September 17, 2023 Russia-Ukraine war news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:05 a.m. ET, September 18, 2023
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12:30 p.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Zelensky will speak to senators this week as Congress weighs additional aid for Ukraine

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Morgan Rimmer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on September 6, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on September 6, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to speak to United States senators during his visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, a leadership aide said.

The Ukrainian president will give remarks at 10 a.m. ET during an all-Senators meeting. CNN reported last week that Zelensky was not expected to address a joint session of Congress, according to a GOP source familiar.

The visit comes as Congress is weighing a White House request for additional aid to Ukraine, but its passage remains in doubt, with the GOP fiercely divided over the issue. Zelensky addressed a joint session last December, but opposition to Ukraine funding has grown particularly inside the House GOP.

Zelensky will also meet with President Joe Biden at the White House. He last traveled to the United States in December, his first time leaving Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

Aside from his trip to Washington, DC, around the United Nations General Assembly meetings, Zelensky plans several meetings with other world leaders in New York, according to people familiar with the plans.

Among his objectives will be trying to persuade nations that haven’t taken a firm stance against the war to be more forceful in their condemnation of Russia.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Kevin Liptak and Melanie Zanona contributed reporting to this post.

1:28 p.m. ET, September 17, 2023

US national security advisor discusses war in Ukraine with China's foreign minister

From CNN's Aileen Graef

United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15.
United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15. Susan Walsh/AP

United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta over the weekend. 

They discussed a range of issues, including the war in Ukraine, according to a statement from the White House.

“The two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions" and have committed to more communication in the future, the statement added.

Some background: Western leaders want China in their corner when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, but Beijing has not appeared to scale back ties with Russia.

China attended a summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, aimed to find a peaceful solution to the war at the beginning of last month. But after the meetings, China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov reiterating Beijing’s “impartiality” in the conflict.

The two countries’ militaries have continued joint exercises throughout the war, including a naval patrol off the coast of Alaska in August. Putin is also expected to visit China in October, according to Russian media, after being invited by China’s Xi Jinping in March.

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.

10:56 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

One of Russia's oldest allies has sent aid to Ukraine for the first time — but it has a lot of history with Moscow

From CNN's Christian Edwards

The arrival of US soldiers for a peacekeeper training exercise in Armenia has rankled the Russian government, which has for decades acted as the sole security guarantor for the former Soviet republic. The 10-day “Eagle Partner” exercise, which began Monday, involves 85 US and 175 Armenian soldiers and aims to prepare the Armenians to take part in international peacekeeping missions.

The exercise, while small in scale, is the latest in a series of what Russia’s foreign ministry has deemed “unfriendly actions” taken by its traditional ally.

Armenia recently sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine for the first time, and its parliament is set to ratify the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute — meaning it would be obliged to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to set foot in the country, which Russia has long viewed as its own backyard.

Armenia’s flirtation with new international partners has been spurred by its frustration that Russia has been unable or unwilling to defend it against what it sees as aggression from neighboring Azerbaijan, and has raised questions about Russia’s ability to retain its hold on countries and conflicts across the former Soviet empire.

Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan said his country was beginning to taste the “bitter fruits” of the “strategic mistake” of trusting Russia with near-exclusive responsibility for his country’s defense.

“Armenia’s security architecture 99.999% was linked to Russia,” he told Italian newspaper La Repubblica earlier this month. “But today we see that Russia itself is in need of weapons… Even if it wishes so, the Russian Federation cannot meet Armenia’s needs.”

Most recently, a 44-day conflict in the fall of 2020 exposed Armenia’s military inferiority. Azerbaijan, armed with drones and F-16 fighter jets provided by Turkey, won a crushing victory, claiming about a third of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as attacking Armenia proper.

Russia brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but some analysts attribute Russia’s failure to uphold the terms of the agreement to being distracted by its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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9:43 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Kim Jong Un concludes trip to Russia, state media says

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova, Duarte Mendonca and Jake Kwon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves as he boards his train in Artyom, Russia, on September 17.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves as he boards his train in Artyom, Russia, on September 17. Government of Russia's Primorsky Krai/Handout/Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded his trip to Russia on Sunday, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported. 

 In a video published by RIA, Kim is seen boarding his personal armored train. Russian officials are seen waving as the train leaves the station. 

The train left Artyom station following a farewell ceremony which included red carpet and honor guards, RIA said. The train is expected to travel more than 200 kilometers from Artyom to the border town of Khasan, state media said.

Before he left, the North Korean received a bulletproof vest and a set of drones produced in the region of Primorye as a gift from its local Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, Russian state media TASS reported.

Kim was also presented with five kamikaze drones produced in Primorye, as well as a Geranium-25 aircraft-type reconnaissance drone, TASS reported, adding that a set of special clothing that is invisible to thermal imaging cameras was an additional gift.

Some background: Kim had been in Russia for the last several days. Most recently, he inspected warplanes, toured an airfield and visited a Pacific Fleet frigate on Saturday.

He also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. While exact details remain scant on what sorts of talks have taken place behind closed doors, observers say it’s clear what each is looking for from the other.

Moscow is desperate for fresh supplies of ammunition and shells as its war with Ukraine drags on – and Pyongyang is believed to be sitting on a stockpile.

7:47 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

NATO chief warns we must "prepare for a long war" in Ukraine

From CNN's Sophie Tanno and Duarte Mendonca

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12. Kacper Pempel/Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that we must "prepare ourselves for a long war" in Ukraine, as Kyiv's counteroffensive against Russia continues to make only marginal gains.

“Most wars last longer than is expected when they first start. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, published on Sunday.

“We are all wishing for a quick peace. But at the same time, we must recognize: If President Zelensky and the Ukrainians give up the fight, their country would not exist anymore. If President Putin and Russia laid down their weapons, we would have peace,” the NATO chief said. 

“The easiest way to end this war would be if Putin withdrew his troops," he added.

Also in the interview, Stoltenberg reiterated that it is just a matter of time before Ukraine joins NATO.

"Ukraine will become a member of NATO – all allies have made that clear," he said, adding that Ukraine will need safety guarantees when the war ends, otherwise "history could repeat itself."

Addressing the idea of a possible nuclear threat by the Russians, Stoltenberg said: “Moscow must understand that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.

"We are observing very closely what the Russian army is doing. Until now we have not noticed any changes to Russia’s nuclear forces that would prompt us to react."

Long battle ahead: His words follow warnings that Ukraine's counteroffensive could run through the winter.

Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's head of military intelligence, last week acknowledged that even though cold weather was a reality the military cannot ignore, “hostilities will continue, the counteroffensive will continue,” he said.

5:46 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Russia strikes Ukraine’s border regions including the agricultural facilities south of Odesa

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Jake Kwon

A view shows barley and a damaged truck where a grain warehouse was destroyed by a Russian missile strike at a compound of an agricultural company in the village of Pavlivka, in Odesa region, Ukraine, on July 21, 2023.
A view shows barley and a damaged truck where a grain warehouse was destroyed by a Russian missile strike at a compound of an agricultural company in the village of Pavlivka, in Odesa region, Ukraine, on July 21, 2023. Nina Liashonok/Reuters/FILE

Russia attacked Ukraine’s border regions overnight using missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and artillery, Ukrainian officials said.

Russia launched cruise missiles and UAV attacks in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region on Sunday, Ukraine’s Air Force wrote on Telegram. 

“The primary target of the attack was the south of Odesa region,” the Air Force said. While the Air Force shot down 12 cruise missiles and UAVs, some missiles struck civilian agricultural facilities, the Air Force said. 

The airstrike damaged agricultural land and a grain storage facility in Berezivka district of Odesa region, the Ukrainian southern command wrote in Telegram.

No people have been injured, according to the southern command. 

Russia also attacked Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region overnight, including the Kharkiv city and villages, the head of region’s military administration Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.

Russia’s S300 missiles and cruise Iskander missiles struck the city of Kharkiv, injuring six civilians and damaging residential buildings, Syniehubov said.

Twenty villages in southeastern Zaporizhzhia region was attacked by Russia nearly a hundred times, mostly by shelling, the head of regional military administration Yurii Malashko said on Telegram on Sunday. While five residential buildings were damaged, no civilians were injured, Malashko said.  

5:45 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Pope's peace envoy returns from Ukraine talks in China

From CNN's Barbie Nadeau and Radina Gigova

Pope Francis' Ukraine peace envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi returned from a three-day trip to Beijing on Friday, calling on all sides to participate in negotiations that could bring Russia's war to an end.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, Zuppi said, the "ball is not only in Ukraine’s court."

"Everyone must play," the peace envoy said, according to the Vatican News service. "Ukraine has already engaged and presented its proposals. In reality, everyone must participate in the pursuit of peace."

During a visit to Russia in June, the cardinal met with the Kremlin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Maria Llova-Belova, the government official at the center of an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Earlier in June, Zuppi also traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian officials. 

The peace envoy said efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine have received “considerable attention from the Chinese government."

Some context: Ukraine and its Western allies have long expressed hope that China and its leader Xi Jinping, a self-described friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, could play a role in pushing Moscow toward peace.

So far, however, its claims of neutrality and a vaguely-worded 12-point position paper on a "political settlement" for the conflict — which failed to acknowledge Russia invaded Ukraine's territory — have been met with skepticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long expressed concerns about negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and pointed to his past record of reneging on agreements.

“When you want to have a compromise or a dialogue with somebody, you cannot do it with a liar,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview in Kyiv last week.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for not coming to the negotiating table.

CNN's Nectar Gan and Simone McCarthy contributed reporting to this post.

5:43 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

US gives Ukraine industrial-sized 3D printer for repairing trucks, weapons and equipment

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

The US provided Ukraine with an industrial-sized 3D printer that can be used to print spare equipment parts that may break down or require maintenance, according to Bill LaPlante, a US under secretary of defense.

The printer is the size of a truck, LaPlante told the Center for New American Security, and “it is changing the ball game” of how quickly Ukraine's military is able to repair trucks, rocket systems and other weaponry or equipment provided by the West over the last 18 months. 

Ukrainian techs are also “remarkable at tele-maintenance,” LaPlante said, which involves US officials helping them repair things remotely — a vital strategy, given the US’ footprint in the country is largely limited to the embassy in Kyiv.

The US official says Ukraine completed training on the printer within the last week.

6:51 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Stark video from Ukrainian soldiers shows that little remains in liberated village near Bakhmut

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Andrew Carey in Kyiv

Destroyed buildings are seen in Andriivka, Ukraine, on September 6.
Destroyed buildings are seen in Andriivka, Ukraine, on September 6. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

One of Ukraine’s brigades has released extraordinary footage of its advance on the tiny settlement of Andriivka, which Kyiv's forces said they recaptured Friday as part of a slow-moving counteroffensive.

The three-minute video, posted to the brigade's Telegram account, was apparently filmed by a camera mounted to a soldier’s helmet. It shows a small group of fighters from the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade making their way through a brutalized landscape of charred trees completely stripped of their branches. Piles of bricks and other rubble dot the land around the advancing fighters — presumably once the houses where Andriivka residents lived.

In one clip, an infantryman braces slightly as an incoming mortar screams past him, landing close by. In another clip, a soldier bends down to pick up an abandoned assault rifle, possibly discarded by a Russian solider. 

Thick smoke hangs everywhere. 

Some background: Andriivka lies southwest of the key city of Bakhmut and has been a focus of Ukraine’s eastern offensive in recent weeks. The 3rd Separate Assault Brigade is mostly involved in fighting around Bakhmut.

Ukraine’s General Staff — made up of its top military leaders — declared it liberated on Friday. But the video, and comments from a brigade spokesperson, make it clear that former residents have nothing to return to.

“There is nothing left of the village of Andriivka. There may be only a few basements. There have been no civilians for more than six months. They were evacuated when Wagner was advancing,” press officer Oleksandr Borodin said on Ukrainian television Saturday morning, referring to the Russian mercenary group which led the assault on the area earlier in the year.

Borodin indicated that Ukraine’s forces will continue their slow advance around Bakhmut.

“Everything is stabilizing. We are consolidating our position, and we are preparing our positions. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. The right flank of Bakhmut is very important. Should the flanks fall, it will be impossible to hold Bakhmut,” he said. 

Russia’s military bloggers describe ongoing fierce fighting Saturday to the north of Avdiivka around the larger village of Klishchiivka.

A top Ukrainian commander said Friday that capturing Andriivka has given Kyiv's troops a key foothold in the area surrounding Bakhmut.

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield claims from either side in the conflict.