September 1, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Chris Lau, Rob Picheta, Adrienne Vogt, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 9:15 p.m. ET, September 1, 2023
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11:16 p.m. ET, August 31, 2023

UN presents "concrete proposals" to Russia for Black Sea grain deal renewal

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Richard Roth

Antonio Guterres talks at a press conference in Johannesburg on August 24.
Antonio Guterres talks at a press conference in Johannesburg on August 24. Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented “a set of concrete proposals” in order to renew the Black Sea grain deal in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

According to Guterres, it is “extremely important to renew” the grain deal. 

He said the initiative "has given a very important contribution to make the food markets more adequate to the UN objectives of food security,” such as bringing down prices and creating “conditions for access to the global markets of many countries, namely the developing world.” 

However, he said, the UN “took into concern the Russian requests.” 

“We have some concrete solutions for the concerns allowing for a more effective access of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets at adequate prices,” he said. 

Guterres said he believes the UN “presented a proposal that could be the basis for a renewal, but a renewal that must be stable.” 

"We cannot have a Black Sea Initiative that moves from crisis to crisis, from suspension to suspension. We need to have something that works, and that works to the benefit of everybody,” Guterres said. 

Some context: Earlier Thursday, Lavrov said Russia is ready to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative as soon as promises made to Moscow become guarantees. 

Russia withdrew from the initiative in July, nearly a year after it was brokered by Turkey and the UN to guarantee the safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea and help facilitate Russian exports of grain and fertilizer. 

Russia has persistently complained that benefits due under the agreement never materialized.

8:57 p.m. ET, August 31, 2023

Russian military hackers take aim at Ukrainian soldiers' battle plans, US and allies say

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

Russian military hackers have been targeting Ukrainian soldiers’ mobile devices in a bid to steal sensitive battlefield information that could aid the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine, the US and its allies warned Thursday.

The new advisory from the US and its “Five Eyes” allies — Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — corroborates a report from Ukraine’s SBU security service that found the Russian hackers sought to infiltrate the Android tablets that the Ukrainian military used for “planning and performing combat missions.”

The Russian hackers’ malicious code was designed to steal data sent from soldiers’ mobile devices to the Starlink satellite system made by billionaire Elon Musk’s company, according to the SBU. Starlink satellites have been crucial to Ukraine’s battlefield communications, CNN previously reported.

The news shows how the struggle to control sensitive military data in cyberspace has been a key front in Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine.

It’s unclear just how successful the hacking effort was. Ukraine’s SBU security service claimed to have “blocked” some of the hacking attempts, but also conceded that the Russians had “captured” the tablets on the battlefield and planted malicious software on them.

“Mobile malware is particularly insidious because it can give intelligence services the physical locations of targets,” said John Hultquist, chief analyst at security firm Mandiant, which is owned by Google. That capability, Hultquist told CNN, can be “extremely effective on the battlefield.”

Read the full story here.

8:54 p.m. ET, August 31, 2023

Zelensky touts new Ukrainian-made long-range weapon

From CNN's Mariya Knight

A Ukrainian-made long-range weapon has successfully hit a target at a distance of 700 kilometers (about 435 miles), President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday.

He didn't provide any images or say what kind of weapon it was.

Zelensky discussed the launch with top military and government officials and wrote about it on Telegram.

Zelensky didn't say where or when the weapon was used and CNN is not able to independently verify this claim.

11:22 p.m. ET, August 31, 2023

"Everything's fine," Prigozhin says in new video purportedly filmed days before his death

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Tara Subramaniam

Yevgeny Prigozhin gives an address inside a vehicle at an unknown location.
Yevgeny Prigozhin gives an address inside a vehicle at an unknown location. Courtesy Grey Zone via Telegram/Reuters

A new video published by pro-Wagner PMC Telegram channel Grey Zone on Wednesday appears to show Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claiming to be in Africa shortly before his death.

It is unclear when or where the video was shot, but Prigozhin seems unbothered about his safety and well-being, and tells his audience from a moving vehicle that he is doing fine.

“For everyone discussing whether I’m alive or not and how I’m doing. It’s currently a weekend in the second half of August 2023. I’m in Africa, so for those who like to speculate about my elimination, my private life, my work there, or anything else: everything’s fine, as a matter of fact,” he said.

Prigozhin’s words suggest the video could have been recorded on the weekend of August 19. The gear that Prigozhin is wearing resembles what he wore in the only other recent video where he is said to be in Africa, which surfaced on August 21.

CNN has not been able to verify the locations or the dates of either video.

Prigozhin died in a plane crash on August 23 along with nine other passengers while en route to St. Petersburg.

The crash came two months to the day after Prigozhin’s attempted mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. It is not clear yet what caused the crash, but US and Western intelligence officials that CNN has spoken to believe it was deliberate.

Read more here.

8:51 p.m. ET, August 31, 2023

Ukrainian forces advance toward "first line" of Russian defenses in southern Zaporizhzhia region

By Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Ukrainian forces said they had penetrated the “first line” of Russian strongholds in the Zaporizhzhia region, in a sign that Kyiv is edging closer to Moscow’s sprawling network of fortified trenches along the southern front.

The Ukrainian military claimed on Thursday that its units had advanced toward two villages to the south and east of Robotyne, a village in Zaporizhzhia that Kyiv secured last week amid a grueling counteroffensive that is yielding incremental gains.

“In the Novodanylivka-Novoprokopivka direction, they have been successful, are consolidating their positions, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets, and conducting counter-battery operations,” the military’s general staff said on Thursday.

Testimonies reviewed by CNN shed light on the numerous challenges for Ukrainian troops trying to break through a dense system of Russian minefields, antitank obstacles and widespread tunnels in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.

News of the latest progress comes against the backdrop of reports that US and Western allies had noted the slow pace of the counteroffensive. CNN reported earlier this month that the US had been receiving increasingly “sobering updates.”

Russian military bloggers reported increased activity near the village of Verbove, in southeastern Ukraine, but said Moscow’s forces were resisting Ukrainian advances.

On Monday, satellite imagery of the village of Solodka Balka — 7 kilometers (4 miles) south of Robotyne — showed steel-reinforced communications trenches, vehicle shelters and “dragon’s teeth” fortifications aimed at obstructing Ukrainian advances.

Kyiv has expanded its units toward the strategic town of Tokmak in recent weeks, a logistic center for Russian forces with a railhead through which resupply is carried out and depots for fuel and ammunition are situated.

Read more here.