September 27, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sophie Tanno, Hannah Strange and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 28, 2023
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7:25 a.m. ET, September 27, 2023

Russian admiral claimed to have been killed by Ukrainians appears in video interview

From CNN's Clare Sebastian and Anna Chernova

Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, speaks with journalists during an interview at a military sports facility in Sevastopol, Crimea, in this still image taken from video released September 27.
Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, speaks with journalists during an interview at a military sports facility in Sevastopol, Crimea, in this still image taken from video released September 27. Russian Black Sea Fleet/Reuters

The Russian admiral who Ukraine claimed to have killed in a strike on Crimea last week has appeared in a video interview posted by a Russian military channel Wednesday.

Viktor Sokolov, the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, appeared in a video posted by Zvezda News, the media outlet of the Russian military on Telegram. 

CNN cannot verify the date the interview was carried out and there are few details within the interview that reveal its time or location. 

It was released the day after the Russian defense ministry posted a video of a meeting which appeared to include Sokolov attending via videoconference. 

In the latest video, Sokolov says: “The Black Sea Fleet is carrying out the tasks set by the command confidently and successfully.” 

“As you know, the heroic deed of our Marines practically never leave the screen of central television,” he continued.

He also refers to the ‘Order of Ushakov’ award given to Russia’s 810th Marine Brigade. This award was given on August 29th, according to the Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev. 

Some context: Kyiv claimed on Monday it killed Sokolov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in an attack on the fleet’s headquarters in occupied Crimea last Friday. Ukraine's Special Operations Forces later said their units were still "clarifying" whether or not he was among the dead.

The Kremlin on Tuesday refused to confirm whether or not Sokolov was alive.

4:39 a.m. ET, September 27, 2023

Russian attacks target civilians and infrastructure across Ukraine, officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

An explosion near Orlivka, Ukraine, on September 26, is seen in this screen grab from a video taken from a ferry on the way to Romania.
An explosion near Orlivka, Ukraine, on September 26, is seen in this screen grab from a video taken from a ferry on the way to Romania. Gabor Petru/Volunteers Without Borders Association/Reuters

At least one person has been killed and five others injured across Ukraine over the past day as a result of Russian attacks, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday.

The attacks also damaged residential buildings and infrastructure, the officials said.

Here's a roundup:

  • Zaporizhzhia: Russian forces conducted 130 attacks on Zaporizhzhia over the past day, shelling 27 settlements, said Yurii Malashko, head of the southern region's military administration. A 66-year-old resident was killed by Russian artillery fire in the city of Orikhiv, while a man, 56, was wounded by shelling in the village of Prymorske, he said. Russian forces conducted four airstrikes, UAV attacks and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) attacks on several villages, damaging residential buildings and infrastructure, he said.
  • Kharkiv: Russian forces attacked Kharkiv, Bohodukhiv, Chuhuiv, Kupiansk and Izium districts, said Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration. Shelling injured a 65-year-old man in the town of Vovchansk, where buildings were damaged and a forest fire broke out, he said. In the village of Borova, the shelling also sparked a forest fire, while in the village of Pidlyman, wheat crops were damaged, he said. A fire also broke out in the city of Kupiansk, damaging infrastructure, he added.
  • Dnipropetrovsk: Two men, ages 44 and 68, were injured in the region, said Serhii Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk region military administration. Buildings were also damaged in the Russian attacks, he said. 
  • Donetsk: At least one resident was injured in the village of Orlivka in the eastern region, according to its military administration. 
4:12 a.m. ET, September 27, 2023

Under cover of darkness, Ukrainian drone operators target Russian forces near Bakhmut

Exclusive from CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Daniel Hodge and Kostyantyn Gak in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers load drones and ammunition into the back of a US-donated Humvee before a night-time assault.
Ukrainian soldiers load drones and ammunition into the back of a US-donated Humvee before a night-time assault. CNN

Two Ukrainian soldiers huddle around a drone controller in darkness, their faces illuminated only by its screen.

“Oh, something is burning,” one says. They’ve just dropped a bomb on a Russian target.

The nighttime assault is part of a coordinated Ukrainian offensive push near the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, to which CNN obtained exclusive access.

“We will be hitting their first line and our guys will be advancing on the enemy,” says one of the drone pilots, who goes by his call sign “Groove.”

Ukrainian ground troops are equipped with Western night-vision equipment and have an advantage in nighttime operations, but Kyiv’s ground attack aircraft are not suited for the dark, so this drone unit nicknamed “Code 9.2” is stepping up.

“The drones see in the night like in daylight,” ‘Groove explains. “We see the infantry, we hit the vehicles, cannons, everything we need to destroy.”

They are using Ukrainian-made ‘Vampire’ unmanned aerial vehicles, a hexacopter procured by the government in Kyiv, part of an initiative led by the Ministry for Digital Transformation to supply Ukrainian forces with technology on the battlefield.

Read the full story here.

12:06 a.m. ET, September 27, 2023

Ukraine claimed a Russian commander was dead — then he appeared in a video. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

Video released by Russia on Tuesday appears to show its Black Sea Fleet commander alive and well — just days after Ukraine claimed he had been killed in a strike on Crimea.

Adm. Viktor Sokolov is seen in a video released by Moscow's defense ministry, which appears to show him at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other Russian military leaders.

CNN cannot confirm this is Sokolov, when the meeting took place, or where his video appearance was filmed.

Ukraine's military said it is "clarifying" information regarding Sokolov, while in an interview with CNN, Kyiv's defense minister would neither confirm nor deny whether the commander was killed in last week's strike.

Here's what else you need you need to know:

  • Danube port strikes: Russian drone attacks hit Danube River port infrastructure and injured two truck drivers, a Ukrainian military official said Tuesday. The strikes caused a ferry crossing point between Romania and Ukraine to suspend operations.
  • Moscow on US tanks: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed Tuesday that US Abrams tanks "will burn" like other weapons and will not alter the situation in the conflict zone. The Pentagon confirmed Monday that 31 of the modern tanks have arrived in Ukraine. Analysts expect them to add a powerful ground component to Kyiv's forces.
  • Oslo aid: Norway pledged $92 million for humanitarian funding to Ukraine to help the country make it through another winter of war, Oslo said in a news release Tuesday. The UN estimates more than 17 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, the release said.
  • UN bid: Russia is seeking to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, which this week accused Moscow's forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine. The council expelled Russia last year following the full-scale invasion of its neighbor.

Here's where the state of control stands in Ukraine:

9:44 p.m. ET, September 26, 2023

Norway pledges $92 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine to cope with winter 

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Norway pledged 1 billion Norwegian kroner ($92 million) for humanitarian funding to Ukraine to help the country make it through another winter of war, Oslo said in a news release Tuesday. 

Funding "is being channeled via the UN, including the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement," the government said.

The key support will be provided to local civil society organizations in Ukraine and to “the most vulnerable people, children, refugees and the internally displaced, helping to ensure that they have access to shelter, food, water and sanitation, education, health care, and psychosocial support, as well as protection against sexual and gender-based violence,” the news release said. 

The provision of aid was announced at the Third Humanitarian Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of Ukraine in Oslo, co-hosted by Norway and the European Union. 

The United Nations estimates more than 17 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, the news release said.

”Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Norway has provided more than NOK 3.5 billion [$320 million] in humanitarian support to Ukraine and the refugee response in neighboring countries,” it added.
9:39 p.m. ET, September 26, 2023

Ukraine says women medics registered for military service are allowed to travel abroad

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Women medics in Ukraine's armed forces will be allowed to travel abroad, the health ministry said on Tuesday, clarifying earlier comments from an official who had said they would need special permission to leave the country.

In a statement Tuesday, the health ministry said there have been no changes to the rules for Ukrainian women traveling abroad, including for those "on military registration."  

"Military registration is not the same as mobilization," the ministry explained. "The registration system is used only for summarizing data on the available reserve of doctors in the state."

Official's remarks: The clarification contradicts a prior announcement by Fedir Venislavskyi, a representative of Ukraine’s President in the Council and member of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence.

Venislavskyi had said that women medics, once registered for military service, acquire the status of conscripts and are not permitted to leave the country without special permission. 

10:16 p.m. ET, September 26, 2023

Russia seeks to rejoin UN Human Rights Council amid war crimes allegations

From CNN's Richard Roth, Jessie Gretener and Florence Davey-Attlee

Russia is seeking to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, which this week accused Moscow's forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

The council expelled Russia last year following the full-scale invasion of its neighbor, but it is now listed on the UN website as a candidate for election for the 2024-2026 term, which is due to take place on October 10.

Membership of the council is based on equitable geographical distribution, with two vacant seats in the Eastern European States regional group, according to the UN. Russia, along with Albania and Bulgaria, are listed as having announced their candidacy for that region.

Russia “believes it is important to prevent the increasing trend of turning the Human Rights Council into the instrument, which serves political wills of one group of countries punishing non-loyal governments for their independent internal and external policy,” according to a Russian position paper, obtained by CNN.

War crimes allegations: Earlier this week, the UN body said there is "continuous evidence" that Russian forces are "committing war crimes in Ukraine." 

It alleged that Russian forces have perpetrated “unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, attacks harming civilians, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on energy infrastructure.”

Russia has denied allegations of war crimes and claims its forces do not target civilians. But CNN journalists on the ground in Ukraine have seen firsthand evidence of atrocities at multiple locations across the country.

11:46 p.m. ET, September 26, 2023

Video purportedly shows Russian commander alive after Ukraine claimed he was killed in strike

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Clare Sebastian, Florence Davey-Attlee and Rob Picheta

The Russian Ministry of Defense has published video that appears to show the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, participating in a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other Russian military leaders on Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has published video that appears to show the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, participating in a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other Russian military leaders on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. Russian MOD

Ukraine’s military has said it is “clarifying” information received about the alleged assassination of Russian commander Viktor Sokolov, after Moscow released a video that appears to show him alive and well.

Kyiv claimed on Monday it killed Sokolov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in an attack on the fleet’s headquarters in occupied Crimea last Friday. But the Russian Ministry of Defense published a video on Tuesday that appears to show Sokolov participating in a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other Russian military leaders.

Ukraine’s new defense minister Rustem Umerov told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that if Sokolov is dead, “it’s good news for everybody.”

In an exclusive interview from Kyiv, he neither confirmed nor denied Sokolov had been killed in the strike. “He [Sokolov] is in our temporary occupied territories … he should not be there at all. So, if he’s dead, it’s good news for everybody that we are continuing to de-occupy our territory,” Umerov told Amanpour.

In the Russian footage, a man resembling Sokolov appears to join the meeting via video conference. The nametape on his uniform reads Sokolov V. N. and his screen shows the Cyrillic letters “ЧФ,” the abbreviation for the Black Sea Fleet. CNN cannot confirm this is Sokolov, when the meeting took place or where his video appearance was filmed.

“Since the Russians were urgently forced to publish a response with Sokolov allegedly alive, our units are clarifying the information,” Ukraine Special Operations Forces said on Telegram Tuesday.

“Available sources claim that the Black Sea Fleet Commander is among the dead. Many have not yet been identified due to the fragmentation of body fragments,” the statement added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier on Tuesday refused to comment on the Ukrainian claim that Sokolov had been killed.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces had earlier said Friday’s attack — the latest in a string of bold strikes on the occupied peninsula of Crimea — killed 34 people, including Sokolov.

Read more here.

9:24 p.m. ET, September 26, 2023

Kremlin says US Abrams tanks delivered to Ukraine "will burn"

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

US Abrams tanks donated to Ukraine "will burn" like other weapons and will not alter the situation in the conflict zone, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed on Tuesday.

“Abrams tanks are such a serious weapon. But remember how President [Vladimir Putin] spoke about other foreign-made tanks, that they burn readily. Well, these [tanks] will burn too,” Peskov said on a regular conference call with journalists.

On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed 31 US Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine. Their arrival was hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as the delivery is expected to add a powerful ground component to Kyiv's forces.

But Peskov said that despite the tanks' capabilities, no single weapon could change the balance of power on the battlefield nor alter the course of the war.

“​​All this can in no way affect the essence of the special military operation or its outcome,” he said, using the term that Putin and Russian leaders use to refer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.