September 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Lauren Kent, Ed Upright, Joshua Berlinger, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023
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10:54 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Biden condemns Russia's withdrawal from arms control agreements

US President Joe Biden addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, on September 19. 
US President Joe Biden addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, on September 19.  Mike Segar/Reuters

President Joe Biden condemned Tuesday Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the New START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the two countries, which was the last remaining pact that regulates the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, he said cooperation and partnership are they keys to global challenges and the baseline for leadership on these issues.

"After more than 50 years of progress under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Russia is shredding the longstanding arms control agreements, including announcing the suspension of New START," he said. "I view it as irresponsible, and it makes the entire world less safe."

He noted the United States has destroyed its last remaining chemical munitions in its stockpile this year in its efforts to lead in keeping the world free of chemical weapons.

10:19 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

NOW: Biden addresses world leaders at UN General Assembly 

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden.
US President Joe Biden. Pool

US President Joe Biden is delivering remarks before the 78th United Nations General Assembly Tuesday and is expected to make a forceful call for the intergovernmental organization to stand up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence. But I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected?” the president is expected to say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks released by the White House ahead of the speech. 

Biden will push back against those who say Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should give up on areas of Ukraine including Crimea and the Donbas. 

“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” he will ask.

“The answer is no. We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” Biden is expected to say, according to the prepared remarks.

Officials had said Ukraine would “feature prominently” in Biden’s remarks Tuesday, though he is also expected to address other issues including climate change and economic development.

9:57 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Explosions and fierce battles reported across the southern front lines of Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitoivych

A commander of Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade raises his country's flag in the frontline village of Andriivka, Ukraine, on September 16.
A commander of Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade raises his country's flag in the frontline village of Andriivka, Ukraine, on September 16. Alex Babenko/AP

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have indicated meaningful gains or losses over the past few days, with much of the front line — from Kharkiv in the north to Zaporizhzhia in the south — at a virtual stalemate, and gains measured in hundreds of meters rather than kilometers.

Here are some of the latest developments on the battlefield:

Melitopol: There are reports of explosions in the Russian-occupied city in southern Ukraine. Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of the city, said that local residents reported more than five explosions. There's been no comment from Russian-appointed officials in the area, but the Russian military blogger Rybar said that four Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles were shot down by Russian air defense forces — one over the Henichesk district and three over Melitopol.

Molochansk: This southern town had also come under fire on Tuesday morning from Ukrainian missiles, said Vladimir Rogov, member of the Russian-installed Zaporizhzhia military-civilian administration. Several buildings had been damaged or destroyed, he said on Telegram.

Robotyne: Russian reconnaissance had uncovered the movement of Ukrainian units near this village on the southern front lines, and destroyed them, according to Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russian appointed acting governor of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia. Russian blogger War Gonzo said there was fierce counter fighting on the western outskirts of Robotyne village, where Russian forces were trying to cut the flank of Ukrainian units, "while the AFU [Ukrainian army] is trying to expand the bridgehead for an offensive to the south."

Novoprokopivka and Verbove: A unit of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said the Russian Army was holding back Ukrainian forces near these two villages that have been fought over for several weeks. Russian military blogger Voenkor Lisitsin said Ukraine "is trying to probe the Russian defense in small groups with the support of armored vehicles, but our fighters neutralize all attempts of the enemy to break through with the help of artillery."

Bakhmut: Russian bloggers said that the situation had stabilized after Ukrainian gains in the south of the city. "Most of Klishchiivka and Andriivka are in the gray zone," he claimed. The Ukrainians say they now are in control of both settlements.

CNN cannot independently verify the battlefield claims made by either side. However, the Institute for the Study of War noted Monday that "Ukraine’s liberation of Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut may have degraded the Russian defense in the area south of Bakhmut and could have rendered combat ineffective as many as three Russian brigades, according to Ukrainian military officials."

9:31 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Zelensky will attend the UNGA in person for the first time. Here are key things to know about the meeting

Analysis from CNN's Richard Roth

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) begins today and 140 heads of state and government are scheduled to attend. Six vice presidents, four deputy prime ministers and over 30 ministers of state and chiefs of delegations will also stand at the rostrum to deliver remarks for their nations. 

This year the topics at the two-week summit appear more numerous, volatile and hard-to-solve than before any other UN General Assembly: Russia’s war in Ukraine, lethal floods in Libya, multiple coups on the African continent, North versus South economic funding, violent crisis in Haiti, and climate change, to name a few. 

Potentially weakening the impact of the event itself is the fact that US President Joe Biden is to be the only leader of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council to attend.

In a first for the annual summit, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will be attending in person as he continues to rally for support. Previously, he has appeared on video monitors in the General Assembly Hall.

Biden and Zelensky are set to address the assembly on Tuesday, and the leaders are expected to meet in Washington on Thursday. 

UN to tackle grain deal with Russia: At a special Ukraine meeting at the Security Council table on Wednesday, prepare for Zelensky to take on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, should he attend this ministerial meeting. There are also private one-on-one sessions between UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.

The UN would like to get Russia back into the Black Sea grain deal. But Russia and Ukraine will not meet together here in New York.

“It is extremely important to fight those that are abusing their authority to limit democracy,” Guterres told reporters last week. But one Security Council diplomat has said Russia already trampled on the UN charter by invading neighboring Ukraine.

Read more about this year's UNGA.

8:42 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Moscow City Court denies WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's appeal, Russian state news agency says

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Niamh Kennedy

Evan Gershkovich stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at the Moscow City Court on Tuesday, September 19.
Evan Gershkovich stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at the Moscow City Court on Tuesday, September 19. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

A Moscow court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention on espionage charges, according to Russian state media.

Gershkovich will stay in detention till November 30, according to a previous court decision, TASS added.

In remarks from the Moscow City court session, the US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said Gershkovich "is fully aware of the gravity of his situation, yet he remains remarkably strong.”

“Evan is always eager to discuss the latest headlines. He knew that his parents had delivered a petition to the UN last week,” she added, saying the charges against Gershkovich are baseless. 

More on the case: Russia’s main security service, the FSB, has accused Gershkovich of trying to obtain state secrets. He has been behind bars since March and, if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison.

The journalist and his employer have vehemently denied the allegations.

8:50 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Ukraine is expected to be a key focus of Biden's remarks Tuesday before the United Nations General Assembly

From CNN's Kayla Tausche, Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein

Final preparations are made before the start of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, in New York City.
Final preparations are made before the start of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The White House is shrugging off concerns the United Nations General Assembly won’t pack a policy punch this year, with President Joe Biden set to deliver an address Tuesday morning to an audience missing several key heads of state.

In remarks to the 78th UN General Assembly, Biden, a senior administration official told reporters, “will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to work with others to solve the world’s most serious challenges.”

Biden is also expected to touch on “significant foreign policy successes” of his presidency, making a pitch for the US’ role in the world heading into the 2024 US presidential campaign. As the president seeks a second term, there is some unease from world leaders about what that role could looks like following next year’s election.

The annual UN talks are unfolding for the second year under the shadow of the war in Ukraine, and the conflict will remain a focus for leaders. While the UN has led on organizing humanitarian aid during the conflict, it hasn’t acted as a mediator in the war.

This year, the nations of the “global south” are also demanding attention from leaders. Many have watched with skepticism as the West rallies attention and funding for Ukraine while their crises go unnoticed.

Biden will meet Wednesday with Brazil’s President Lula da Silva to discuss labor issues and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Biden has clashed on the country’s controversial judicial reform plan.

Biden and Netanyahu, the senior official said, will “discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between our two countries and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.”

But with high-level absences from Russia, China, France, and the UK – all permanent members of the UN Security Council – the Biden administration will be relegated to lower-level engagements with key allies and adversaries, all while hoping to elevate the United States’ views of global infrastructure, food security, democratic values, and territorial sovereignty.

One of the most high-profile meetings of the week won’t even be happening in New York. Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House on Thursday, before Zelensky meets members of the US Congress on Capitol Hill.

Officials said Biden will seek to balance US commitment to Ukraine with other pressing global challenges during his Tuesday remarks.

“When we’re accused of focusing too much attention on Ukraine,” Thomas-Greenfield said, it’s important that the US can show it “can deal with Ukraine as well as the rest of the world at the same time.”

Ukraine will “feature prominently” in Biden’s remarks, the senior official said, but the president will “also speak to a lot of other things that are on our agenda and a lot of other issues that we’re making progress in.”

Biden, the official added, will speak to the US “commitment to the principles that are at play in some of the world’s most serious conflicts right now, preeminently Ukraine, and what we’re going to do to make sure that the UN Charter is upheld and to strengthen the coalition in favor of Russia’s independence in light of a brutal conflict and also reiterate our commitment to human rights worldwide.”

But there are areas where the administration acknowledges progress will remain elusive. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said he’s not optimistic UN leadership and partner countries can make progress reinstating the Black Sea grain initiative, despite UN Secretary General António Guterres holding meetings on it with Zelensky and other partners New York this week.

Read more about Biden's UNGA remarks.

8:29 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group is meeting in Germany to discuss "urgent battlefield needs"  

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Army US General Mark Milley, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov arrive for talks at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on September 19.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Army US General Mark Milley, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov arrive for talks at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on September 19. Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

A meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a bloc of 54 countries that is providing and coordinating military support to Kyiv, is currently underway at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday.

Defense leaders will discuss Ukraine's capabilities, IT needs and other "urgent battlefield needs," according to Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov.

In his opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that shipments of American M1 Abrams tanks will soon be arriving in Ukraine and said that Kyiv’s counteroffensive continues to make steady progress. 

8:23 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Both Denmark and Norway to send more tanks and other equipment to Ukraine

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Vasco Cotovio

Denmark will donate an additional 45 tanks to Ukraine, including 15 modernized T-72 tanks and 30 Leopard 1 tanks, the country's defense ministry told CNN on Tuesday. Copenhagen is also sending Kyiv additional arms, ammunition and mine-clearing equipment.

The donation is part of a joint initiative between the defense ministries of Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, which "share the understanding that the continued provision of materiel from industry stocks and production would be of vital importance for the military capabilities of Ukraine," according to a joint statement.

Meanwhile, Norway is also set to donate about 50 tracked cargo carriers to Ukraine, its government announced Tuesday. This type of vehicle is able to maneuver in terrain inaccessible for wheeled vehicles.

"The cargo carriers can transport ammunition, food and water to Ukrainian troops in the field," the Norwegian government said.

Norway has previously donated "a wide range of capacities to Ukraine," including ground-based air defense systems and battle tanks. It's also among the nations providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

7:54 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Latvia has shut a border crossing with Belarus in bid to curb illegal migration

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Latvia closed one of its two border crossings with Belarus on Tuesday in an effort to prevent illegal migration, the country's public broadcaster LSM reported. 

The operation of Latvia's Silene border crossing point has been suspended, while its other crossing with Belarus will remain open for freight transport as well as for urgent humanitarian movement or emergencies. 

The initiative to close the Silene border post was announced last week by border Guard Chief Guntis Pujāts, who said the situation was "probably the most tense in these three years since 2021," according to LSM. 

Tensions on the border between Latvia and Belarus, which is Russia's closest ally, have increased since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

So far in September this year, Latvian Border Guard officials have prevented 1,773 illegal border crossings, LSM reported. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of manufacturing a migrant crisis on his country's border by the prime ministers of three neighboring nations, leading Poland to adopt a bill for the construction of a wall along its border with Belarus.

The situation along the border escalated once again earlier this summer after Wagner private mercenary group fighters moved from Russia into Belarus. But after the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda said the need to close the border with Belarus had become less relevant as the threat of encroaching Wagner mercenaries was waning.