September 11, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 9:01 p.m. ET, September 11, 2023
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5:26 p.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Mitch McConnell presses for continued US support for Ukraine as GOP remains divided on aid

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the United States to continue to support Ukraine as the country defends itself from Russia and tries to take territory back.

"The United States isn't arming Ukraine out of its sense of charity. We're backing a fellow democracy because it is in our direct interest to do so," he said during floor remarks on Monday.

It comes as the White House is putting pressure on Congress to fulfill President Joe Biden’s supplemental funding request, which asks for more than $24 billion in additional funding to support Ukraine and $16 billion in disaster relief funds.

With lawmakers facing an end-of-the-month deadline to avoid a government shutdown, leaders in the Senate want to see the Ukraine aid and disaster relief funding tied to a short-term funding resolution. However, the GOP remains sharply divided on Ukraine aid as some hardliners in the House have demanded it be stripped out.

"Helping a democratic partner defend its sovereign territory against a provoked attack from a common enemy is obviously in America's interest. Let me stress, we aren't defending Ukraine from aggression. The Ukrainians are doing that," McConnell said.

“If critics of US support for Ukraine disparage the principle that we should oppose adversaries who invade and destroy Western-aligned neighbors, how credible — how credible — is their commitment to defend Taiwan or other allies?” he asked.

McConnell also commemorated the 22nd year since the September 11th attacks, saying they serve as a reminder “of our commitment to confront growing threats from global terror” and tied it to the need now to support Ukraine.

2:05 p.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Kremlin confirms North Korea leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia "in the coming days"

From CNN's Gawon Bae in Seoul, Anna Chernova and Darya Tarasova

The Kremlin has confirmed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia “in the coming days.”

“At the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Chairman of State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong Un will pay an official visit to Russia in the coming days,” the Kremlin said in a statement Monday.

The statement did not specify an exact date for the visit.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian journalist Pavel Zarubin that Russia “will continue to strengthen” its “friendship” with North Korea and said that a meeting “could take place one of these days."

“These will be negotiations between two delegations and after that, if necessary, the leaders will continue their communication in a one-on-one format,” he told Zarubin, adding that the two sides would discuss bilateral ties.

Peskov said that an “official dinner is also planned on behalf of the President of Russia in honor of the guest from North Korea.”

He said that “like with any neighbor, we consider ourselves obligated to establish good, mutually beneficial relations.”

North Korean state media KCNA reported on Monday that Kim will "meet and have a talk" with Putin during the visit.

It did not say when the meeting between Kim and Putin would take place. 

Earlier, CNN reported that Kim appeared to be on a train heading to Russia, according to a South Korean government official. The source said the train departed from Pyongyang and is en route to Vladivostok, Russia.

1:48 p.m. ET, September 11, 2023

White House urges North Korea to not give arms to Russia amid Kim Jong Un trip

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Oren Liebermann

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as the civil defense military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is held in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 9.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as the civil defense military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is held in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 9. KCNA/Reuters

The White House is urging North Korea to “not provide or sell arms to Russia” as Pyongyang and Moscow said Monday that Kim Jong Un would travel to Russia at the invitation of Vladimir Putin.

“As we have warned publicly, arms discussions between Russia and the DPRK are expected to continue during Kim Jong-Un’s trip to Russia,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson in response to Russia and North Korea’s announcement. “We urge the DPRK to abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”

Just last week, the US warned Kim Jong Un might travel to Russia to discuss a potential deal to provide weapons to the country as it wages its war in Ukraine, and the White House has said arms negotiations between the two countries are “actively advancing.”

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at a press briefing Monday the US remains "concerned" that North Korea is considering providing arms and equipment to Russia. Ryder could not say when and where the meetings will be held. 

The spokesperson said providing arms and equipment to Russia would “just serve to perpetuate this needless war and result in the death of innocent Ukrainians.”

More context: North Korea is already under United Nations and US sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction program.

The potential Putin-Kim meeting could lead to Pyongyang getting its hands on the sort of weapons those sanctions have barred it from accessing for two decades, especially for its nuclear-capable ballistic missile program.

It also comes after more than a year and a half of war in Ukraine has left the Russian military battered, depleted and in need of supplies.

CNN's Jake Kwon, Gawon Bae, Jessie Yeung and Brad Lendon contributed reporting to this post. 

11:51 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Russia and Ukraine offer competing claims on the state of fighting on the southern front

From Olga Voitovych, Svitlana Vlasova and Tim Lister

Russian and Ukrainian officials report heavy fighting in a small area of the southern front, with no clear sign as to which side may have the upper hand.

The Russian Defense Ministry claims that its units along the southern front lines have repelled attacks by Ukraine near the village of Robotyne, which has been the focus of fighting for several weeks.

Ukrainian officials paint a different picture. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said there was progress in the area south of Robotyne and west of Verbove. Nearly five square kilometers of territory had been won in the previous week, for a total gain of 256 square kilometers (more than 98 square miles) since the counteroffensive began, she said.

CNN is unable to verify most of the claims made by either side, but Ukrainian units are in control of Robotyne, according to geolocated video, and attacking nearby Verbove.

Meanwhile in the east on the Bakhmut front, both sides have said that the village of Andriivka south of the city is the most intense part of the battle. The Ukrainian blogger Bakhmut Demon said that it was too early to celebrate victory there. Russia “artillery is still working, we have pushed the bastards back significantly, but they are not giving up yet,” the blogger said.

Much further east, and close to the Russian-held capital of Donetsk region, Russian blogger Neofitsyalnyi Bezsonov denied claims that Ukrainian units have a foothold in the heavily contested village of Optyne. “The enemy managed to enter the outskirts of the settlement, after which it was immediately knocked out of there. Optyne is fully under our control.”

Another well-known Russian blogger, Voenkor Kotenok, said Russia's problems in this area remain the same as they were six months ago — shortage of personnel, the lack of competent commanders and assaults.

11:11 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Ukrainians tell CNN they're prepared for the long haul as the war continues

From Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv

Residents of Kyiv have been reacting to the warning from President Volodymyr Zelensky that the war against Russia may go on for some time yet.

“I have to be ready, my team has to be ready for the long war, and emotionally I am ready,” Zelensky told the Economist in an interview published Sunday.

Iryna Shpundra, a mother on maternity leave from Kyiv said she and her child had spent a year and a half abroad, but insisted that “Ukrainians are strong in spirit and ready for a long war, because we simply cannot stop it somehow and forget our guys who died or those who are now fighting for us.”

“If we leave things as they are now, we will just give our enemy time to prepare and invade again, but with even greater brutality," Shpundra said. "As a mother of a small child, of course, I would want it to be over as soon as possible and not have our best people die, but the reality is different.”

Yuriy Teplenko, a pensioner and former university lecturer, told CNN: “The war will not end tomorrow, that's for sure. I think it won't even be over next year. And this is very bad, but on the other hand, the ceasefire is even worse.”

Referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Teplenko said: “We need to crush this bastard, otherwise we simply won't have any life. There is no other option here. Objectively speaking, I want to believe that the war will end in victory for Ukraine, but anything can happen.”

A soldier with the call sign Red said he agreed with the president. “The offensive is going on, but at a slow pace, gradually our land is being liberated every day. There can be no such thing as an offensive along the entire front line at the same time, because this will lead to even greater losses.”

Red said he thought the “military are taking everything in stride, because we have no other choice. We cannot surrender and lose, because no one will agree to that. Personally, I am ready to fight until the very end, until they kill me or until we drive them off our land completely.”

Kyiv resident, Kateryna Polishchuk, said she understood ”that we should not expect any immediate success in this war. This war has not been going on for 8 or 10 years, it is a struggle that has been going on for 300 years.”

“I have stayed in Kyiv since the first day of the full-scale invasion, I was born here and have lived here all my life, I love my city and although it was scary, I stayed here," she added.

“I never expected this war to end so quickly, at least given the size of the population of Russia and Ukraine. But in our hearts, of course, we expect victory and ask God for it," Polishchuk said.

10:24 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Ukrainian officials step up the pressure for long-range missiles

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 11.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 11. Efrem Lukatsky/Reuters

Ukraine lobbying for longer-range missiles "is not just a whim, but a real need," said Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office. "The effectiveness of the army on the battlefield, as well as the lives of the military and our progress depend on it,” he added.

Ukrainian officials had been working with partners on the issue for a long time, and that Ukraine’s request for ATACMS missile was moving forward, he added.

The ATACMS is a long-range US-guided missile with a range of around 300 kilometers (186 miles). It would extend the range of Ukrainian attacks well beyond the front lines to Russian supply lines and logistics hubs. Acknowledging this missile capability, Yermak said it would "speed up" Ukraine's victory.

Ukraine is also developing its own longer-range missiles. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba emphasized the critical need for further air defense systems to protect Ukrainian ports used to export grain to the world and to prepare against expected Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and cities as winter approaches.

At a news conference in Kyiv with the visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, he said discussion on the supply of German long-range Taurus cruise missiles has been under discussion in Berlin for weeks, and expressed frustration at the delay in receiving the weapons. 

"We could have achieved more and saved more lives of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians if we already had Taurus. And all we are telling the German government we respect your discussions, we respect your procedures, but from everything we know about Taurus there is not a single objective argument against not doing it," he said.
9:53 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

German foreign minister pledges $21 million to Ukraine on a visit to Kyiv

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin and Olga Voitovych

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba attend a joint press conference following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 11.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba attend a joint press conference following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 11. Efrem Lukatsky/Reuters

Germany is pledging an additional 20 million euros (about $21 million) in humanitarian aid for Ukraine to prepare for winter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said during a surprise visit to Kyiv Monday.

Baerbock’s visited a transformer substation outside Kyiv which has seen several attacks, as it is playing a major part in the region’s electricity supply.

Ukrainian power supplies had been hit with 1,500 missile attacks “alone last year,“ and the country was preparing for next winter by strengthening its power stations, Baerbock said during a joint news conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Monday in Kyiv. Russia was “obviously planning the attacks again specifically for the fall and winter,“ she said. 

Ukrainian officials had urged Germany to provide Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles for the country's self-defense. “We could have achieved more and saved more lives of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians if we already had Taurus,“ said Kuleba, adding that there was not a single argument against the delivery of the Taurus cruise missiles from Germany.

However, Germany is hesitant about delivering long-range cruise missiles as they could be used for attacks on Russian territory.

Kuleba said Ukraine expects German companies to participate in the defense industries forum that will be held in Kyiv soon.

On the issue of sanctions against Russia, Kuleba resisted the idea of diluting them to enable a revival of the Black Sea grain initiative, as has been demanded by Russia.

“I am aware that there are some forces that support Russia's concessions in this demand,” Kuleba said, but reconnecting Russian banks to the international SWIFT payments system would allow senior Russian officials to make tens of millions of dollars.

9:00 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

North Korea's Kim Jong Un will visit Putin in Russia. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, will meet with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, will meet with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un. Getty Images/KCNA/Reuters

The Kremlin has confirmed what until now had only been speculation: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia “in the coming days,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday. The US government first warned last week that Kim may travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin for discussions on a potential deal to supply Moscow with weapons for its war in Ukraine.

While Peskov did not specify when the meeting would take place, multiple South Korean media outlets reported earlier Monday that Kim appeared to be on a train headed to Russia.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Kim to visit Russia: Kim “will pay an official visit to Russia in the coming days” at Putin's invitation, the Kremlin said in a statement Monday. The confirmation came days after the US National Security Council claimed 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.
  • Putin in Vladivostok: While the Kremlin did not specify when or where the two leaders would meet, the New York Times reported last week that the then-unconfirmed meeting between Kim and Putin may take place on the campus of a university in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok. Putin arrived in Vladivostok on Monday to attend the meeting of the annual Eastern Economic Forum.
  • Local election fallout: The European Union condemned the “illegitimate” elections held over the weekend in Russian-annexed parts of Ukraine, and said it will not recognize their results. The elections – dismissed by the international community as a sham – represented another attempt by Moscow to paint a false picture of Russian legitimacy in the parts of Ukraine it has invaded. Putin’s United Russia party unsurprisingly dominated the results, state-run news agency TASS reported Sunday.
  • Russian presidential election buildup: “No one will be able to compete” with Putin if he chooses to run for reelection in 2024, Peskov said Monday, because he “enjoys absolute support from the population.” Russia’s next presidential election is due to be held next year, where Putin is expected to secure a fifth term.
  • Grain deal hunger: Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative is putting “the right to food far out of reach for many people,” the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said Monday. Turk claimed that global hunger levels have returned to where they were in 2005, with nearly 600 million people projected to be “chronically undernourished” by 2030. He said that Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal in July – and its subsequent bombardment of Ukraine’s ports – were fueling global food insecurity.
  • Ukraine’s eastern advances: Ukrainian officials reported gradual progress in the east of the country – including an unexpected success near the airport of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Monday that Ukrainian forces had managed to take part of Opytne village, close to the airport, and had “pushed the enemy out of their strongholds” to the south of Bakhmut. However, unofficial pro-Russian sources disputed some of Ukraine’s claims.

  • Russia's G20 success: Russia deemed the G20 Summit in India an "unconditional success," after the meeting's final declaration refrained from explicitly condemning its invasion of Ukraine. The final group statement said "all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition" – but stopped short of singling out Russia.

7:31 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Battle persists for village near Donetsk airport as Ukraine reports advances in east

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych

Unofficial pro-Russian sources in Donetsk region are contesting Ukrainian claims that they have established a foothold in a village north of the eastern city Donetsk.

Donbas Operatsiya ZOV, an unofficial Telegram channel, said the Ukrainians had taken a quarry near the village and positions north of it.

"They are also trying to get through in small groups. That's all. There are no fights in Opytne."

The channel added: “Is it bad that we screwed up the quarry? Yes, it's not good. The guys from the 1st Sloviansk Brigade are on their way to take it back.”

The comments came after Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar claimed Monday that Ukrainian units had managed to take part of Optyne village, north of Donetsk airport.

“It is currently unknown what is happening in the village. We have information that there are still civilians there,” a local Ukrainian official, Vitalii Barabash, told Radio Liberty. 

Barabash said Ukrainian soldiers had entered the village, but added that “the fighting is still ongoing. The enemy is constantly putting pressure, the enemy is constantly trying to recapture lost ground.”

He said that “at the beginning of the full-scale war, 44 people stayed in Opytne. Now there are 5-6, and we have no contact with them.”