September 7, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Chris Lau, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, September 8, 2023
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4:17 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Ukraine is "gradually gaining ground" in counteroffensive, NATO chief says

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a hearing by the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence in Brussels, Belgium, on September 7.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a hearing by the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence in Brussels, Belgium, on September 7. Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ukraine is “slowly gaining ground” in its counteroffensive despite difficult fighting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament, Stoltenberg said support from NATO allies helped to launch the Ukrainian counteroffensive which is now beginning to bear fruit.

"The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground,” he said. “This is heavy fighting, difficult fighting but they have been able to breach the defensive lines of the Russian forces. And they are moving forward."

His remarks come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sent out a strong message last week regarding Ukraine’s progress, tweeting: "No matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing. We are on the move."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are cautiously optimistic that the second line of Russian defensive fortifications on the southern front may be easier to penetrate than the first.

Geolocated video in recent days indicates Ukrainian units have made limited progress beyond the village of Robotyne, as they seek to expand the territory in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region they reclaimed in August.

4:21 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Videos show drone attack close to Russia's Southern Military headquarters

From CNN’s Teele Rebane and Olga Voitovych

An investigator works at the site where a Ukrainian drone was downed by air defence system, in central Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on September 7.
An investigator works at the site where a Ukrainian drone was downed by air defence system, in central Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on September 7. AFP/Getty Images

Social media videos geolocated by CNN show a drone attack Thursday close to Russia's Southern Military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don.

The explosion took place less than a kilometer from the military's building on Budonnovskiy Prospekt in the southwestern city.

In a Telegram post earlier, Rostov region Gov. Vasily Golubev said one person was injured and several cars were damaged after Russian air defenses intercepted two drones over the city.

“One fell outside of the city in the western part of Rostov, the second — in the city center, near Pushkinskaya St. 42," he said, which aligns with CNN’s geolocation. 

An "emergency mode" was enacted around the crash site and nearly 100 residents were offered alternative temporary accommodation, Golubev said.

Kyiv did not make any immediate comment.

Remember: Ukraine has increasingly been emboldened to hit strategic targets inside Russia through the air in recent weeks, even as it suffers assaults on its own cities, setting up a new phase of the conflict defined by Kyiv’s apparent efforts to wear down domestic Russian support for the war.

4:29 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Russia claims US supply of depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine is a "criminal act"

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov looks on during a press conference following talks with US counterpart in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 10, 2022
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov looks on during a press conference following talks with US counterpart in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 10, 2022 Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's deputy foreign minister on Thursday accused the United States of committing "a criminal act" following Washington's pledge to supply depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine for the first time, Russian state media reported.

The ammunition is part of $1 billion in new US support for Ukraine announced Wednesday.  The munitions, which can be fired from the US-made Abrams tanks that are expected to arrive in Ukraine this fall, are mildly radioactive because they are made from dense metal — a byproduct from fuel production for nuclear power plants.

Speaking after a seminar on nuclear non-proliferation Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed the US' move was "a reflection of Washington's outrageous disregard for the environmental consequences of using these kind of munitions in a war zone," state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.

“It is clear that they do not care who will breathe it in, where it will be settled, as well as what consequences it will lead to for those who are fighting now and what will happen to the generations that will live on this land," Ryabkov claimed.

Some context: According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, depleted uranium is used in ammunition designed to pierce armor plating because it becomes sharper on impact with a target. It is “considerably less radioactive than natural uranium,” according to the UN nuclear watchdog.

In March, the United Kingdom's Defense Ministry accused Russia of spreading disinformation after President Vladimir Putin warned London against providing Ukraine with ammunition containing depleted uranium.

“It is a standard component and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or capabilities. Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to disinform,” a British defense ministry spokesperson said at the time. “Independent research by scientists from groups such as the Royal Society has assessed that any impact to personal health and the environment from the use of depleted uranium munitions is likely to be low.”

2:12 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Analysis: Europe has dodged Putin’s gas bullet. But it's still thirsty for cheap energy

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

The gas receiving compressor station of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, on Friday, January 13.
The gas receiving compressor station of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, on Friday, January 13. Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

From the moment Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine seemed inevitable, Europe knew it would soon have to ask itself some very complicated questions. 

High among those was whether the continent could wean itself off the Russian gas it had thirstily guzzled for decades — and avoid being at the mercy of President Vladimir Putin should he cut that supply off in response to support for Ukraine. 

For Europe, energy security has always been a trade-off: Cheap, imported energy comes with the risk of dependency on the countries from which it originates. 

In the case of Russia and its natural gas, officials initially speculated that a long, cold winter in 2022-23 could force Europe to temper its punishment of Moscow. After all, developed countries like those in the European Union could not reasonably let their citizens go cold for the sake of Ukraine. 

A combination of luck, planning and Europeans’ support for Ukraine, however, left the energy war — once considered Putin’s ace in the hole — redundant. Europe had an especially mild winter while governments and citizens made a concerted effort to use less gas.

Now for the bad news: Despite these efforts, officials and analysts are fearful that however impressive these advancements have been, Europe’s energy is far from secure in the long term. 

Read the full analysis here.

1:04 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Analysis: US scorns Putin's possible turn toward North Korea

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Getty Images

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un may each have something the other wants — a dangerous combination as far as the US is concerned.

A meeting that may be in the works between the Russian and North Korean autocrats could have an impact on the war in Ukraine, complicate Washington’s repeatedly failed efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program, and play into the wider geopolitical chess game unfolding in the Pacific in which China is the major player.

Washington has reacted to the possibility of the meeting — which could possibly take place after Kim climbs aboard his armored train headed for the Russian far east — by mocking Putin, warning North Korea and trying to work out what it might mean.

Russia may be looking to Kim to replenish its ammunition and artillery supplies as the war in Ukraine grinds into another bloody winter. Pyongyang is also adept at drone and missile technology.

Kim, meanwhile, knows that Russia is a longtime and sophisticated nuclear power whose expertise could help his own expanding program. It’s also a big oil supplier, and North Korea and Russia are both living under punishing Western sanctions and restrictions on their access to the global market. If they can help each other ease the pain of blockades, they may be able to do business.

Read the full analysis here.

12:00 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

Ukraine touts counteroffensive progress as US secretary of state visits Kyiv. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

In one of the deadliest attacks in months, a Russian missile landed in the middle of the Ukrainian town of Kostiantynivka, killing 17 people, Ukrainian officials said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with senior Ukrainian leadership and President Volodymyr Zelensky during his third visit to Kyiv on Wednesday. The visit comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive enters its fourth month, with both Blinken and Zelensky expressing that it is making process.

Here's the top headlines:

  • Blinken in Kyiv: The US secretary of state announced $1 billion in new US support for Ukraine at a news conference with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv. Blinken also met with Zelensky to discuss efforts on the battlefield and "longer-term sustainable security arrangements." Zelensky, who just returned to the capital from the front lines, told Bliken it is always a “great message of support” for Ukraine when US officials visit and that financial support is "crucial."
  • New weapons: The new US military assistance package to Ukraine includes depleted uranium munitions for the first time, a US official told CNN. The munitions are mildly radioactive because they are made from dense metal, a byproduct from fuel production for nuclear power plants. They can be fired from the US-made Abrams tanks that are expected to arrive in Ukraine this fall.
  • Ukrainian counteroffensive: The slowness of Ukraine’s counteroffensive can in part be attributed to the strength of Russia’s defensive fortifications on the southern front. But Ukrainian officials are cautiously optimistic that the subsequent lines of defense may be easier to penetrate than the first, which were shrouded by dense minefields. 

  • Deadly strike: At least 17 people, including a child, were killed by a Russian missile attack on a market in the eastern Donetsk region town of Kostiantynivka, Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko said. At least 32 others were injured, officials said. The strike appeared to hit a market near a shopping center, according to unofficial reports. Kostiantynivka is close to the front lines around Bakhmut.
  • Drone attacks: Russian air defenses intercepted drones over the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and the capital Moscow, officials said Thursday. Reports of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian territory have become an almost daily occurrence in recent weeks as Kyiv ramps up its apparent efforts to wear down Russian domestic support for the war.
  • UAE visit: Senior Western officials are visiting the United Arab Emirates to discuss sanctions as concerns mount over goods being exported to Russia that could potentially be used in Moscow’s war on Ukraine. The concerns are centered on around computer chips and other electronics with both civilian and military use.
  • New defense minister: Rustem Umerov vowed to take back "every centimeter" of Ukrainian land and bring home all those in captivity after being sworn in as Ukraine's new defense minister. He replaces Oleksii Reznikov — defense minister since before the war began — whose tenure had been plagued by contract scandals. 
10:21 p.m. ET, September 6, 2023

Russia intercepts drones over Rostov and Moscow, officials say

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Mohammed Tawfeeq

Russian air defenses intercepted drones over the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and the capital Moscow, officials said on Thursday.

In a Telegram post, Rostov Gov. Vasily Golubev said one person was injured and several cars were damaged after one drone fell in the city center and another fell on its western outskirts.

Separately, Russian air defenses intercepted a drone attack near Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a Telegram post. 

"Tonight, in the Ramensky urban district, air defense forces thwarted a drone attack on Moscow. There is no damage or casualties at the site of the fall of the wreckage. Emergency services are on site," Sobyanin said in the post. 

Ukraine did not make any immediate comment.

Reports of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian territory have become an almost daily occurrence in recent weeks as Kyiv ramps up its apparent efforts to wear down Russian domestic support for the war.

10:17 p.m. ET, September 6, 2023

Russian defense ministry proposes law allowing military registration for prisoners

From CNN’s Mariya Knight 

The Russian defense ministry has proposed amending regulations to allow military registration for prisoners, state news agency TASS reported Wednesday. 

“The Russian Ministry of Defense has proposed amending the regulations of military registration, in order to make those serving sentences get on military registration in correctional institutions,” TASS said.

The current law says “citizens serving a sentence of imprisonment are not subject to military registration.” 

It is proposed to introduce the concept of "special military registration” for conscripts and those liable for military service who are currently serving sentences, according to TASS. 

"Special military registration is carried out by correctional institutions, correctional centers of the penitentiary system [...] and military commissariats at the location of institutions of the penitentiary system in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation and this regulation," the draft amendment says. 

According to the draft, “installment and removal from special military registration are carried out without appearing at the military commissariats, the corresponding lists of prisoners are provided by correctional institutions as prisoners are received, transferred or released,” according to TASS. 

Some background: Russian prisoners have already been used by Moscow in the war in Ukraine. For months, Russia had been using the private mercenary company Wagner to bolster its frontline presence with prisoners — a scheme at first denied and secretive, but then openly promoted by Wagner’s late owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In addition, several prisoners told CNN earlier this year they were directly employed by the defense ministry. And, more recently, other convicts detailed the brutality of the front lines.

8:16 a.m. ET, September 7, 2023

After a frontline breakthrough, Ukraine appears optimistic it can further breach Russian defenses

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Sana Noor Haq

Ukrainian officials continue to sound optimistic that the second line of Russian defensive fortifications on the southern front may be easier to penetrate than the first, as Kyiv’s troops try to push through a web of dense minefields in a grinding counteroffensive.

Geolocated video in recent days indicates Ukrainian units have made limited progress beyond the village of Robotyne, as they seek to expand the territory in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region they reclaimed in August.

Ukraine’s military appears to have targeted its operations toward the strategic town of Tokmak — just south of Robotyne — a logistic hub that Russian forces use for resupply, and where fuel and ammunition depots are located.

Last week, Ukrainian forces said they had penetrated the first line of Russian strongholds in Zaporizhzhia.

However, the surrounding occupied area is encircled by complex lines of Russian defenses including minefields, anti-tank barriers and deep-set trenches, posing acute challenges for Ukrainian troops trying to regain the territory.

In attempting to breach the second line of Russian defenses, Ukrainian units “will benefit from the fact that the network of trenches, dugouts, and overlaps there is not as strong as on the first line,” Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the south, told Ukrainian television on Monday.

But Shtupun conceded that the second line “is quite powerful.”

“I don’t know why everyone thinks it is weaker. Indeed, the density of minefields there is lower, but their number is also quite large. The only thing that can play into our hands is that the trenches, dugouts, and overlaps are not as strong.”

The Ukrainian military said on Wednesday that it repelled a counterattack by Russian forces near Robotyne.

The General Staff said its units had been successful in consolidating their positions, inflicting artillery fire on identified enemy targets and conducting counter-battery operations.

Read more here.