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
5 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:02 p.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Ukraine says it has started exporting grain through Croatian seaports

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Mariya Knight

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

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.

"After all, Russia continues to launch missile strikes on the grain infrastructure on the Black Sea coast, which significantly limits the possibilities of domestic grain exports," Ukraine's Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said during the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bucharest.

"Ukrainian grain has already been exported through Croatian ports. Thank you for this opportunity. Although this trade route is niche, it is already popular," Svyrydenko added.

Earlier this month, Russian forces attacked Ukrainian port facilities on the Danube River used for food exports. 

"We are ready to develop it, expanding the possibilities of the transport corridor. We believe that this logistics route will play an important role in bilateral trade between our countries even after the war," according to Svyridenko.

Svyrydenko did not give further details on how much grain had already been shipped through Croatian seaports.

12:09 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Ukraine submits official proposal to Turkey to open grain corridor in Black Sea without Russia

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Yulia Kesaieva

Vasyl Bodnar speaks during an interview in Ankara, Turkiye on August 18.
Vasyl Bodnar speaks during an interview in Ankara, Turkiye on August 18. Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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.

Four vessels have passed through a temporary corridor since Ukraine's Naval Forces announced new temporary routes for civilian vessels moving to or from the Black Sea on August 10. This came after the United Nations-brokered grain deal broke down on July 16.

Bodnar said that Ukraine expects Ankara and Kyiv to communicate on the issue in the coming days or “within the framework of the UN General Assembly, in order to understand how to move forward.”

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Russia will be ready to consider reviving the grain deal “as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented.”

Bodnar called lifting restrictions against Russia "absolutely wrong path" and said that the international community “shouldn’t give into Russian blackmail.”

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said Thursday that the UN “continues to engage at all levels to make sure that both Ukrainian exports of food and fertilizer and Russian Federation exports of food and fertilizer can go out.” 

10:02 p.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Pentagon pushes back against Russian claims of depleted uranium munition health risks

From CNN's Michael Conte

The United States Defense Department is pushing back against Russian claims that the depleted uranium rounds that the US announced it would send Ukraine would cause an increase in cancer and other diseases.

“The CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated that there is no evidence that depleted uranium rounds cause cancer, the World Health Organization reports that there has been no increase of leukemia or other cancers that have been established following any exposure to uranium, or DU, and even the IAEA has stated unequivocally that there is no proven link between DU exposure and increases in cancers or significant health or environmental impacts,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Thursday.

Singh said that the munitions are “standard-issue” antitank rounds used with the Abrams tanks that the US is sending to Ukraine.

The new US military assistance package was announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken while he was in Kyiv on Wednesday. The depleted uranium munitions were part of the aid for the first time, a US official told CNN.

The munitions are mildly radioactive because they are made from dense metal, a byproduct from fuel production for nuclear power plants. They can be fired from the US-made Abrams tanks that are expected to arrive in Ukraine this fall.

“Many militaries across the world use depleted uranium in their tanks,” Singh said. “We feel that these will be the most effective rounds to counter Russian tanks.”

Singh said she would let the Ukrainians announce when the rounds have arrived.

Why is it controversial?: The International Atomic Energy Agency – the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog – has said that depleted uranium is “considerably less radioactive than natural uranium,” but urged caution when handling.

While depleted uranium does not significantly contribute to the background radiation that soldiers and civilians encounter, it can pose a danger if it enters the body. When depleted uranium munitions strike a tank’s armor, it can ignite and produce uranium dusts or aerosol particles, which, if inhaled, can enter the bloodstream and may cause kidney damage.

CNN's Christian Edwards and Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting to this post.

10:01 p.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Ukrainians claim further marginal gains amid intense combat in the south

From Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Yulia Kesaieva

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.

Here's where the situation stands in and around each of the three villages:

Novoprokopivka: There was an advance in this direction and Ukraine captured several Russian positions east of this settlement, according to an unofficial Telegram account of soldiers of the Ukrainian 46th separate airmobile brigade. "Currently, the success is being secured and counterattacks are being repelled,” the Telegram channel said Thursday, adding that the effort to capture the heights near Novoprokopivka is underway.

This area is just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) south of Robotyne.

Verbove: The 46th airmobile brigade suggested a harder fight around this area, saying there “was an attempt to gain ground to the north and northwest. Controlling the heights in these areas could strengthen the position of our units in the area of the settlement.”

The channel, which has frequently proven accurate in the past, said that Russian planes continue to bombard rear positions and artillery and drones on both sides were constantly working. In this situation, “it is hardly possible to expect a sharp change in the situation in anyone's favor in the near future,” the channel said.

Robotyne: Ukrainian forces "got Robotyne at a very high price. But the capture of this settlement opens the gates to Tokmak,” according to a soldier with the callsign "Bruce", commander of the 47th Brigade's reconnaissance unit.

“Bruce” added that then the road to the Sea of Azov would be open. “In my personal opinion, this will be the end. Because if we reach the Sea of Azov, both Crimea and the grouping of troops in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia directions will be surrounded, and this will be the end for Putin."

What's Russia saying: Russian-appointed official in control of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeniy Balitsky, gave a different account of the situation, claiming that Moscow's forces "inflicted massive fire damage" on Ukrainian forces, including loss of soldiers and equipment. A Russian military blogger also claimed that several enemy attacks had been repelled.

What does independent analysis show: "Ukrainian forces have advanced along the trench line west of Verbove,” the Institute for the Study of War says, citing geolocated footage. It also noted claims by Russian military bloggers that Ukrainian forces were now trying to break through in the direction of Novoprokopivka. 

10:01 p.m. ET, September 7, 2023

What you need to know about the depleted uranium munitions that the US is sending to Ukraine

From CNN's Christian Edwards and Natasha Bertrand

The United States 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 120mm rounds can be fired from the US-made Abrams M1 tanks and are set to arrive on Ukraine’s frontlines this fall, which both Washington and Kyiv hope will help Ukrainian forces to build on recent hard-earned gains in their ongoing counteroffensive.

But the munitions are mildly radioactive, raising queries about their safety and the risk they could pose to civilians, and drawing fierce criticism from Moscow.

Here’s what you need to know about depleted uranium munitions – and why their use has sparked questions.

What is it? Depleted uranium is what is left over when most of the highly radioactive isotopes of uranium have been stripped out of the metal for use in nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. It is far less radioactive than enriched uranium and unable to produce a nuclear reaction. But depleted uranium is extremely dense, making it a highly effective projectile. It has the ability to tear through the armor of enemy tanks, as it becomes sharper on impact with a target.

Why is it controversial? The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has urged caution when handling it. Citing studies done on the health of military personnel exposed to depleted uranium, the agency said that while depleted uranium does not significantly contribute to the background radiation that soldiers and civilians encounter, it can pose a danger if it enters the body. When depleted uranium munitions strike a tank’s armor, it can ignite and produce uranium dusts or aerosol particles, which, if inhaled, can enter the bloodstream and may cause kidney damage.

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh told CNN on Wednesday that the US is confident the Ukrainians would use the munitions responsibly.

Previous reporting from CNN’s Jessie Gretener and Darya Tarasova.