhi on Friday, ahead of the G20 Summit due to take place this weekend.

Michel described Russia’s termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July as “scandalous.”

“Over 250 million people face acute food insecurity worldwide and by deliberately attacking Ukraine’s ports, the Kremlin is depriving them of the food they desperately need," he said.
"It’s frankly scandalous that Russia after having terminated the Black Sea Grain Initiative is blocking and attacking Ukrainian sea ports. This must stop."

Michel also called the Kremlin's offer to deliver 1 million metric tons of grain to Africa "absolutely cynical" in comparison to the 32 million metric tons of grain delivered to international markets led by the United Nations.

He added that the EU is stepping up to provide alternative export routes and have so far delivered 41 million metric tons of grain.

Some context: Ukraine has been exploring alternative shipping routes after Russia pulled out of a deal in July that allowed Ukrainian ships to navigate safe passage through the Black Sea to Turkey's Bosphorus Strait in order to reach global markets.

Ukraine has submitted an official proposal to Turkey to operate a "grain corridor" in the Black Sea without Russia's participation, Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said Thursday.

Ukraine has also already started shipping grain through Croatian seaports, a top official said on Thursday.

2:44 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

1 injured in Russian missile attack in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

At least one person was injured following Russian missile strikes in Ukraine's southeastern Zaporizhzhia Friday morning, according to Yuri Malashko, head of the region's military administration.

The blast waves had "damaged windows in multi-story buildings and educational institutions," said Anatolii Kurtev, Secretary of the Zaporizhzhia City Council.

Emergency services are at the site, both officials said. 

2:26 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Ukraine destroys 16 drones targeting Odesa, air force says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Ukraine’s air force said it destroyed 16 drones heading toward the southern port city of Odesa in the early hours of Friday. 

A total of 20 Shahed drones were launched in the direction of Odesa region, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement on Telegram.

“Anti-aircraft missile units, fighter aircraft, mobile fire groups of the Air Force, and air defense of other components of the Ukrainian Defense Forces were used to repel the attack," it said.

The Odesa region has come under heavy fire in recent weeks by Russian forces, mainly targeting port facilities used for food exports, with Ukrainian officials accusing the Kremlin of trying to create a “food crisis” with the attacks.

2:14 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Cuba arrests 17 people linked to Russian trafficking network recruiting Cubans for war in Ukraine 

From CNNE’s Gerardo Lemos in London

Cuban authorities arrested 17 people linked to a human trafficking network operating from Russia that is allegedly recruiting Cuban citizens to fight with Moscow's military forces in Ukraine, Cuban state media reported Thursday, citing the Ministry of the Interior.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the human trafficking network had been dismantled, according to Cuba Debate in Havana.

Colonel César Rodríguez, from the interior ministry's General Directorate of Criminal Investigation, reportedly said the network’s traffickers were looking for people with criminal records. 

On Monday, the Cuban foreign ministry said it had uncovered the network, which was trafficking Cubans living in Russia and “even some in Cuba," to be “incorporated into the military forces taking part in the war in Ukraine."

At the time the ministry gave few details about the alleged trafficking operations, but said that authorities were working to “neutralize and dismantle” the network.

Cuba stressed in its statement earlier this week that it “is not part of the war in Ukraine.” The Kremlin has not commented on the allegations.

Some context: Cuba was a major ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and relations between Havana and Moscow have remained cozy since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Cuba has been a staunch defender of Russia’s war on the country, blaming the US and NATO for the conflict.

As Cuba grapples with its worse economic crisis in decades, Russia has supplied the communist-run island with badly needed food and shipments of crude oil. Since the war began the two nations have signed a flurry of agreements promising increased Russian foreign investment in Cuba.

12:32 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Analysis: Why Russia’s failures in Ukraine could be a win for North Korea

Analysis from CNN's Brad Lendon

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Getty Images

Russia’s failures on the battlefield in Ukraine could turn into a win for North Korea.

That’s the view of analysts who say a possible meeting between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin could lead to Pyongyang getting its hands on the sort of weapons two decades’ worth of United Nations’ sanctions have barred it from accessing.

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

The US also believes there could be a Putin-Kim meeting in the near future.

Should it materialize, such a meeting would come after more than a year and a half of war in Ukraine has left the Russian military battered, depleted and in need of supplies. 

It would also come after 17 years of UN sanctions aimed at hampering North Korea’s ability to build a fully functioning nuclear weapons and ballistic missile force.

“This [meeting] is a very significant development if it goes forward,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “Russia has the military technology that Kim wants for his illegal satellite launch and nuclear weapons delivery programs.”

Read more here.

12:01 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Ukraine claims small gains in South as Kyiv seeks Black Sea grain deal without Russia. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

Ukraine has submitted an official proposal to Turkey to operate a "grain corridor" in the Black Sea without Russia's participation, Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said Thursday.

Bodnar noted in an interview with Ukrainian media that cargo vessels are already sailing through the territorial waters of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey without restrictions. And a top official said Thursday that Ukraine has started shipping grain through Croatian seaports.

Ukraine has been exploring alternative shipping routes after Russia pulled out of a deal in July that allowed Ukrainian ships to navigate safe passage through the Black Sea to Turkey's Bosphorus Strait in order to reach global markets.

Also, UK insurance firm Lloyd's of London is in discussion with the United Nations to provide coverage for shipments if a new Black Sea grain corridor agreement can be reached, CEO John Neal told Reuters

Here's the top headlines:

  • Depleted uranium munitions: The US has decided to send controversial depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine for the first time, as part of a new aid package worth more than $1 billion announced Wednesday. The US Defense Department is pushing back against Russian claims that the rounds would cause an increase in cancer and other diseases. A spokesperson said that the munitions are “standard-issue” antitank rounds used with the Abrams tanks that the US is sending to Ukraine.
  • Ukraine claims further marginal gains: Accounts from the front lines in southern Ukraine suggest further incremental gains for Ukrainian forces amid constant artillery, mortar and rocket fire from both sides. Geolocated videos show a wasteland of shell holes, abandoned trenches and wrecked military hardware in the area between Robotyne, Verbove and Novoprokopivka — a triangle of villages that hold the key for Ukrainians to getting closer to Tokmak, an important hub for Russian defenses.
  • Russia says it intercepted 2 drones: Russian air defense systems intercepted two drones over the country's southwestern region of Bryansk on Thursday. One of the drones, which was aimed at an "industrial facility" in the city of Bryansk, "was suppressed by the electronic warfare," the region's governor, Alexander Bogomaz, said in a post on Telegram.
  • Russian embassy staff in North Korea: 20 new diplomats and staff members arrived at the Russian embassy in North Korea as part of a personnel rotation, according to a Facebook post from the embassy. It comes amid US reports that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un may meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia to discuss an arms deal. These staffers are the first to join the embassy since the height of the Covid pandemic.
  • Explosion in Rostov-on-Don: A drone attack caused an explosion near Russia’s military headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don on Thursday, as Kyiv continues a campaign of strategic aerial strikes in Russian territory. Rostov-on-Don is in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border and was briefly occupied by Wagner troops during the group’s brief rebellion against the Kremlin earlier this year.