September 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023
28 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
4:14 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

US senators divided over aid to Ukraine as Zelensky comes to the Capitol

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Manu Raju

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the US Capitol to meet lawmakers and ask for continued support for the country's defense against Russia, senators remain divided over the aid:

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley told CNN Thursday that he remains skeptical of funding for Kyiv and that Senate leadership who argue in favor of it are “totally wrong.”

“They're going to ask for more later. There's no end in sight. We were told this could literally go on for years. It’s another forever war,” the Missouri Republican told CNN.

Later Thursday, Hawley told CNN that Zelensky's direct appeal to Congress today left him unconvinced.

"No. I mean, what the meeting revealed to me is, is that in the words of President Zelenskyy the conflict is a total stalemate. That's what he said totally frozen," Hawley told CNN.

Hawley noted that while he was unconvinced, he said Zelensky was "effusive" in his thanks and very respectful. He added that he told senators the aid from the US is not being diverted away from the war effort. 

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, however, described funding for Ukraine as a critical “investment.” 

“I'm totally committed to supporting Ukraine until we win this war and help them win that war that they're willing to sacrifice their life for. So I think the majority of all senators feel the same as I do,” he added.

10:00 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Ukraine claims fresh progress on southern battlefront in Zaporizhzhia region

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Kesaieva and Olga Voitovych

Soldiers of the 47th Brigade of the Ukrainian army are seen with a Leopard 2 at the Tokmak front in Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine, on September 16.
Soldiers of the 47th Brigade of the Ukrainian army are seen with a Leopard 2 at the Tokmak front in Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine, on September 16. Vincenzo Circosta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian officials indicated further progress has been made on the southern front in the Zaporizhzhia region, with some units advancing "deep into the Russian defenses."

  • Melitopol: "Units of the Offensive Guard brigades are pushing the [Russians] out of their positions and consolidating their positions despite strong Russian resistance," said Col. Mykola Urshalovych, deputy director of planning with the National Guard, at a briefing in Kyiv Thursday. "Despite dense mining and engineering equipment, as well as strong resistance from the occupiers, our units had a partial success, advanced both into the depths of the enemy's defense and along the front."
  • Robotyne-Verbove area: Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia, gave a different picture. "Our attack drones have hit an assault group of Ukrainian militants who tried to break through to our positions on the Orikhiv direction between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove," he said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Ukrainians were forced to retreat with heavy losses, he added.

However, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russian-appointed acting governor of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia region said on Telegram that Ukraine is "completing the redeployment of its units in the Robotyne area, after which we expect the situation in the Robotyne-Verbove area to deteriorate."

CNN is unable to verify the battlefield reports of either side. However, open-source analysis of available video suggests some Ukrainian units have crossed through an important line of Russian defenses near the village of Verbove.

According to several analysts, Ukrainian vehicles from the 82nd Air Assault Brigade had crossed one trench system.

Without air superiority and in the face of dense minefields and reinforced Russian units, Ukrainian forces have so far struggled to break through the multiple layers of Russian defenses in occupied Zaporizhzhia. They still remain some 20 kilometers from the strategic Russian hub of Tokmak — their first major target on the southern offensive.

4:14 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Zelensky will face a more splintered GOP as he returns to Capitol Hill this morning looking for aid

From CNN's Lauren Fox

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky walks with Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as he arrives for a meeting with members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on September 21, in Washington, DC.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky walks with Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as he arrives for a meeting with members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on September 21, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will return to Capitol Hill Thursday morning for his second visit since his country was besieged by Russia — only this time, the political landscape has shifted.

A year ago, Zelensky faced a much different reception in Congress. Democrats controlled the House and public support for funding the war effort in Ukraine was higher. As he stood to ask for more money and weapons before a joint meeting of Congress, Zelensky was met with a packed House, members adorned in yellow and blue standing in support with Ukraine.

Now, the Ukrainian president will return to Congress to a new speaker – facing a rebellion on his right – who has yet to promise future aid to Ukraine and will have to balance his own political future against the future Zelensky is hoping for his country.

“Was Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think so. I have questions for where’s the accountability on the money we’ve already spent? What is this the plan for victory?” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asked Tuesday.

This week alone, McCarthy’s right flank has openly taunted members for backing Ukraine. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida posted a picture of McCarthy in a Ukraine pin and with a yellow and blue pocket square, writing, “How does this make you feel?”

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia posted a scene of Lord Farquaad calling his troops to battle from the animated film “Shrek,” tweeting, “Washington warlords speaking to the American people about Ukraine.”

US President Joe Biden is also set to welcome Zelensky to the White House on Thursday. Biden is seeking to hear a “battlefield perspective” from Zelensky as a second autumn of war approaches, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters.

Biden is expected to talk to Zelensky about battlefield needs, Kirby said, but it comes amid CNN reporting that ATACMS, the long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, may not be part of a new weapons package, something Zelensky suggested to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer would be a disappointment. ATACMS are “not off the table,” Kirby said.

Zelensky’s visit is also coming as House Republicans are engaged in a bitter fight over government funding on the domestic front and as the prospects for more money for Ukraine – while very much alive in the Senate – are far less clear in the House even as the Biden administration as sent over a request for $24 billion in support.

4:15 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Russia attacks Ukrainian power infrastructure as Zelensky prepares to meet with Biden

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Manveena Suri and Lauren Kent

Ukraine endured a deadly nationwide Russian missile barrage targeting energy facilities in Kyiv and other cities on Thursday, just hours before President Volodymyr Zelensky was set to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Officials called it “a terrible night for Kherson city,” noting that apartment buildings and cars were also damaged in Russian shelling on residential areas. Two people were injured in the city of Kharkiv, where Russia launched six strikes in the early hours of the morning, according to local officials. And at least 10 people were injured in overnight missile attacks on the city of Cherkasy in central Ukraine.

The strikes marked the first time in six months that Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure, according to the state energy provider Ukrenergo, just as the country gears up for colder seasons that will require more energy use for heating. Last year, Russia began a series of intense attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October.

Ukrenergo said the overnight missile attacks resulted in damage to power facilities in western and central regions and caused blackouts in several areas.

Ukrainian air defenses shot down 36 of 43 missiles launched by Russia on Thursday, Ukraine’s army chief said. But air raid alerts remain in place in parts of the country, as some Ukrainian officials warn that the missile threat is ongoing.

The attacks came as the capital Kyiv crossed the 1,000-hour mark of air raid alarms since the start of the Russian invasion, according to the head of the city’s military administration.

CNN’s Tim Lister and Karen Smith contributed to this report.

8:54 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Slovakia and Ukraine agree on grain trade system to replace ban, Slovak agriculture ministry says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Jozef Bires in Horni Lidec, Czech Republic, on July 17.
Jozef Bires in Horni Lidec, Czech Republic, on July 17. Dalibor Gluck/CTK/AP

Slovakia and Ukraine have agreed to establish a grain trade system that would enable a ban on imports of Ukrainian grain to be lifted, Slovakia's agriculture ministry said Thursday. 

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic, Jozef Bires, held a "constructive" online meeting with Ukraine's Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi on Wednesday, Slovakia's Agriculture Ministry said in a statement to CNN.  

"They agreed on the developing of a grain trading system based on the issuing and controlling of licenses," the ministry said. It did not give details on how the licensing system would work.

However, "until this system is launched and its full operation is tested, the ban on the import of four commodities from Ukraine, which was approved by the Government of the Slovak Republic as of September 16, continues to apply until the end of 2023," it added.

The ban on Ukrainian grain was initially put in place earlier this year by several European Union nations to protect local farmers, who were worried about being undercut by the low prices of Ukrainian grain. Last week, the European Union announced plans to suspend the ban, but Slovakia — along with Poland and Hungary — said they intended to defy the change and keep the restrictions in place.

Kyiv filed a lawsuit on Monday against Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over the ban on imports, Economy Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko had said. But Slovakia's agriculture ministry today said Ukraine is pausing legal actions against Slovakia.

"Minister Bires asked his Ukrainian colleague that Ukraine stops all actions with the lawsuit against Slovakia, that already have happened, as well as the statements about stopping the trade of agricultural commodities from Slovakia to Ukraine," the ministry said.

Solskyi "promised to stop these steps," Slovakia's agriculture ministry said.

8:41 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

A recent CNN poll found a majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine in war with Russia

From CNN's Jennifer Agiesta

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy prepares to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to appeal for more support for Kyiv, a recent CNN poll shows that American public support for additional US aid for Ukraine has been shifting.

Most Americans oppose Congress authorizing more funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, according to an August CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Overall, 55% say the US Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine vs. 45% who say Congress should authorize such funding.

And 51% say that the US has already done enough to help Ukraine while 48% say it should do more. A poll conducted in the early days of the Russian invasion in late February 2022 found 62% who felt the US should have been doing more.

Partisan divisions have widened since that poll, too, with most Democrats and Republicans now on opposing sides of questions on the US role in Ukraine.

A majority, but not all (68%) of those who say the US should do more to support Ukraine favor additional funding, as do 23% of those who say the US has already done enough.

When asked specifically about types of assistance the US could provide to Ukraine, there is broader support for help with intelligence gathering (63%) and military training (53%) than for providing weapons (43%), alongside very slim backing for US military forces to participate in combat operations (17%).

Most Americans who say the US should be doing more to support Ukraine are in favor of providing assistance in intelligence gathering (75%), military training (68%) and weapons (60%), while among those who say the US has already done enough, only intelligence gathering earns majority support (52%).

A majority of Americans do express concern that Russia’s war in Ukraine will threaten US national security (56%), but that’s down significantly February 2022 (72% were worried about threats to US security then).

A bigger worry across partisan lines in the new poll is that the war will continue without a resolution for a long time. Nearly 8 in 10 are worried about that, including 82% of Democrats, 75% of independents and 73% of Republicans. Nearly two-thirds overall are concerned that the war in Ukraine will lead to increased threats to democracy elsewhere (65%) or lead to Russian attacks elsewhere (64%), and about 6 in 10 are worried it could lead to a broader war in Europe (59%).

Read more about the poll's findings.

4:15 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

White House will provide Ukraine with new aid package during Zelensky visit, US official says 

From CNN's Kayla Tausche and Betsy Klein

The White House is planning to provide a new aid package to Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington, DC, on Thursday, a US official told CNN. 

The package — based on existing drawdown authority — will include additional artillery, anti-armor, anti-aircraft and air defense capabilities that will better equip the country for an ongoing counteroffensive and beyond. 

Zelensky “will be leaving the White House with a significant package of additional capabilities to help near- and long-term defenses,” this official said. 

The package’s air defense capabilities are also expected to help Ukraine defend its skies ahead of a tough winter, with more strikes expected on critical infrastructure.  

Notably, the package is not expected to include Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, that would allow Ukrainian soldiers the ability to strike longer-range targets.

“For us, that’ll be a loss for us, if we won’t be able to get that weapon which will protect us,” Zelensky said when asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer whether he would be disappointed not to receive those capabilities. “But it’s not disappointment. It will just be a loss.” 

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that ATACMs are “not off the table,” but the agencies reviewing whether to provide the weapons have not reached a decision.   

The US military has briefed the White House that while ATACMs would provide longer-range and longer-term defense capabilities, Ukraine’s more pressing needs during the counteroffensive are vehicles, mine-clearing equipment, and short-range anti-aircraft equipment to breach Russian defenses. 

9:33 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Russia targets Ukraine with barrage of missiles as Zelensky set to seek aid on Capitol Hill. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

Russia has launched a barrage of missile attacks across Ukraine, including, for the first time in months, on Ukraine's power infrastructure, causing damage to facilities in central and western regions.

The latest Russian bombardment comes as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenksy is preparing to meet with President Joe Biden and meet with US lawmakers, marking his second visit since his country was besieged by Russia. 

Elsewhere, Poland has announced that it will only carry out previously-agreed weapons supplies to Ukraine, amid a growing rift over the export of Ukrainian grain.

Below are the latest developments:

  • Russian airbase targeted: Sources in Ukraine's Security Services (SBU) say that a massive strike was launched on Wednesday night against the Saki military airfield in Crimea. Saki — which suffered an extensive attack in August 2022 — is home to Russian combat aircraft.
  • Poland rift: Ukraine is seeking to mend a rift with Poland over the issue of grain exports. Ukraine's Minister of Agrarian Policy, Mykola Solskyi, said he has spoken by phone with his Polish counterpart in a conversation during which they "discussed the situation and Ukraine's proposal to resolve it, and agreed to find a solution that takes into account the interests of both countries."
  • Polish weapons: Meanwhile, Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller announced that Poland will only carry out supplies of ammunition and weapons to Ukraine that were agreed to before Warsaw made a decision to stop weapons shipments to its neighbor.
  • Russian missiles shot down: Ukrainian air defenses shot down 36 of 43 missiles launched by Russia on Thursday in attacks across the country, Ukraine's army chief said. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said in a Telegram post that cruise missiles launched from aircraft in southern Russia were “constantly changing course along the route.”

4:15 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Air defense for Ukraine is among the top issues, Zelensky says as he arrives in Washington

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is in Washington, DC, says that air defense for Ukraine is among the top issues on his agenda.

"Today, important negotiations are taking place in Washington. Air defense for Ukraine is among the top issues," Zelensky posted on Telegram.

Referring to the barrage of more than 40 cruise missiles that were fired at targets across Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, Zelensky said, "Russian terrorists launched another massive attack. In particular, on the infrastructure. Most of the missiles were shot down. But only the majority. Not all of them."

Zelensky said he was "grateful to every country that has already provided Ukraine with anti-missile systems. We are working to completely deprive Russia of its terrorist potential. We must reach this result."

"More air defense. More sanctions. More support for Ukrainian soldiers on the front line. Russian terror must lose," Zelensky wrote.