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
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9:10 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Every cent of American investment in Ukraine's security is working, Zelensky says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 21, 2023.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 21, 2023. Stephanie Scarbrough/AP

Every cent of US investment in Ukraine’s security and "global protection of freedom" is working, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address in front of the National Archives Thursday night.

The Ukrainian leader also said American aid has demoralized Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is forced to humiliate himself by personally entertaining a delegation from Pyongyang and trying to (get) favor with Tehran. This shows his obvious weakness,” Zelensky said.

He also said he was thankful for “Americans who have done and are doing extraordinary things at the call of their hearts,” referring primarily to the American doctors who have helped thousands of Ukrainian children and adults affected by the war.

“American hearts beat the same way as Ukrainian hearts. I want you all to know that America has saved millions of Ukrainian lives,” Zelensky said.

While at the National Archives, Zelensky said he viewed a telegram from former President Abraham Lincoln to which he told Gen. Ulysses Grant to “hold on like a bulldog.” Zelensky likened the phrase to the disposition of Ukrainian fighters.

“Every day of this war, Ukrainian soldiers hold on with a bulldog grip," he said. "They bite and strangle the Russian invaders as much as possible. Never before has the Russian dictatorship met such strong resistance."

Zelensky was joined in front of the archives by his wife, first lady Olena Zelenska, who also addressed the crowd. During his trip to the United States, the Ukrainian leader spoke at the UN General Assembly and met with a number of high-profile leaders, including President Joe Biden.

7:08 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Kirby says administration has seen "resounding support" for aid to Ukraine from Congress

From CNN's Donald Judd 

White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby says the administration has seen “resounding support" for aid to Ukraine from Congress.
White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby says the administration has seen “resounding support" for aid to Ukraine from Congress. CNN

White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN Thursday the administration has seen “resounding support" for aid to Ukraine from Congress, "particularly at the leadership level."

Kirby acknowledged that “a growing number of voices, particularly in the House Republicans, of people that are disputing whether or not Ukraine is worth the effort." But he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview that those detractors “don’t represent their leadership — they don’t even represent the majority of their party, so we’re going to keep at it.”

On the president’s meeting today with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kirby said Biden “was very grateful to get a battlefield update,” from his Ukrainian counterpart. 

And he pushed back against concerns that today’s newly announced $325 million doesn’t include Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), as Ukraine has previously requested.

“I would just tell you that we continue to talk to the Ukrainians — we have and we will — about what they need on the battlefield, and you heard yourself President Zelensky saying that this package that the President announced today is exactly what his forces need,” Kirby said. “We're not going to take anything for granted, we're going to continue to talk to him about that going forward.”
6:51 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Analysis: The political divide on Ukraine and how Republicans have grown more skeptical of providing aid

From CNN's Harry Enten

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, flanked by Senate leaders Chuck Schumer, right, and Mitch McConnell, speaks to reporters after meeting with senators at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, flanked by Senate leaders Chuck Schumer, right, and Mitch McConnell, speaks to reporters after meeting with senators at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Thursday, while Republicans were far more split.

The divide between the two parties is not surprising given the polling data on Zelensky specifically and Russia's war in Ukraine more broadly.

Republicans, it turns out, have become far more dovish on that conflict and in how they view the United States' role in the world more generally.

It may be hard to imagine now but Zelensky was once admired on both sides of the political aisle. At the beginning of the war, Zelensky sported a 77% favorability rating among Democrats and a 61% favorability rating among Republicans, according to a March 2022 Quinnipiac University poll. Just 6% of Republicans and 2% of Democrats viewed him unfavorably.

Since then, however, the tone from Republican leaders has soured. Whether these officials are guiding their voters or merely following them, the poll numbers have shifted significantly.

A July 2023 Gallup poll found that Zelensky's favorability rating with Republicans had declined to 51%. His unfavorable rating, meanwhile, had skyrocketed to 41%. This meant his net favorability with Republicans went from +55 points to +10 points in a little over a year.

Democratic leaders have been far more supportive of the Ukrainian leader, which could be why their voters have largely stayed that way too. Zelensky's favorability rating among Democrats was 75% in July, according to the Gallup poll — similar to the 77% in 2022, per Quinnipiac. While his unfavorable rating had ticked up, it still remained low at 11%.

The views toward Zelensky are emblematic of how Americans feel about the US involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict as a whole.

Read more about the divide over aid to Ukraine.

6:27 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Biden says he is "counting on the good judgment of the US Congress" for additional aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Donald Judd

US President Joe Biden speaks during an expanded bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 21, 2023.
US President Joe Biden speaks during an expanded bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 21, 2023. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden announced a new tranche of aid for Ukraine in remarks from the White House Thursday, during a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He told Zelensky that as winter approaches, "the people of Ukraine are steeled against the trouble ahead, and the American people are going to continue to stay with you.” 

Following his remarks, a reporter asked Zelensky if he’d received any assurances from Congress on funding for additional aid. Biden interjected, saying:

“I’m counting on the good judgment of the United States Congress — there’s no alternative," the US president said.

On the aid announced today, Biden detailed a litany of military support for Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russia’s invasion. 

“Today, I approved the next tranche of US security assistance to Ukraine, including more artillery, more ammunition, more anti-tank weapons, and next week, the first US Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine,” Biden said in an expanded bilateral meeting with members of his Cabinet and the Ukrainian delegation. “We’re also focused on strengthening Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, to protect the critical infrastructure that provides heat and light during the coldest and darkest days of the year.” 

Biden also offered a blistering assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said mistakenly believed he would be able to crush support for Ukraine in a matter of months.

Biden went on to offer an optimistic assessment of American’s support for the country as it beats back Russian forces.

“Mr. President, the American people — Democrats, Republicans alike, families all across our nation, understand what Ukraine is fighting to defend — what generations of Americans have also stepped to protect and preserve,” Biden said. “It’s pretty basic: Freedom, liberty, and sovereignty.”
6:14 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

US announces new aid package for Ukraine amid Zelensky's visit to White House. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, September 21, 2023, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, September 21, 2023, in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced $128 million in new US security assistance to Ukraine as well as $197 million in arms and equipment.

The announcement comes amid President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the White House, where he met with President Joe Biden.

During a meeting with Cabinet members, Biden reaffirmed the US commitment, along with its partners, to Ukraine.

"We're committed to build a force capable of assuring Ukraine's long-term security. Capable of deterring future threats against sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom — which are under way now. Because that's what this is all about. The future. The future of freedom. America can never, will never, walk away from that," Biden said. "That's why 575 days later we stand with Ukraine and we'll continue to stand with you, Mr. President."

Zelensky in turn thanked Biden and the American people for their support.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Zelensky makes case to US for continued support of Ukraine: Ahead of his meeting with Biden, Zelensky made a visit to the US Capitol to speak with lawmakers. He said that if US money for the war dries up, it would have a cascading effect and eventually lead European countries to do the same. “You give money, we give lives,” he said in his message to senators, according to attendees. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would not commit to putting Ukraine aid on the chamber's floor by end of the year despite what he described as a productive meeting with Zelensky, insisting instead domestic spending is a priority.
  • Ukraine claims fresh progress on southern battlefront in Zaporizhzhia region: 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." Areas where progress was seen include Melitopol and Robotyne-Verbove.
  • Poland halts arms supply to Ukraine: One of Ukraine’s closest and most vocal allies has now said it will stop sending arms to Kyiv, a major reversal that threatens to upend Europe’s strategic relationship with the country as it wages a counteroffensive against Russia. In a separate issue, Radek Sikorski, a leading Polish opposition figure, told CNN that Poland should have asked the European Union for help with the cost and upgrade of port and railroad facilities to organize a trade corridor for Ukraine grain.
  • Several killed as a result of Russian strikes in Kherson: Since the beginning of the day Thursday, five people had been killed and 10 others injured, said Oleksandr Prokudin, head of Kherson Region Military Administration. The strikes in Kherson were part of a larger Russian attack across Ukraine.

6:11 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Lithuania offers to facilitate dialogue "to resolve current tensions" between Poland and Ukraine

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Lithuania is offering to facilitate conversations between Poland and Ukraine after Warsaw, one of Ukraine’s closest and most vocal allies, has said it will stop sending arms to Kyiv.

Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda said his country could help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Polish President Andrzej Duda "resolve current tensions," he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Poland's decision is a major reversal that threatens to upend Europe’s strategic relationship with the country as it wages a counteroffensive against Russia.

“All issues can be solved through open dialogue. Lithuania is ready to facilitate,” Nauseda said in the post.

What happened: Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine came after months of strain over a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports to a number of European Union countries.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that it will now focus on supplying “the most modern weapons” for its own purposes, state news agency PAP reported.

In the spring, Poland became the first NATO country to send fighter jets to Ukraine — months ahead of the United States. It has also previously sent more than 200 Soviet-style tanks to Ukraine, and most Western military equipment and other supplies reach Ukrainian forces by crossing Polish territory.

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed reporting to this post.

6:37 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Blinken announces new security assistance for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Oren Liebermann

The United States will give $128 million in new security assistance to Ukraine as well as $197 million in arms and equipment in previously authorized drawdowns, the secretary of state announced. 

The package includes additional air defense munitions "to help strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses against aerial assaults from Russia now and in the coming winter when Russia is likely to renew its attacks against Ukrainian critical infrastructure,” Antony Blinken said Thursday.

“It also contains artillery ammunition and anti-armor capabilities, as well as cluster munitions, which will further enhance Ukraine’s capacity to continue its counter-offensive against Russia’s forces," he added.

This is the second time the US has provided the controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine, the Defense Department said. In late July, shortly after the US first provided cluster munitions, the White House said Ukrainian forces were using the weapons “effectively” and “appropriately” against Russian defensive positions.

The US will not be providing Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, however, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, despite requests from Ukraine. He said while not providing it in this package, Biden is "not taking it off the table in the future.”

The announcement comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with President Joe Biden in Washington, DC.

4:39 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Ukraine's ability to defend itself is critical, Biden says in remarks while welcoming Zelensky to White House

From CNN's Donald Judd

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks down the White House colonnade to the Oval Office with President Joe Biden during a visit to the White House in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks down the White House colonnade to the Oval Office with President Joe Biden during a visit to the White House in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023. Kevin Lamarque/Pool/Reuters

US President Joe Biden welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House and said that the US remains committed to providing support in Kyiv's efforts to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

“Earlier this week at the UN General Assembly, I made it clear that no nation can be truly secure in the world if, in fact, we don't stand up and defend the freedom of Ukraine in the face of this Russian brutality and aggression,” Biden said at the Oval Office. “That's why we brought together a coalition of more than 50 countries — 50 countries to help Ukraine defend itself. It's critical.”

Biden said the US has begun the process “of formalizing our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s security,” along with fellow G7 leaders and other international partners, “and that's why we support a just and lasting peace, one that respects Ukrainian sovereignty and its territorial integrity.” 

Biden commended the "enormous bravery" of the people of Ukraine. “It has inspired the world, really inspired the world with a determination to defend these principles, And together with our partners and allies, the American people are determined to see to all we can to ensure the world stands with you," he said.

Biden is expected to announce new military assistance, worth more than $325 million, during his meeting with Zelensky. It's expected to include more cluster munitions, according to two US officials, marking the second time the US has provided the controversial weapon to Kyiv.

Earlier, the Ukrainian president visited Capitol Hill where he described his meeting with US senators on Capitol Hill as a "great dialogue." Zelensky also met with lawmakers from the US House of Representatives.

CNN's Oren Liebermann contributed reporting to this post.

4:13 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

NOW: Biden and Zelensky meet at the White House

From CNN staff

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena as they arrive at the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena as they arrive at the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are meeting now at the White House.

As Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, arrived for the bilateral meeting, one reporter shouted, “Mr. President, how important is this visit?”

“Very important,” Zelensky said, before entering the White House

During the meeting, Biden is expected to announce new military assistance, worth more than $325 million. It's expected to include more cluster munitions, according to two US officials, marking the second time the US has provided the controversial weapon to Kyiv. 

Notably absent from the package, the US will not be providing Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan — despite requests from Ukraine.

Biden is looking forward to hearing an in-person perspective on "the war and the road ahead,” Sullivan said.

Earlier Thursday, the Ukrainian president visited Capitol Hill where he described his meeting with US senators on Capitol Hill as a "great dialogue." Zelensky also met with lawmakers from the US House of Representatives.

CNN's Donald Judd and Oren Liebermann contributed reporting to this post.