As the war enters its 570th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Saturday, September 16, 2023.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed his troops have recaptured the village of Andriivka near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
- An overnight Russian drone attack on a military airfield in Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi region – home to the Starokostiantyniv airbase – showed Moscow was searching for warplanes involved in the recent attack on Crimea, Ukraine’s air force said. Russia sent 17 “kamikaze” drones to attack the airfield, which has been attacked continually during the war.
- A Ukrainian intelligence source said a sea-borne drone damaged the small Russian Samum missile ship near Crimea’s Sevastopol Bay entrance, contradicting a Russian account that the attack was repelled. The vessel had to be towed for repairs and was listing to one side after the attack, the source added.
- Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said that Russian forces had “neutralised” hundreds of foreign spies in recent years.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko discussed whether Minsk might join Moscow’s efforts to revive an alliance with North Korea, following Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia this week.
- Finland will prohibit the entry of vehicles with Russian licence plates as of midnight on Saturday, following Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which have also recently barred all Russian-registered cars from crossing their borders.
- Romania has imposed additional flight restrictions in parts of its air space along the border with Ukraine amid a surge in Russian drone attacks on nearby Ukrainian Danube river ports.
- Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected repairs and modernisation of the Russian Pacific fleet’s nuclear submarines at a key military shipyard.
- Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said a man was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for sending Russian missile components to the United States. The FSB said a court in the Tver region had convicted Sergey Kabanov for smuggling components used in Russian air defence missile systems and in radar-based weapons systems.
North Korean military support
- The Kremlin denied that Russia and North Korea have signed any agreements on military matters or any other security areas during Kim’s visit to Russia earlier this week. The US said it had information that talks on North Korea supplying Russia with arms for its war in Ukraine were advancing.
- Kim visited a Russian military aviation factory which produces the country’s most advanced warplanes.
- Putin said Moscow would not breach any agreements concerning South Korea after meeting North Korea’s Kim during the week. “[South] Korea is our neighbour, and we must, one way or another, build good neighbourly relations with our neighbours,” Putin said.
- South Korea and the US said that any military cooperation between North Korea and Russia would be a serious violation of UN sanctions, and there would be “a price to pay” should Moscow and Pyongyang do so.
- The Group of Seven (G7) countries will likely announce a ban on Russian diamonds in the next two to three weeks, a Belgian government official said.
- Zelenskyy is expected to visit the White House in Washington, DC, next week during his anticipated visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. The visit will mark the third time that US President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian leader have met at the White House.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is expecting a visit from the Vatican’s Ukraine envoy and is ready to meet him.
Black Sea and grain exports
- Ukraine exported more grain through Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta to the end of August this year than in 2022, though volumes have fallen as Russia increased attacks on Ukraine’s Danube river ports. Kyiv shipped 9.2 million tonnes of grain through Constanta in the first eight months. During the same period in 2022, Ukraine shipped 8.6 million tonnes through Constanta, according to the Reuters news organisation.
- Romania plans to double the capacity of Ukrainian grain shipped through its Constanta port in the coming months, the country’s Transport Minister Sorin Grindeanu said.
- A cargo ship has departed Ukraine’s southern city of Odesa amid a Russian naval blockade of the country’s ports and threats issued by Moscow against all vessels traversing the Black Sea near Ukraine.
- The European Union announced it was ending an import ban on Ukrainian grain in five member states after Kyiv promised to control exports.
- Zelenskyy welcomed the EU’s decision to end the ban on grain exports from Ukraine, calling it an example of true unity and trust.
- Following the EU decision, Hungary imposed a unilateral import ban on 24 Ukrainian agricultural products, including grains, vegetables, several meat products and honey, according to a government decree. Poland said it too would extend an embargo on Ukrainian grain, shortly after the EU decision, as did Slovakia.
Economy and trade
- Ukraine approved a draft 2024 budget putting the deficit at 1.548 trillion hryvnias ($41.92bn) and increasing defence spending to 1.7 trillion hryvnias ($46bn), a figure which is more than 21 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
- Despite the war, house prices in some areas of Ukraine have held their value – and even risen. Though in the east of the country, close to the front line, house prices have dropped.
- The Russian Olympic Committee said Moscow will not boycott the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and athletes can choose to participate under a neutral banner.
- The UN’s World Heritage Committee has placed two major historical sites in Ukraine on its list of endangered sites. The iconic St Sophia Cathedral in the capital, Kyiv, and the medieval centre of the western city of Lviv are UNESCO World Heritage Sites central to Ukraine’s culture and history.
- Thousands of Jewish pilgrims gathered in the Ukrainian city of Uman to mark the Rosh Hashanah religious festival, despite warnings not to travel due to Russia’s invasion.