August 14, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 15, 2023
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10:16 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Shipping company official details cargo ship crew's experience as Russians boarded the vessel

From CNN's Gül Tüysüz in Kyiv and Lauren Kent in London

Palau-flagged vessel Sukru Okan sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 10, in this screen grab from a video.
Palau-flagged vessel Sukru Okan sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 10, in this screen grab from a video. Yoruk Isik/Reuters

An official of the Turkish shipping company that owns the cargo ship Sukru Okan spoke to CNN about the crew's experience of Russians firing warning shots and boarding the vessel on Sunday, noting that the cargo ship is now in Romanian waters and waiting to move to the Ukrainian port of Izmail. 

Russia said the warship fired warning shots when the captain of the Palau-flagged ship failed to respond to a request to stop for an inspection.

The general dry cargo ship was empty at the time of the incident and was on the way to pick up grain from Danube ports to carry to European and Turkish ports, in what was a "routine" journey, according to the official of the shipping company.

The official said that it is routine for the ship to go to the Romanian port of Sulina first before carrying on to Ukraine's Izmail port, but also said that at some point overnight, a crew member logged the Sukru Okan's destination as Izmail. 

The Danube grain corridor is separate from the Black Sea grain corridor that was once protected by the now-defunct UN-brokered grain deal

Here's how it played out, according to the shipping company official: The Sukru Okan's 12-person Turkish crew was radioed by the Russian warship Sunday as it was en route to Izmail, at which point the vessel tried to turn back to Turkish waters in order to get in touch with the country's Coast Guard and other officials. 

Shortly after, the Russian warship fired warning shots at the cargo ship and began following it, according to the shipping company official who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. 

A helicopter then took off from the Russian warship and more warning shots were fired. The crew waited, and Russian servicemen boarded the ship. A video captured by the Sukru Okan crew showed several crew members sitting on the ship deck as a Russian helicopter hovered over them. 

Russian soldiers questioned the captain about why he did not stop the vessel, and he told them he was in international waters, adding that "in order to notify officials, we turned our direction.” 

The Russian soldiers then searched the cabins of the ship with the captain for about an hour, and also looked through the documents and passports of all the crew members, according to the official of the shipping company, who was not on board at the time of the incident. 

The company official told CNN he believes the Russians were pleased that everyone on board was Turkish, adding that once the Russians were onboard they didn’t make any threats or take negative actions against the crew. 

The Russian soldiers did make the captain of the Sukru Okan sign a document in Russian, which the shipping company official believes was a statement certifying that there was "no injury or damage" onboard.

"Since there were no negative outcomes, and the ship was not seized, we decided it should continue on its path," he told CNN. 

The official said the Sukru Okan is now in Romanian waters, waiting for the operators of Ukraine's Izmail port to allow them to proceed. He described this manner of reaching Izmail as "the normal procedure." Data from MarineTraffic shows that the Sukru Okan was in waters near Romania's Sulina Port on Monday afternoon. 

"For the last year, we have been going routine back and forth to those ports," said the official who noted that the shipping company purchased the vessel in 2021 and registered it under the flag of Palau due to restrictions on Turkish-flagged vessels.  

Regarding Russia's previous announcement that it would consider ships going to Ukrainian ports as suspicious of carrying ammunition, he told CNN, "I guess we are the first," adding, "but I foresee these types of things becoming more common."

9:27 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Russia says it thwarted 2 more Ukrainian drone attacks in the Belgorod region

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Russian air defense systems detected and destroyed multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, over the territory of the Belgorod region, the defense ministry said Monday.

There were no casualties or damage, it added.

“On August 14, at about 12:15 Moscow time and 12:45 Moscow time, attempts by the Kyiv regime to carry out terrorist attacks by aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles against objects on the territory of the Russian Federation were thwarted,” the defense ministry said in a statement. 

Belgorod, a city within the Belgorod region, sits near the Russia-Ukraine border just 80 kilometers from Kharkiv, Ukraine. In recent months, drone attacks or attempted drone attacks on Belgorod have become an almost daily occurrence. 

9:18 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN staff

A deadly Russian missile attack hit Zaporizhzhia on Sunday, while Ukrainian forces thwarted airstrikes in Odesa overnight.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Fighting rages on: Russian shelling in Zaporizhzhia killed two elderly civilians on Sunday, according to local officials. Meanwhile, in nearby Kherson region, several civilians were injured in a Russian attack early Monday. It came after Russian bombardments in the region over the weekend killed at least seven people.
  • Airstrikes in Odesa: Three supermarket workers were injured after Ukrainian air defenses repelled a series of Russian airstrikes on the southern port city overnight. All 15 drones and eight Kalibr sea-launched missiles launched by Russian forces were repelled, a statement from the Ukrainian air defense forces said.
  • "Provocative actions": Ukraine's foreign ministry condemned Moscow after a Russian vessel fired warning shots and boarded a Turkish-owned cargo vessel in the Black Sea. Russia said it stopped the Sukru Okan to ensure it was not carrying "prohibited goods" to Ukraine, as tensions flare over the sea's shipping lane.
  • Russian ruble plunges: The ruble hit a 17-month low against the dollar on Monday, highlighting the growing squeeze on Russia’s economy from Western sanctions and a slump in export revenues. The Russian currency has lost nearly 40% of its value this year, weakening past 100 rubles to the dollar.
  • Russia's new subs: Russia is equipping its new Yasen-class nuclear submarines with hypersonic Zircon missiles, Alexey Rakhmanov, the head of Russia's largest shipbuilder, said. The long-range weapons travel more than five times the speed of sound and are harder to detect and intercept.
8:08 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Russian attack in Kharkiv kills at least one person

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Russian shelling in the Ukrainian town of Kozacha Lopan in the Kharkiv region on Monday killed a 50-year-old man, according to officials.

Two other men were also injured in the attack, the Kharkiv region military administration said on Telegram.

Further east, a separate Russian attack on the village of Podoly also resulted in two civilian injuries, officials said. 

"In addition, in the morning, a 42-year-old woman was admitted to a hospital in Izium with a mine-blast injury. She was wounded during the shelling around 1 a.m. (6 p.m. ET). The victim's house was also damaged," the regional military administration added.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to respond with "completely fair retaliation" amid a spate of Russian strikes on civilian targets.

7:49 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

The West’s "see no evil" approach to Serbia’s Vucic risks destabilizing the Balkans

Analysis from CNN's Christian Edwards

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic pictured in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 9.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic pictured in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 9. Zorana Jevtic/Reuters

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States and European Union accelerated their pivot towards Serbia. Rather than juggling the contradictory demands of pluralistic and fractious Balkan states, Western capitals focused the bulk of their efforts on a singular target.

Their policies had two aims. First, to bring Serbia into the Western fold, away from Russia. Second, to allow their respective administrations to focus more fully on supporting Ukraine.

Traditionally one of Moscow’s closest allies in Europe, Belgrade has long tried to tread the line between its historical ties to Russia and a potential future of closer European integration. Western diplomats have sought to pull Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic from the orbit of his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, by pledging a swifter path to EU membership while simultaneously warning of isolation if they break rank.

But, 18 months on, some observers say the current approach has been all carrot and no stick, and as a result is failing to achieve both of its aims.

Serbia has refused to participate in all rounds of EU sanctions against Putin. And Serbia has continued to pursue its own interests in the region with diminishing accountability, stirring conflicts abroad to distract from discontent at home, safe in the knowledge they will not be rebuked in the West.

Read the full story:

6:51 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Russia puts three Ukrainian generals on wanted list for attacks in Donbas

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has placed three Ukrainian generals on its criminal wanted list on charges related to historic attacks in the Donbas region, an eastern Ukrainian flank that has remained the front line of the conflict since 2014.

According to Russian state news agency TASS on Monday, citing the ministry's database, the three Ukrainian officials on the list are:

  • Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Yevhen Moisiuk
  • Gen. Ihor Palahniuk
  • Gen. Andrii Kovalchuk

The Russian Investigative Committee indicted the three generals in absentia at the end of July, according to TASS.

According to the committee, they commanded Ukrainian Armed Forces units that shelled Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republic settlements in 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Some background: The sprawling Donbas has been devastated by years of fighting between Moscow and Kyiv, after Russian-backed rebels occupied parts of region in 2014.

The Ukrainian government asserts that the two separatist-controlled areas -- Luhansk and the Donetsk People's Republic -- are temporarily Russian-occupied. The two territories have not been recognized by any governments, other than Russia and its ally Syria.

Since the Kremlin launched its invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, the fight for control of the Donbas has further intensified.

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Rob Picheta contributed reporting.

6:18 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

German finance minister in Kyiv to provide “concrete support"

From CNN's Chris Stern in Berlin and Jessie Gretener in London

Christian Lindner, Federal Minister of Finance, arrives in Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 14.
Christian Lindner, Federal Minister of Finance, arrives in Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 14. Thomas Imo/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said he will collaborate with his counterpart in Kyiv to bolster the Ukrainian economy, as Western allies support efforts to rebuild the country amid the conflict.

Linder arrived in Kyiv by train on Monday for his first trip to Ukraine since the start of the war, according to the German Finance Ministry press office.

He said it was “a special and moving moment" to be back in Kyiv.

“I was last there in early 2020 and got to know a country that had opted for democracy and a market economy,” Linder said, adding that he is “more convinced than ever that Ukraine was attacked by Russia because of this.”

“What is at stake here is the future of the European order of peace and freedom," he added.

Lindner said he would meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Serhii Marchenko, to provide “concrete support.” Lindner explained that the German Federal Ministry of Finance wanted to help Ukraine's finance ministry and make the country more attractive to foreign direct investment.

Germany has already provided around 1.5 billion euros ($1.64 billion) of aid to Ukraine since the war began, Lindner said. In July 2022, Germany and other creditors also announced that they would give Ukraine a reprieve on debt repayments.

5:58 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Cargo ship nearing Romanian port on the Black Sea

From CNN's Clare Sebastian, Lauren Kent and Victoria Butenko

The Sukru Okan cargo ship is now nearing the Romanian port of Sulina, a day after a Russian warship fired warning shots and boarded the barge in the latest escalation in the sea's shipping lanes.

The Russian defense ministry claimed over the weekend that the ship was headed to the Ukrainian port of Izmail in the Black Sea.

Moscow has said it stopped the Turkish-owned, Palau-flagged dry cargo ship on Sunday to ensure it was not carrying "prohibited goods" to Ukraine. 

On Monday, data from public ship traffic website MarineTraffic showed the vessel's new location near Sulina as of 12:25 p.m. (5:25 a.m. ET).

The Romanian port is a city at the mouth of the Danube River. The Ukrainian port of Izmail is located nearby, along the Danube. 

In new video of the incident obtained by CNN on Monday, a helicopter can be seen approaching the vessel that Russia said contained servicemen, who then boarded the ship. The video, which was provided by the ship’s owner, also showed the crew sat on deck as an hour-long inspection was conducted before the barge was able to continue on its way.

How we got here: Russia pulled out of a UN and Turkish-brokered deal in July that allowed Kyiv to move its grain via the Black Sea. At the time, it warned that any ships headed to Ukraine would be treated as potentially carrying weapons. Ukraine made a similar threat to ships traveling to Russian ports.

5:28 a.m. ET, August 14, 2023

Polish military gears up for Army Day parade

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau and Antonia Mortensen

A convoy of Polish military vehicles during the final rehearsal of a parade prior to Polish Armed Forces Day, in Warsaw, Poland, on August 12.
A convoy of Polish military vehicles during the final rehearsal of a parade prior to Polish Armed Forces Day, in Warsaw, Poland, on August 12. Pawel Supernak/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Poland’s military is making final preparations for the country’s Army Day on Tuesday, held this year against the backdrop of tensions on the border with Kremlin ally Belarus.

The event — held annually on August 15 — commemorates the anniversary of the 1920 victory over Soviet Russia at the Battle of Warsaw, locally known as the “Miracle on the Vistula.”

Video shared by the Polish army on Sunday showed dozens of tanks and military vehicles taking part in a nighttime rehearsal in Warsaw.

Diplomatic ties between Poland, a NATO member country, and key Kremlin ally Belarus have ruptured in recent weeks amid increased military activity along the border.

Earlier this year, troops from the Russian military group Wagner were stationed in Belarus after a failed mutiny against Moscow. Their increased presence in the region prompted Warsaw to deploy more troops at the border.

What's happening? Tuesday's parade will start at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET) along Wisłostrada — a highway that runs past the Vistula River in the capital, according to the Polish Ministry of Defense’s website.

The ministry added that it will present “200 units of Polish and foreign military equipment and 92 aircraft accompanied by 2,000 soldiers.”

The parade will include foreign equipment, including US-made M1A1 Abrams tanks, South Korean K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers, HIMARS rocket launchers, Krab self-propelled howitzers, as well as Patriot air defense systems, part of the Polish “WISŁA” system, according to the ministry's website.

The equipment of Polish production will include, among others: new Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles, Rosomak armored personnel carriers, and Rak self-propelled mortars, as well as Baobab-K mine-laying vehicles and Żmija light reconnaissance vehicles, the ministry added.

The military said it would also host nearly 70 “military picnics” from Saturday to Tuesday throughout Poland. At the picnics, people are able to talk to crews and have "the opportunity to learn about the construction of combat vehicles,” or try “the military pea soup with bread” while watching military films.