September 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Ed Upright, Joshua Berlinger, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, September 19, 2023
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8:18 p.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Ukraine recaptures key village near Bakhmut, Zelensky says

From CNN's Heather Law, Andrew Carey and Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Ukraine has recaptured Klishchiivka, a key village in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday.

Zelensky's office posted a picture on social media earlier in the day, indicating Kyiv's forces had liberated this key area that has been critical to Ukraine's counteroffensive in the east. 

In the photo, five soldiers are holding flags and posing for the camera in front of a church, geolocated by CNN as the Church of the Intercession in the center of the village. 

"[T]oday I would like to especially recognize the warriors who are gradually regaining Ukraine's territory in the area of Bakhmut," Zelensky said during his nightly address.  

The area southwest of Bakhmut has been a focus for Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east throughout the summer, and Zelensky will be keen to highlight this apparent success when he meets with world leaders, among them United States President Joe Biden, on his upcoming trip to the US this week for the United Nations General Assembly. 

In a separate video release also filmed in front of the church, one of a group of six soldiers standing together declares the liberation of Klishchiivka has been completed. 

The sound of artillery explosions can be heard throughout the short clip, some sounding no more than 500 meters away, which the soldier seems to acknowledge, saying, “the enemy does not give up attempts to re-capture [the village], using all possible means of fire. But we are standing firm and confident.” 

The video shows the church has suffered massive damage during months of fighting, including the loss of its green cupola. 

The announcement that Klishchiivka had been recaptured came two days after Ukraine’s forces claimed Andriivka, a small hamlet immediately to the south.  

With the summer counteroffensive now well into its fourth month, Ukraine has come under increasing pressure to convince key Western partners that Russian forces can be pushed back.

8:16 p.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Ukraine is firing shells faster than can be supplied. Can Europe catch up?

From CNN's Joseph Ataman and Clare Sebastian

The scene looks almost lunar. Drone videos covering more than a thousand miles of the Ukrainian front line show great craters of earth, scooped from the ground by unseen barrages.

Artillery has dominated the war in Ukraine. But nearly 18 months in, a significant gap still remains between the shells Ukraine wants and how fast European and American factories can supply them. And concerns are rising that Europe’s patchwork of arms manufacturers is ill-suited to meet these needs.

Away from the front, Ukraine’s war has become a numbers game: who can acquire, make and resupply more tanks, bullets, and, most of all, artillery shells.

Amid their counteroffensive, Ukrainian guns are firing up to 6,000 rounds daily, Ukrainian MP Oleksandra Ustinova told CNN, but the military wants to shoot more than 10,000. Even that is a fraction of the 60,000 shells that Russia was using at the peak of its barrages this year, per an Estonian and Ukrainian government analysis.

All in all, Kyiv needs some 1.5 million artillery shells annually, according to the CEO of one of Europe’s largest arms manufacturers, Rheinmetall.

By July, the US had supplied more than 2 million artillery rounds to Ukraine since the 2022 invasion, the Pentagon said. The European Union has supplied at least a quarter of million this year, in addition to bilateral donations directly between individual member states and Ukraine. The United Kingdom, too, has also donated ammunition.

But in February 2023, Europe-wide production of artillery ammunition had a maximum capacity of 300,000 shells annually, Estonian defense officials estimated. The best-case scenario of an increase to making 2.1 million shells annually is still years away from being realized.

With European stocks depleted and existing production lines overwhelmed, ammunition buyers are keen to get their hands on whatever’s available. In an interview with CNN, the CEO of shell casing manufacturer Europlasma described the buyers’ message as: “We’ll take all you can make.”

Read the full story here.

12:28 a.m. ET, September 18, 2023

NATO chief warns there will be no quick ending to the war in Ukraine

From CNN's Sophie Tanno

Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium on September 7.
Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium on September 7. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the war in Ukraine could be long, as Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia continues to make only marginal gains.

Ukraine’s allies have sought to accentuate campaign gains in recent weeks, but it has been underway for months with no major breakthroughs. The fall will bring changing conditions on the ground and the possibility that Russia will once again try to pummel Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

“Most wars last longer than is expected when they first start. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost published Sunday.

“We are all wishing for a quick peace. But at the same time, we must recognize: If President [Volodomyr] Zelensky and the Ukrainians give up the fight, their country would not exist anymore. If President [Vladimir] Putin and Russia laid down their weapons, we would have peace,” the NATO chief said.

“The easiest way to end this war would be if Putin withdrew his troops,” he added.

On the possibility of Putin using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said: “Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and ruthless, but NATO is prepared for every threat and challenge.

“The point of NATO is to prevent war — not least nuclear war. We have a credible deterrent.”

Kyiv's NATO bid: The NATO chief reiterated that it is just a matter of time before Ukraine joins the alliance.

“Ukraine will become a member of NATO — all allies have made that clear,” he said, adding that Ukraine will need safety guarantees when the war ends, otherwise “history could repeat itself.”

Read more here.