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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1:27 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

7 people injured in Kyiv attack, mayor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Debris is seen in Kyiv's Darnytskyi district following Russian attacks on Thursday.
Debris is seen in Kyiv's Darnytskyi district following Russian attacks on Thursday. Kyiv City Military Administration

A 9-year-old girl is among seven people who were injured after Russia launched an aerial attack on Kyiv Thursday, the city's mayor said.

In a Telegram post, Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said the injuries were reported in the capital's Darnytskyi district.

The child and an 18-year-old woman were hospitalized after debris fell from an infrastructure facility onto a residential building, he said.

12:10 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Russia attacks Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Russian forces launched six strikes on the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials said Thursday.

In a Telegram post, Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said the city's Slobidskyi district was the focus of the attacks.

"There is damage to civilian infrastructure, information about the casualties is being verified," he said.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said several explosions were heard in the city. "Information on the damage and casualties is being clarified," he said.

The strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, come as officials in Kyiv said the capital was also under Russian attack early Thursday.

12:10 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Russia launches air attack on Kyiv, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Russian forces launched an aerial attack on Kyiv early Thursday, according to officials in the Ukrainian capital.

In a Telegram post, Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said air defenses were repelling the attacks but some buildings had been damaged.

"There are explosions in the city. Air defense is working. Stay in shelters!" Klitschko said. "In Darnytskyi district, there is destruction of non-residential buildings. There is no information about the casualties as of now."

Klitschko also warned of power outages and water cuts in some parts of the capital.

Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said debris had fallen in at least two districts.

"Air raid alarm continues in Kyiv. As a result of air defense work on shooting down enemy targets, debris fell in the Holosiivskyi and Darnytskyi districts of the capital," Popko said in a Telegram post. "All emergency services are on their way. Information on casualties and damage is being clarified. Stay in shelters until the air raid alarm is over!"

11:37 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Kyiv's dispute with Warsaw escalates as Zelensky prepares to visit the White House. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

Poland said Wednesday it will stop providing weapons to Ukraine as tensions rise between Kyiv and Warsaw over a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports to some EU countries.

“We no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on social media.

The grain ban was initially put into place earlier this year to protect the livelihood of local farmers worried about being undercut by the low prices of Ukrainian grain. Last week, after the EU announced plans to suspend the ban, Poland, along with Hungary and Slovakia, said they intended to defy the change and keep the ban in place.

Kyiv has repeatedly spoken out against the ban. 

Here's what else you need to know:

  • US aid: The White House is planning to provide a new aid package to Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky visits 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. 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. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden is seeking to hear a "battlefield perspective" from Zelensky during his visit to Washington Thursday, the White House said.
  • Rebuilding Ukraine: Zelensky met Wednesday evening with Wall Street CEOs and business power players to discuss efforts to rebuild his war-torn country and its economy, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. The roundtable, convened by JPMorgan Chase, included former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and billionaire Barry Sternlicht, the source said. 
  • Nuclear talks: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the safety of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during his meeting Wednesday with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. Their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly came after Zelensky appealed to world leaders to restrain Russia's weaponization of nuclear plants.
  • UN veto: During a speech at Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting, Zelensky called for Russia's veto power at the body to be removed. Ukrainian soldiers are doing on the battlefield "at the expense of their blood" what the UN Security Council "should do by its voting," he said.
  • On the ground: Russia said Thursday it had intercepted 22 Ukrainian drone attacks, including 19 over the Black Sea. It comes after the Ukrainian military claimed Wednesday it had successfully hit a Russian command post in occupied Crimea. A series of explosions reported in Crimea on Wednesday were the work of Ukrainian forces, Ukrainian Defense Intelligence confirmed. Elsewhere, saboteurs were responsible for an attack on an airfield near Moscow on Monday, according to Kyiv.
11:17 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Poland says it will stop giving weapons to Ukraine as grain dispute deepens

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey and Mariya Knight

Poland said Wednesday it will stop providing weapons to Ukraine amid a growing dispute between the two countries over a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

“We no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on social media.

Poland has long been one of Ukraine’s most staunch supporters since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, alongside multiple former Eastern bloc nations who fear they could be next if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist war is successful.

Now Kyiv and Warsaw are at loggerheads.

The ban on Ukrainian grain was initially put in place earlier this year by several European Union nations, to protect the livelihood of local farmers worried about being undercut by low prices of Ukrainian grain.

Last week, the EU announced plans to suspend the ban. But three nations — Poland, Hungary and Slovakia — said they intended to defy the change and keep the restrictions in place.

It prompted protests from Ukraine, which this week filed lawsuits against all three countries over the issue.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also spoke out against the ban on Wednesday when addressing the UN General Assembly, saying “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.”

He added that the nations involved “may seem to play their own role but in fact they are helping set the stage to a Moscow actor.”

Zelensky’s comments sparked immediate condemnation from Poland, with the foreign ministry summoning the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw to convey their “strong protest.”

Read the full story here.

8:31 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Grain import ban costs Ukraine more than $175 million a month, officials say

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

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

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

"If the bans continue, the losses could reach about 600 million euros ($644 million) by the end of the year," said Denys Marchuk, 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 said.

Marchuk said the embargo "plays into the hands" of Russia. Since pulling out of the Black Sea Grain deal in July, Moscow has been able to "influence the course of ships in the Black Sea, does not allow Ukraine to fully export," he said.

"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.

Legal action: Kyiv filed a lawsuit Monday against Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over their ban on imports, Economy Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko said.

It came after the European Union said Friday 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 the EU's suspension of the ban. 

8:52 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Zelensky calls for UN Security Council to remove Russia's veto power

From CNN's Karen Smith

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the United Nations Security Council to remove Russia's veto power, arguing "this will be the first necessary step."

"It is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor,” Zelensky said during a speech at Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting.

While allies have already imposed sanctions on Russia since the start of the war, the Ukrainian president called for applying preventative sanctions to countries that engaged in conflicts. 

“Anyone who wants to start a war should see before their fatal mistake what exactly they will lose when the war would start,” Zelensky said. 

Ukrainian soldiers are doing on the battlefield "at the expense of their blood" what the UN Security Council "should do by its voting," he said.

"They're stopping aggression and upholding the principles of the UN Charter,” he said.

Russia's response: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the right to veto during the Security Council meeting.

“The Western aggressive clique has been pedaling the theme of the abuse of the right of the veto with an incorrect focus on members of the UN,” Lavrov said.

“The right to a veto is an absolute legitimate instrument which is stipulated in the charter of the United Nations to prevent the adoption of decisions that would divide the organization."

Some background: When the UN charter was signed in 1945, it established the Security Council with five permanent members and six nonpermanent members. The permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and the Republic of China — were each given the power to veto any resolutions they opposed.

Today, the Security Council has 15 members, but the five permanent members have remained the same, with Russia holding the former Soviet Union’s seat and China taking the seat of the Republic of China. And the veto hasn’t changed either.

9:05 p.m. ET, September 20, 2023

Blinken highlights human toll of Ukraine war in remarks to UN Security Council

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened his remarks at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday recounting his recent trip to Yahidne — a Ukrainian town roughly two hours north of Kyiv that had been occupied by Russian soldiers.

“I begin here because — from the comfortable distance of this chamber — it’s really easy to lose sight of what it’s like for the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s aggression,” Blinken told his fellow diplomats seated in the room, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“Russia’s forces … went door to door, rounding up residents at gunpoint, and marching them to the local elementary school,” where they forced more than 300 villagers — “mostly women, children, and elderly people” — into “just a few small rooms with no windows, no circulation, no running water” in the basement.
The Russian soldiers kept them imprisoned there for nearly a month, “packed together so tightly that they could barely breathe,” denying them medical care, and allowing them to remove their dead only once a day, Blinken described.
“Children, parents, husbands, and wives were forced to spend hours next to the corpses of their loved ones,” he continued.
“The oldest victim was 93 years old,” he said. “The youngest: 6 weeks old.”

The top US diplomat’s effort to highlight the horrific realities of the war in Ukraine come as the Biden administration seeks to maintain support for Kyiv amid growing opposition in Congress and as the international community faces the prospect of war with little end in sight.

On Wednesday, Blinken will join fellow national security officials including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director Bill Burns, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to brief the Senate on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be in the US capital on Thursday — following on the heels of his time at the UN — for a high-stakes visit to try to shore up support and convince lawmakers not to cut aid.

Read more here.