September 22, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Lauren Kent, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 0711 GMT (1511 HKT) September 23, 2023
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3:28 p.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Top Ukrainian general: Winter won’t halt Kyiv's offensive and the biggest breakthrough is yet to come

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Daniel Hodge and Konstyantyn Gak

Oleksandr Tarnavsky is pictured during an interview with CNN.
Oleksandr Tarnavsky is pictured during an interview with CNN. Vasco Cotovio/CNN

Winter won't slow down Ukraine's counteroffensive and Kyiv’s biggest breakthrough is still to come, the general leading the country's fight along the southern front line told CNN.

“The weather can be a serious obstacle during advance, but considering how we move forward, mostly without vehicles, I don’t think [the weather] will heavily influence the counteroffensive,” Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky told CNN’s senior international Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen during an exclusive interview Friday.

Intense rains in the fall can make the ground in Ukraine soggy and make movement with heavy machinery, like tanks, more difficult, but Tarnavsky says Ukraine’s forces move in small groups, mostly on foot. 

The general also said he believes Ukraine’s big breakthrough — the biggest of this counteroffensive — is yet to come. 

“I think it will happen after Tokmak," Tarnavsky said of the breakthrough. "At the moment they are relying on the depth of their defensive line there.”

Rather than the "Surovikin line," which is a defensive line built on the orders of former Gen. Sergey Surovikin, Tarnavsky says the bigger issues are the “crossroads, tree lines and minefields between the tree lines.” 

“[There’s] a combination of small harmful enemy defense groups that currently are planted very precisely and competently,” he said. “But the actions of our fighters force them to slowly pull back when they face our assault squads.”

Positive about the ultimate outcome, the general conceded that for the counteroffensive to be a success, Ukrainian forces need to at least reach the city of Tokmak. 

“Tokmak is the minimum goal,” he said. “The overall objective is to get to our state borders.”

When asked about rising resistance to continuing weapons supplies to Ukraine, especially in the US, where some have voiced doubt about Kyiv’s chances of success, Tarnavsky said he respected their view. 

He also thanked Ukraine’s Western allies for their continuous support, especially for the tanks and other armored vehicles they’ve been providing, and promised Kyiv was treating them with great care. 

3:09 a.m. ET, September 23, 2023

Top Ukrainian general says strikes on Crimea important for success of counteroffensive

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Daniel Hodge and Kostyantyn Gak

Strikes on Crimea, like the one on Friday, are important for the success of Kyiv’s counteroffensive, according to the general leading Ukraine’s military efforts along the southern front line, Oleksandr Tarnavsky.

“The success of offensive operations is not only about destroying the enemy in front of you, it’s also about destroying places of concentration of equipment, personnel and especially destroying the command centers,” Tarnavsky told CNN in an exclusive interview on Friday.

“Disorganizing their forces by destroying their command centers at a higher level leads to a mess on the battlefield,” Tarnavsky explained. “A destroyed commander means a destroyed command link and without it, there are no coordinated actions.”

Crimea, the general elaborated, is especially important on that front because it houses a high concentration of Russian military equipment. “We know where they strike from, both their air assets, as well as the ground ones,” he said.

Striking the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters helps Ukraine and also "gives us hope for the future,” Tarnavsky said.

“I mean we have capabilities to hit them not only in front of us but also in the rear,” he said. “And when you realize that the enemy feels hot in the rear, it brings up the morale of our soldiers.”
1:29 p.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Russian missile strike kills 1 and injures at least 15 in central Ukrainian city 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

At least one person was killed and 15 people, including one child, were injured by a missile strike on the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Friday, according to a local official.

Russian forces carried out strikes on Friday on civilian infrastructure in the industrial city, according to Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava regional military administration.

Ukrainian air defenses managed to shoot down one Russian missile, Lunin added in his post on Telegram Friday.

Kremenchuk is located in Ukraine's Poltava region. 

1:18 p.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Analysis: Ukraine's attack on Crimea shows it can still inflict serious damage on Russian forces

Analysis from CNN's Tim Lister

The Ukrainian missile attack on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet is politically a sign that despite the slow progress on the front lines in its counteroffensive, Ukraine can still inflict serious damage on the Russian military. Targets such as the Crimea bridge have considerable symbolic value as well as strategic purpose.

It’s also part of a broader effort – in Crimea, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk – to hit Russian logistics, fuel, maintenance and command centers, in order to disrupt their ability to supply the front lines.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been involved in hundreds of cruise missile attacks against Ukraine and threatens merchant shipping using Ukrainian ports. Any disruption to its operation and command facilities (as well as the targeting of vessels at sea and in dock) is a win, especially after the Russian withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July. And, this week, the Ukrainians went after a drone facility in Crimea. Russia has used drones to target Ukraine’s Danube River ports.

Ukraine has devoted considerable effort to degrading Russian air defenses in Crimea. That effort now appears to be paying off – as Ukrainian Neptune missiles (and most probably UK-provided Storm Shadows) are capable of reaching targets deep inside Crimea.

While some US officials have been critical of Ukraine's concentration on Crimea, the Ukrainians argue that targeting anything to do with the Black Sea Fleet is worthwhile. As the Institute for the Study of War noted Thursday, “elements of the Black Sea Fleet’s 810th Naval Infantry Brigade are engaged in critical defensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps is defending positions on the east bank of Kherson Oblast.”

Read the full analysis here.

12:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Zelensky thanks Canada for its support of Ukraine 

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai and Paula Newton

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, on Friday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, on Friday. Sean Kilpatrick/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Canada for its support of Ukraine during in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday in Ottawa. 

“I want to thank that in this tough period you hosted Ukrainians, and you helped us on the battlefield, military, financially, and humanitarian, which is crucial,” Zelensky said. 

The Ukrainian president hinted that he may visit Canada with his children “after the victory” in Ukraine’s war with Russia. 

“Thank you that you stayed with us,” Zelensky said, adding that Canada supported Ukraine since before the invasion.

Trudeau said this meeting serves as an opportunity for him to “sit down and talk about all the things we need to do together” and to stand strongly against Russia. The prime minister said Canada “strongly and unequivocally” stands with Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, is also in Ottawa holding bilateral talks with his Canadian counterpart in an effort to shore up military support.

11:59 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Canada warns of potential cyber attacks during Zelensky's visit

From CNN's Paula Newton in Ottowa

Canada has warned the cyber community to be in a heightened state of vigilance during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Canada.

The Canadian cyber security community — especially the operators of government and critical infrastructure websites — should adopt a heightened state of vigilance and bolster their awareness of and protection against malicious cyber threats, a statement from Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) warned Friday.

“We have observed that it’s not uncommon to see increased distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaigns against NATO countries that support Ukraine, or host visits from Ukrainian government officials,” the statement continued.

About the Ukrainian president's visit: Zelensky is set to deliver an address to the Canadian Parliament on Friday and meet with the Canadian finance minister and business leaders in Toronto.

10:58 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Ukraine has "a long way to go" to destroy Russia's capabilities in Crimea, military spokesperson says

From Jessie Gretener and Olga Voitovych

The situation in the Black Sea remains "tense," a Ukrainian military spokesperson said Friday, adding that Ukraine still has "a long way to go" to "destroy all the enemy's capabilities" in Crimea.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Security and Defense Forces of the South of Ukraine, said in a video address that Russia is "realizing that it is no longer safe for them in the Black Sea and in their bases."

Earlier Friday, Ukraine launched a missile attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in perhaps the most dramatic example yet of the confidence with which Kyiv is going after Russian facilities in Crimea.

The spokesperson, however, acknowledged the challenges ahead.

"There are still many such points on the map of Crimea, and we have a long way to go," Humeniuk said. 

Humeniuk also said that "explosion season" will continue, adding, "there will be many more informative and interesting things to come." 

Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations, including air defenses, in Crimea. In recent weeks, Ukraine launched a missile attack on a shipyard in Sevastopol, said it destroyed Russia's S-400 missile system in Crimea, and most recently said it hit a Russian command post near Sevastopol on Wednesday.

9:56 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Ukrainian military confirms "successful hit" of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Jessie Gretener 

A grab from social media footage shows the aftermath of the attack at the Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 22.
A grab from social media footage shows the aftermath of the attack at the Black Sea fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 22. X

The Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Stratcom) confirmed on Friday that Ukraine successfully targeted the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on Friday.

“On the 22nd of September at about 12 noon, the Defense Forces of Ukraine have inflicted a successful hit on the Headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Command in the temporarily occupied Sevastopol,” Stratcom posted on Telegram on Friday.  

Sevastopol is one of the largest cities in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and was illegally annexed by Moscow's forces in 2014.

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

10:41 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Crimean Internet providers under "unprecedented" cyberattack, Russian-appointed official says

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Crimean Internet providers have faced an "unprecedented" cyberattack, leading to Internet access issues for residents on the peninsula, the local Russian-appointed official said Friday.

According to Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of occupied Crimea, “an unprecedented cyber-attack” has been launched on Crimean Internet providers.

“We are detecting interruptions in the Internet on the [Crimean] peninsula. All services are working to eliminate the threat,” Kryuchkov said in a Telegram post, adding that efforts are underway to mitigate the threat.

Earlier Friday, Ukraine launched a missile attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, Crimea, said.

Over the past month, Ukraine has stepped up attacks on Russian military bases and other installations, including air defenses, in Crimea. Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters, is one of the largest cities on the Crimean peninsula and was illegally annexed by Moscow’s forces in 2014.

CNN's Olga Voitovych, Jessie Gretener and Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.