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October 1, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news
By Sophie Tanno and Thom Poole, CNN
The US Congress passed a stopgap funding bill Saturday that helped avert a government shutdown but did not include additional funding for Ukraine.
Speaking from the White House Sunday, President Joe Biden vowed the US "will not walk away" from Ukraine. A bipartisan group of leaders in the US Senate also promised to vote on more aid for the country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that a drop in US support could have severe consequences for the war effort.
CNN spoke with Ukrainians in Kyiv Sunday to see how they feel about the situation:
Volodymyr Kostiak, Ukrainian serviceman
"These are internal American games. And Ukraine is a hostage to this discussion — this internal war," Kostiak said.
"America's strategic interests are so big that Ukraine is part of them," he added. "And I think that the internal political struggle cannot affect the assistance to Ukraine that much. There will be some errors, but they will be insignificant."
Kostiak said the fight over funding Ukraine is due to the political realities of the 2024 US presidential election, but he believes the possibility the US would actually stop helping Ukraine is slim.
"The US budget has been suspended 20 times in history, and never once has it led to any serious consequences," the serviceman said. "So I don't see this as a big problem for Ukraine."
Tetiana Ostapchuk, logistician
"I haven't heard about this decision yet, but I can say for sure that we really need support from other countries, because we can't do it alone," Ostapchuk said. "Aid is very important. If it suddenly happens that America will no longer help us, then we will all fight to keep our land free. To the last man. But it would still be easier with aid."
Natalia, an English teacher, and Serhii Krasnoshchoks, an entrepreneur
"Yes, we have seen the news, but we think that there will be aid to Ukraine anyway. We hope so very much. And of course, we will be grateful for any help. The more, the better," the pair said.
Mykhailo Chendei, store administrator
"I think it's impossible (that the US will stop helping Ukraine). No one will leave us without aid," Chendei said.
"Now it's an internal American issue. But I believe that our government also needs to show changes," he continued, alluding to Kyiv's ongoing purge of corruption in the government.
"We need to show America, Republicans and Trumpists that we will change the country," he said, referring to supporters of former President Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism about aid for Ukraine. "Ukrainians already want to do this. We do not agree to live under these rules, with corruption. We need new rules. If we show a little bit of results — and our army is already showing them — then I hope everything will be fine."
Yulia Mueller, chief accountant
"I think that, in general, there may be a situation where the aid will stop, because a large percentage of Americans are unhappy that their money is being sent to Ukraine, that Ukraine is far away, that there is no threat to the US," Mueller said.
"On the other hand, it seems to me that all sane people who see the atrocities that have been and are happening here now — how entire cities are being wiped out — understand that this can spread to other countries as well," she continued. "If America stops helping us, there will be very difficult consequences for everyone."
Ukrainians descended on Independence Square in Kyiv on Sunday to mark Defenders Day, the holiday honoring the country's veterans and war dead.
The observance has held particular importance in the last two years given Russia's invasion.
This is what some of them had to say:
Kateryna Izotova, originally from Zaporizhzhia, now living in Kyiv
"The war is ongoing in our country, everyone should realize it and not forget about it. We came today to honor the memory of the fallen soldiers. Those who gave their lives for us. My husband and I are volunteers, and it always hurts me when I see those who do not know or just forget about this day. Memorial days like this should not only be once a year, but we should thank our warriors and remember them every day. This day is special for our family because it is the day of our defenders who gave their lives for us to live in peace."
Harry Hryhorian, Kyiv resident
"Today is a day when we honor our soldiers, our heroes. It is important to do it every day ... I believe in Ukraine's victory in this war. This is our country, and Donbas, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia (regions) are Ukraine. And we will win."
Liubov Smirnova, originally from Mariupol
"We are from Mariupol. Our Oleksii was 26 years old. He fought for only two months and died last April at Azovstal (the steel plant where Ukrainian forces held out after the city fell) ... we come here to honor him," she said. "He was such a good guy, we all loved him so much. He only recently got married -- he and his wife lived only a year together, and then he went to war to defend our city. Mariupol is a Russian-speaking city, but everyone defended Ukraine. I believe in our victory, it cannot be otherwise given our fortitude. I also believe we all will soon return home."
Oksana Hrynko, originally from Mariupol
"Today I came here to pay tribute to all our defenders. To show my respect for their feat, my gratitude for everything that those who died in battle did for us. And to show all the support to those who are now defending our homeland and who, I hope, will liberate my home city from the invaders," she said. "Because we need to declare our position, we need to tell the whole world how important every life is for us, because we have already lost so many of them. I believe in victory and in returning home."
Vadym Dzhuvaga, Ukrainian serviceman on the front lines in Donetsk
"I've been fighting since July 2014, with some breaks. I have not been to Kyiv for almost a year and I came here to honor all the guys who died protecting all of us. This is the duty of every citizen of Ukraine. I have often been asked when the war will end. I always joke: send a letter to the Kremlin, to the Tsar Father, he knows it. The main source of the war is Putin."
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "victory will come" in the country's war against Russia in an event celebrating the country's soldiers.
In an address marking Day of the Defenders, the national holiday honoring veterans and fallen soldiers, Zelensky stressed the of importance of unity and optimism as the fight continues.
“Our unity must enable us to go all the way to drive the occupier out of our land, and it will," he said. Never again will Ukraine pay with the future of its children, its sovereignty, and its will for illusory promises of peace."
“Courage, resilience, unity are the things we must not lose in order to not lose Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian government is working with its partners in Washington to ensure that the budget Congress will work on over the next 45 days will include new funds to help Kyiv push back against Russia, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.
Washington narrowly avoided a government shutdown with the passage of a stopgap funding bill on Saturday but it dropped funding for Ukraine.
A future shutdown could have a negative impact on Ukraine, the spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko, said on Facebook on Sunday.
Nikolenko said that the US budget currently includes about $1.6 billion for the defense industry and $1.23 billion for direct budget support, as well as funds for humanitarian and energy projects.
Slovakia’s former Prime Minister, Robert Fico, whose SMER party won parliamentary elections Saturday, said he will do everything he can to ensure peace talks between Russia and Ukraine start as soon as possible.
Fico failed to secure enough votes to govern on his own but will have a chance to become PM again when coalition talks to begin.
He's known for his pro-Russia stance and his suggestion of peace talks is unlikely to be welcomed in Ukraine, which does not want to engage in any negotiations that would mean ceding territory to Russia.
Asked about his stance on Ukraine, Fico said: “I will constrain myself to one sentence: Slovakia and people in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine.”
“Ukraine is a huge tragedy, for everyone. If SMER is asked to form a government … I will do everything, also within the European Union, to see peace talks begin as soon as possible.”
“More killing is not going to help anyone. You know our opinion. I’d rather spend 10 years negotiating peace and compromises, than let people kill each other for 10 more years and then end up where we are now. We are not changing our stance as a peace party.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute to the memory of Ukrainian soldiers “who gave their lives defending their homeland,” the president’s office said in a press release Sunday.
“On the Day of Defenders of Ukraine, the President honored the memory of soldiers who died for the Motherland,” the press release read.
Zelensky laid flowers at the “Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen Defenders of Ukraine” on Mykhailivska Square in Kyiv. Soldiers also placed a wreath of flowers at the wall.
The ceremony was also attended by several others, including Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell as well as representatives of the government and military command.
The participants honored the memory of the fallen heroes with a minute of silence.
Ukraine’s ability to rely on the European Union for unequivocal support in its fight against Russia has suffered a major blow on Sunday after a pro-Kremlin figure won election in neighbouring Slovakia.
Slovakia’s former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his SMER party came top in the country’s parliamentary election after running an anti-Ukrainian and anti-American campaign.
Fico has pledged an immediate end to Slovak military support for Ukraine and promised to block Ukraine’s NATO ambitions.
Slovakia is a member of both NATO and the European Union. If Fico manages to form a government and become the Prime Minister, he could use his mandate to try and influence EU's and NATO's policies. He has in the past campaigned against Europe’s sanctions on Russia.
But it remains unclear whether Fico will be able to form a government. With 22.9% of the vote, SMER does not have enough seats in the parliament to govern on their own.
As the leader of the biggest party, Fico will get the first chance to build a coalition. However, the liberal PS party, which came second with 17.9% of the vote, said it would do “everything it could” to prevent Fico from forming a government. PS has pledged to continue supporting Ukraine.
Its leader Michal Šimečka said he will be speaking to other parties to see if there is an opportunity to create an anti-Fico coalition.
If that happens, it wouldn’t be the first time Fico has won an election but failed to form a government. He came first in 2010, but was sidelined by a coalition formed around the then-second biggest party.
Flights were diverted at Sochi International Airport in Russia Sunday after a Ukrainian drone was shot down over Russia’s Krasnodar region, Sochi mayor Aleksey Kopaigorodsky said in a statement.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the drone used in the attack was an aircraft-type UAV.
As a precautionary measure, the Sochi International Airport – over 200 miles from the affected region – had a temporary restriction on their flights.
“Sochi airport imposed a temporary flight restriction. Six flights were diverted to alternate airfields,” the Sochi airport said in a statement on Sunday.
The restrictions were lifted at 8.20 a.m. (local time), with the airport resuming the arrival and departure of aircraft, the mayor and Sochi airport statements both said.
“Everything is normal in Sochi. The situation in the city is calm,” Kopaigorodsky said.
Ukraine has been stepping up its attacks beyond its borders using drones to target Russian infrastructure.