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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7:49 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Polish government says it's willing to discuss grain shipments with Ukraine if farmers are protected

From CNN staff

Poland's Agriculture Minister said he is willing to discuss grain shipments with Ukraine, as long as "the interests of the Polish farmer are secured and Ukrainian grain does not enter Poland."

“I am glad that Ukraine started talking to us, and not over our heads with the European Union or individually with various countries outside us, because it was a ridiculous thing," Poland's Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told journalists on Friday, according to CNN affiliate TVN24. 

On Thursday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he is willing to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "friends" to resolve "difficult situations" between their countries after Warsaw signaled it would stop sending arms to Kyiv amid a dispute over grain imports.

Grain dispute: Pressure has been building for months over a ban on Ukrainian grain, 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 Ukrainian prices.

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

"This matter needs to be resolved, it is a dispute that is in fact a legal dispute," Duda told TVN24 on Thursday. "I understand that [Ukraine] are looking for help in their situation at all costs and therefore they do not care where they sell their grain, but it is not indifferent to us, and we want to help them and we do help them."

8:40 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Ukraine launches missile attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea, Russian official says

 From Olga Voitovych and Jessie Gretener

Smoke rises above Sevastopol after a reported attack on the Black Sea Fleet on September 22.
Smoke rises above Sevastopol after a reported attack on the Black Sea Fleet on September 22. Joseph Richter/X

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

"The enemy launched a missile attack on the headquarters of the fleet," Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said on Telegram. 

Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters, is the largest city in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea that was illegally annexed by Moscow's forces in 2014.

Russian state media TASS reported that debris was “scattered for hundreds of meters” following the missile strike. TASS added that a large number of ambulances were on their way to the scene of the attack.

Razvozhayev also said that a piece of shrapnel fell near the Lunacharsky Theater. 

The Russian-appointed governor said operational services went to the scene of the attack and said information about any casualties is being clarified. 

Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the incident. 

Last week, Ukraine launched an extensive assault on the ship repair base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which damaged two Russian warships, according to officials. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukrainian armed forces attacked the Sergo Ordzhonikidze shipyard in Sevastopol on September 13 with 10 cruise missiles and three unmanned boats, in what appeared to be Kyiv’s most ambitious strike on the port since the war began.

7:55 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Kremlin claims that "tensions will increase" between Ukraine and Poland, other European countries

From Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova

Polish president Andrzej Duda, center left, and the Government Plenipotentiary for Polish-Ukrainian Development Cooperation Jadwiga Emilewicz, center right, attend the 'Common Future' Congress for Reconstruction of Ukraine at the MTP Poznan Expo in Poznan, Poland, on September 22.
Polish president Andrzej Duda, center left, and the Government Plenipotentiary for Polish-Ukrainian Development Cooperation Jadwiga Emilewicz, center right, attend the 'Common Future' Congress for Reconstruction of Ukraine at the MTP Poznan Expo in Poznan, Poland, on September 22. Jakub Kaczmarczyk/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Russian government predicts that tensions will likely increase between Ukraine and Poland, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. 

"As we can see, there are certain tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv. We predict that these tensions will increase," Peskov said during a regular call with reporters, when asked to comment on Poland signaling that it would stop sending arms to Ukraine.

"We understand that tensions between Kyiv and other European capitals will also increase over time. It's unavoidable. In the meantime, we continue our special military operation to fulfill the tasks that we have set for ourselves," Peskov said. 

When asked to comment on the Polish government's remarks that the country will focus on arming its own forces, and whether that's causing concern in Russia and Belarus, Peskov said work to ensure Belarus and Russia's security is "underway."

"As for weapons, the neighborhood with Poland is not the most comfortable for our Belarusian comrades. The country is quite aggressive. It does not refrain from subversive activities and interference in internal affairs," Peskov said. "But our Belarusian friends and allies are on alert against the background of the potential threats that could come from Poland, as are we."

8:06 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Canada's Trudeau vows to stand with Ukraine "for as long as it takes" as Zelensky visits Ottawa

From Mohammed Tawfeeq

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and his wife Olena Zelenska after their arrival at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa, Ontario, on September 21.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and his wife Olena Zelenska after their arrival at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa, Ontario, on September 21. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press/AP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ottawa on Friday "to reiterate Canada's ongoing military, economic, humanitarian, and development support for Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia's brutal war of aggression."

In a statement released by his office on Thursday ahead of Zelensky's visit to Canada, Trudeau said his country "will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

"The two leaders will continue to work closely together to strengthen ties between our countries and help ensure the Ukrainian people can continue to defend themselves against Russia's brutal and unjustifiable invasion," the statement said.

Both leaders will participate in a signing ceremony "to continue strengthening economic ties between our two countries."

Trudeau later posted a video on X of himself welcoming Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska as they disembarked in Canada.

Zelensky will also deliver an address to the Canadian Parliament on Friday and meet with the Canadian finance minister and business leaders in Toronto.

The prime minister's office said in a statement that Canada will "apply more economic pressure on Putin's regime until it respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, including in sectors that are strategically important for Russia, such as oil and gas."

Since January 2022, Canada "has committed more than $8.9 billion [$6.62 billion USD] in multifaceted support to Ukraine, including $4.95 billion [$3.68 USD] in direct financial support and over $1.8 billion [$1.34 billion] in military aid ranging from Leopard 2 tanks and air defense and artillery systems to armored vehicles, ammunition, and more," the statement said.

8:33 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Russia foils another Ukrainian drone attack, defense ministry says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Jessie Gretener

Russia's Ministry of Defense said it foiled another Ukrainian drone attack "against facilities on the territory of the Russian Federation" on Friday morning, in addition to destroying two drones earlier in the day.

The Defense Ministry said Russian air defenses detected and destroyed one guided missile and two drones near the Crimean Peninsula, which they alleged were Ukrainian. 

Earlier on Friday, the ministry said it destroyed one drone in the southern Krasnodar region and intercepted another over the Black Sea near the southeastern coast of occupied Crimea.

It did not mention any damage or casualties.

8:33 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Russian attacks in Donetsk region injure 22 people

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Jessie Gretener

A Russian missile attack overnight hit a two-story residential building in the city of Kurakhove in the Donetsk region, injuring 16 people, the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor's Office said on Friday. 

The prosecutor's office said two missiles struck the city late Thursday night, with one of them hitting the residential building. Windows and roofs in other apartment buildings were also damaged, as well as cars and garages. 

Authorities said preliminary information indicates that they were Russian Iskander missiles.

The Donetsk regional military administration also reported other attacks overnight in the region, which they say injured two people in Petropavlivka, two people in Molodetske, one person in Toretsk, and one person in the village of Kostiantynivka.

7:37 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Second grain ship leaves Ukrainian port near Odesa via temporary corridor

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu

Palau-flagged bulk carrier Aroyat is pictured at sea, in this picture obtained from social media and released on September 22.
Palau-flagged bulk carrier Aroyat is pictured at sea, in this picture obtained from social media and released on September 22. Oleksandr Kubrakov/X/Reuters

A second grain ship has left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Chornomorsk, near the city of Odesa, after making the inbound journey last weekend, Ukrainian officials announced Friday.

The Palau-flagged vessel, called the Aroyat, left the port "after loading 17,600 [tons of] Ukrainian wheat for Egypt,” according to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. 

It's the second ship carrying grain to leave the port this week after a smaller ship left Chornomorsk under Ukraine’s temporary humanitarian corridor, Kubrakov said.

Ukraine established the temporary corridor last month after Russia pulled out of a UN-brokered agreement guaranteeing safe passage for grain ships across the Black Sea.

At least seven civilian ships have now made the journey, sailing south from Ukraine’s main ports around Odesa, since the corridor was announced.

Meanwhile, three more cargo vessels are en route to the port, Kubrakov announced Friday.

Three bulk carriers -- called Azara, Ying Hao 01, and Eneida -- are using the temporary corridor to export more than 100 tons of agricultural products and iron ore destined for China, Egypt, and Spain, the infrastructure minister said on social media. 

4:38 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Polish president says he is willing to talk to Zelensky as "friends" to resolve Ukraine grain dispute

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday said he is willing to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "friends" to resolve "difficult situations" between their countries after Warsaw signaled it would stop sending arms to Kyiv amid a dispute over grain imports.

The decision by Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, was a major reversal that threatens to upend Europe’s strategic relationship Kyiv as it wages a counteroffensive against Russia.

Referring to Zelensky's remarks Tuesday at the UN General Assembly that "some of our friends in Europe play out solidarity in a political theater," Duda told Polish channel TVN24 that although his Ukrainian counterpart did not mention Poland specifically, "the suggestion was there and we all understood it."

Asked whether he was upset by Zelensky's comments, Duda said, "maybe upset is a too strong word." 

"I was embittered, I would rather put it that way. I say this: 'let’s stay calm, please do not raise the temperature, because this is a dispute that concerns a small part of our relations. Let's not allow it to affect the whole, because there is no justification for it and only others will benefit from it,'" Duda said. 

Pressure has been building for months over a ban on Ukrainian grain, initially put in place earlier this year by several European Union nations to protect the livelihood of local farmers worried about being undercut by the low price of Ukrainian grain.

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

"This matter needs to be resolved, it is a dispute that is in fact a legal dispute," Duda told TVN24. "I understand that [Ukraine] are looking for help in their situation at all costs and therefore they do not care where they sell their grain, but it is not indifferent to us, and we want to help them and we do help them."

Arms shipments: Duda said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's statement Wednesday that Warsaw would no longer transfer weapons to Kyiv was "interpreted in the worst possible way."

Duda clarified that the prime minister was talking about new weapons earmarked for Polish army modernization and that Poland's existing pledges to Ukraine — including for howitzers, ammunition and mine clearing vehicles — would be honored.

He also did not rule out the possibility of resuming arms transfers to Kyiv in the future.

1:04 a.m. ET, September 22, 2023

Zelensky vows to liberate Bakhmut and 2 other key Ukrainian cities

From CNN staff

Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens as President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on September 21.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens as President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on September 21. Evan Vucci/AP

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday vowed to liberate the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut and two other key Ukrainian cities from Russian occupation during a discussion with US editors in Washington.

Bakhmut, which has been the scene of the some of the fiercest fighting of the war, has long been a target for Ukraine after Russian forces claimed control of the city in May following a months-long slog in which soldiers had to grind for every inch of territory.

"We will de-occupy Bakhmut," Zelensky said. "I think that we will de-occupy two more cities," he added. "I will not tell you what cities, sorry. And so we have the plan. Very, very comprehensive plan.”

Here's what else Zelensky addressed:

  • Congressional support: Zelensky told the editors that during his meetings with US lawmakers Thursday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said deciding what to do about Ukraine aid was "not simple" but assured him "they will be on our side." McCarthy previously said he would not commit to putting Ukraine aid on the chamber's floor by end of the year. The Biden administration has been asking Congress for more Ukraine funding amid divisions among Republican lawmakers.
  • Long-range missiles: Zelensky raised Ukraine's push for long-range missiles, such as the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which weren't included in the new aid package the White House announced Thursday. Speaking to Ukraine's need for the weapons, Zelensky told US media: "We don't have another way out."
  • Israel ties: Zelensky said he was "happy" with his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier this week, citing both countries' frayed relations with Iran, which the US says has supplied Russia with drones to attack Ukraine. "I'm happy with meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. ... It's good for Ukraine," Zelensky said. "But I really think that is even better for Israel. Because there is a dangerous moment and we have to be very serious with Iran."
  • On the counteroffensive: Zelensky also said Ukraine would not let up in its ongoing counteroffensive, saying he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was hoping for a lull in hostilities to renew his invading forces. "I know what Putin wants. I know it ... one of the best persons who understands him very well. 100%," Zelensky said. "And I knew that he needs pause because he really lost people, professional army, lost. They're dead."