September 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Ed Upright, Sophie Tanno, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023
18 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:56 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Ban on Ukrainian grain imports is costing Kyiv more than $175 million a month, officials say

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

A ban on Ukrainian grain put in place by neighboring countries is costing Kyiv more than $175 million a month, a senior official said.

Ukraine's neighbors — which include Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania — have said that the arrival of cheap Ukrainian grain has distorted local markets. In some countries, farmers have protested and blocked roads to demand that the imports cease. 

"If the bans continue, the losses could reach about €600 million ($644 million) by the end of the year," said Denys Marchuk, the deputy chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council.

"For us, as a country at war, as a country that has been selling its products well below market prices for a year and a half, the possibility of losing export prospects is very problematic," he added.

Marchuk said the embargo by other countries "plays into the hands of one country, the aggressor country of Russia." Since pulling out of the Black Sea Grain deal in July, Russia has had the ability to "influence the course of ships in the Black Sea, does not allow Ukraine to fully export."

"The ban in the Black Sea and the inability to carry out full exports via land routes will provoke an aggravation of the food crisis, which is beneficial for Russia," Marchuk said.

Ukraine has already taken some legal action: Kyiv filed a lawsuit on Monday against Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over their ban on imports, Economy Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko said.

It came after the European Union said on Friday that it planned to suspend the temporary ban on the export of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The measure was put in place to counter the risk of farmers in these countries being undercut by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain. However, Poland, Hungry, and Slovakia said they would defy it. 

3:20 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Top US Senate Republican continues to make case for Ukrainian aid ahead of Zelensky visit

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon meeting at the Capitol Building on September 19, in Washington, DC.
Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference following the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon meeting at the Capitol Building on September 19, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber, is continuing to push for the United States to give more aid to Ukraine ahead of President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the Capitol.

McConnell said that “our nation has a fundamental interest in Ukraine victory and European security" during floor remarks.

He suggested that the Biden administration needs to make that case more fervently, but his words also were directed at members of his own party who have balked at providing any more assistance to the besieged nation. McConnell argued the US “support for Ukraine isn't distracted from competition with China but contributing materially to it."

He pushed back on arguments to cut off the aid, suggesting the administration should do the same. 

“I hope this administration will use this evening's classified Senate briefing to begin making this case,” he said. “Tomorrow I'll join colleagues in welcoming President Zelensky to the Capitol. I’ll continue to make the case myself for sustained support of the Ukrainian cause, not out of charity but out of primary focus on Americans’ interest.”

Republican skepticism: The Biden administration recently asked Congress for $24 billion more in assistance to Kyiv, including $13 billion in security assistance, as the president and other senior administration officials have vowed to continue US aid for “as long as it takes.”

But some members of the Republican party have raised questions about how much bipartisan support there is for such substantial sums of aid to continue. A growing number of Republicans have begun questioning the wisdom of spending billions of dollars in Ukraine and have called for greater oversight.

It all comes as Congress faces a deadline to avoid a government shutdown next week.

12:22 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Ukraine says it hit Russian command post in Crimea

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

The Ukrainian military says it successfully hit a Russian command post in Crimea on Wednesday morning.

The command post was "of the occupiers' Black Sea Fleet near Verkhniosadove near the temporarily occupied Sevastopol," the Strategic Communications Directorate of the Defense Ministry posted on Telegram.

Some background: Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations, including air defenses, in Crimea.

Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine claimed responsibility for a series of explosions reported in the occupied area. Ukrainian Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusov said Russia is using Crimea as a "logistics hub" and that "the ultimate goal, of course, is the de-occupation of Ukrainian Crimea."

12:26 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Poland "urgently" summons Ukrainian ambassador in protest over Zelensky's UNGA remarks

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives to address the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives to address the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Poland's Foreign Ministry has "urgently summoned" the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw to convey "strong protest" against comments made by President Volodymyr Zelensky at the UN General Assembly, the ministry said in a statement Wednesday. 

In his remarks at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Zelensky said "it is alarming to see how some in Europe, some of our friends in Europe, play out solidarity in a political theater – making a thriller from the grain," adding "they may seem to play their own role but in fact they are helping set the stage to a Moscow actor."

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Ukraine's Ambassador Vasyl Zvarych that Zelensky's "thesis is untrue in relation to Poland and, moreover, particularly unauthorized in relation to our country, which has been supporting Ukraine since the first days of the war."

Jablonski "pointed out that putting pressure on Poland in multilateral forums or sending complaints to international tribunals are not appropriate methods of resolving disputes between our countries," reads the statement from the ministry. 
He also "emphasized that these actions will not be effective against Poland, because the actions taken by the Polish government to defend the interests of Polish farmers are consistent with national, EU and international law."

Jablonski "expressed concern about the recent public message of the highest representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, which imposes a one-sided perspective on the multidimensional problem of exporting Ukrainian agricultural products to neighboring countries."

Jablonski said he expects "both the policy pursued by the Ukrainian authorities and their public communication will reflect the actual nature of Polish-Ukrainian relations, both current and historical," and that the Ukrainian side take into account "the unprecedented assistance provided by Poland and Poles to the Ukrainian population and the Ukrainian state."

What Ukraine says: Ukraine has rejected Polish criticism of remarks made by Zelensky at the United Nations, where he criticized the unilateral ban by some European countries in imports of cheap Ukrainian grain.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, said that the ministry "was informed in detail about the meeting of the Ukrainian Ambassador in Warsaw with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland."

"During this meeting, the Ukrainian Ambassador once again explained the Ukrainian position on the unacceptability for Ukraine of the Polish unilateral ban on imports of Ukrainian grain."

8:48 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Ukraine claims responsibility for explosions in occupied Crimea

From CNN's Tim Lister, Yulia Kesaieva and Victoria Butenko

A series of explosions reported in occupied Crimea on Wednesday were the work of Ukrainian forces, Ukrainian Defense Intelligence confirmed.

"We can confirm that these were the actions of the Ukrainian security and defense forces against the occupiers' military targets," agency spokesperson Andrii Yusov said.

Yusov told Ukrainian television: "The planned work of the Ukrainian security and defense forces continues, of course, on the military facilities of the occupiers, invaders in the temporarily occupied territories, including the Ukrainian Crimea. Very soon the details will be made public by the Armed Forces and the General Staff."

He added: "The ultimate goal, of course, is the de-occupation of Ukrainian Crimea. At this stage, the enemy's positions should be weakened. Crimea is still being used as a logistics hub for, among other things, the transfer of enemy forces and means to other parts of the front. In order to destroy this logistics hub, certain operations are being used and implemented: at sea, on land, and in the air."

Some context: Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations, including air defenses, in Crimea.

8:51 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Kremlin says Biden never had as much support as Putin, after US leader called Russian counterpart a "dictator"

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova

US President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations General Assembly Leader's Reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on September 19.
US President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations General Assembly Leader's Reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on September 19. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The Kremlin has said US President Joe Biden has never enjoyed the same level of support among the population as Russian leader Vladimir Putin, while responding to Biden’s recent characterization of Putin as "dictator."

"In his entire political career, President Biden has not garnered the same level of support as (President) Putin," Kremlin spokesman Peskov said Wednesday.
"This is perhaps something he should aim for, especially considering the challenging elections he faces,” he continued.

According to Peskov, Russian citizens have consistently given Putin strong support.

“There is an opinion of the overwhelming majority of the population of our country, which was repeatedly expressed during the elections,” he said.

Peskov also noted the Russian president never “lowered himself” to the level of personal insults against his colleagues.

Some context: Biden's comment, made during a campaign reception in New York, emphasized his unwillingness to "side with dictators like Putin," a sentiment he contrasted with former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

“I will not side with dictators like Putin. Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down and praise him, but I won’t,” Biden said, according to the White House transcript.

7:38 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Saboteurs attacked Russian air base, damaging two planes and a helicopter, Ukraine says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister

Saboteurs were responsible for an attack on an airfield near Moscow on Monday, according to Kyiv.

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence said Wednesday that "unknown saboteurs blew up two airplanes and a helicopter in the Moscow region."

The incident took place at the Chkalovsky air base some 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of Moscow, according to Defense Intelligence.

"At the Chkalovsky airfield, a group of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation is investigating the sabotage," it said.

"Unidentified persons planted explosives at the heavily guarded airfield and blew up AN-148 and IL-20 aircraft (both belonging to the 354th Special Forces regiment), as well as a MI-28N helicopter, which had previously been actively involved in shooting down attack drones over the Moscow region," Defense Intelligence claimed. 

"The damage to the aircraft will not allow (Russia) to count on their quick recovery," it added.

On Monday, some Russian media reported a fire in the vicinity of the base, without giving details.

7:10 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Traffic halted on Crimean Bridge as smokescreen appears on occupied peninsula

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Traffic across the Kerch bridge linking Crimea with Russia has been suspended, according to local authorities.

The local Information Center for Roads said in a post on Telegram: "Traffic on the Crimean bridge is temporarily blocked. Those on the bridge and in the inspection area are asked to remain calm and follow the instructions of transportation security officers."

At the same time a smokescreen appeared in the area of Sevastopol on the other side of the Crimean peninsula.

Smokescreens are often used by Russian authorities in Crimea in an effort to disrupt attempted drone attacks.

Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said that "aerosol masking means" were being used and sought to reassure the population that such measures were safe.

"As a result of the work of air defense means, according to preliminary data, downed UAVs fell in Verkhnesadovoye and in Kacha (both close to the city.) There were no casualties."

However, videos posted on unofficial social media channels in Crimea purported to show a large plume of smoke rising from an area near Verkhnesadovoye, where there is a Russian military base. 

Some context: The Kerch bridge, which connects mainland Russia with the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, has been targeted several times during the conflict.

On August 12, Russian officials said multiple missiles were shot down over the crucial bridge in an attack Russia blamed on Ukraine.

On July 17, Ukraine used an experimental sea drone to attack the bridge, causing damage to the road lanes of the bridge, and, according to Russian officials, killing two civilians.

The Crimean bridge serves as a vital artery for supplying Russia’s war on Ukraine, allowing people and goods to flow into the Ukrainian territories that Moscow has occupied in the south and east of the country.

7:17 a.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Zelensky tells Trump to share Ukraine peace plan but stresses he won’t give territory to Russia

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview on September 19, in New York. 
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview on September 19, in New York.  CNN

Volodymyr Zelensky urged Donald Trump to share his peace plans publicly if the former US president has a way to end the war between Ukraine and Russia – but the Ukrainian president cautioned in an interview Tuesday that any peace plan where Ukraine gives up territory would be unacceptable.

“He can publicly share his idea now, not waste time, not to lose people, and say, ‘My formula is to stop the war and stop all this tragedy and stop Russian aggression,’” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, following his speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly.

“And he said, how he sees it, how to push Russian from our land. Otherwise, he’s not presenting the global idea of peace.”

The Ukrainian president added: “So (if) the idea is how to take the part of our territory and to give Putin, that is not the peace formula.”

Some context: Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has claimed that he would be able to cut a deal with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours.

Pressed Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about whether the deal would let Putin keep the land he’s taken, Trump said, “No, no. I’d make a fair deal for everybody. Nope, I’d make it fair.”

Zelensky’s trip to the United Nations comes as Ukraine is facing its stiffest headwinds in the US to date over support for the war.

A faction of the House GOP conference is openly hostile to providing Ukraine with any additional military aid, and it remains unclear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be willing to sign off on more funding.

Read the full story here.