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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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.

3:51 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

US is expected to announce a new $325 million Ukraine aid package, including more cluster munitions

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

In this October 2022 photo, Ukrainian military serviceman Igor Ovcharruck holds a defused cluster bomb from an MSLR missile, among a display of pieces of rockets used by Russian army, that a Ukrainian munitions expert said did not explode on impact, in the region of Kharkiv, Ukraine.
In this October 2022 photo, Ukrainian military serviceman Igor Ovcharruck holds a defused cluster bomb from an MSLR missile, among a display of pieces of rockets used by Russian army, that a Ukrainian munitions expert said did not explode on impact, in the region of Kharkiv, Ukraine. Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A new $325 million Ukraine aid package is set to be unveiled as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the White House.

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. 

The National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, said in late July that Ukrainian forces were using the weapons “effectively” and “appropriately” against Russian defensive positions. The comments came shortly after the US first provided cluster munitions to Ukraine.

But until now, the US has not provided more of the Dual-Purpose Improved Cluster Munitions (DPICMs), which are fired from 155mm artillery tubes. And the US will not be providing Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, despite requests from Ukraine.

“What I would say is that the president is constantly speaking both to his own military and to his counterparts in Europe and to the Ukrainians themselves about what is needed on the battlefield at any given phase of the war and then what the United States can provide, while also ensuring that we are able to provide for our own deferred deterrence and defense needs,” Sullivan said. “As he's weighed all that up to today, he has determined that he would not provide ATACMS, but he is also not taking it off the table in the future.” 

The package – based on existing drawdown authority and pulled directly from US military inventories – will also include additional artillery, anti-armor, anti-aircraft and air defense capabilities that will better equip the country for an ongoing counteroffensive and beyond, US officials previously told CNN.

3:52 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Zelensky told lawmakers to "stay unified and stay strong," according to Sen. Tim Kaine

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave lawmakers the same advice today that they told him two years ago, according to Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who called it a “powerful” moment. 

“[Zelensky] said that when this war started you gave Ukraine a really good piece of advice, stay unified and stay strong. So what's my message to you two and a half years later? Stay unified and stay strong,” Kaine told CNN’s Manu Raju. 

But GOP Sen. Rand Paul, a known skeptic of Ukraine funding, told CNN he didn’t attend Zelensky’s meeting on the Hill and argued that he will object to further Ukraine funding. 

“I’ll object to sending any more money to Ukraine. We don’t have any more money,” Paul told CNN.

2:18 p.m. ET, September 21, 2023

Poland stopping military aid to Ukraine is “a sovereign decision,” Pentagon says

From CNN's Michael Conte

Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder holds a news conference at the Pentagon on August 31, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia.
Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder holds a news conference at the Pentagon on August 31, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The US Defense Department said Poland’s decision to stop providing weapons to Ukraine is “a sovereign decision.” 

“We've always said that it's a sovereign decision for any country to decide what level of support that they're going to provide,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder at a news briefing on Thursday.

Ryder would not say whether it would cause other nations to need to provide more to Ukraine but highlighted the aid Poland has already provided.

“Poland has been one of the leading countries when it comes to providing security assistance to Ukraine, and not only security assistance but also in terms of providing significant humanitarian aid and support for more than a million displaced Ukrainians who have gone to Poland as a result of Russia's invasion,” he said.