August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (2023)

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6:11 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

2 Ukrainiandrones crashed over Black Sea, Russian Defense Ministry says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Russia's Defense Ministry on Monday said two Ukrainiandrones came down over the Black Sea following an attack from Ukraine.

“The UAVs lost control and crashed over the waters of the Black Sea 40 km (about 25 miles) northwest of the Crimean Peninsula,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry Ukraine used “fixed-wingdrones” that were detected and shot down by the Russian air defense.

The ministry also reported that the Russian air defense systems intercepted twodrones over Russia's Belgorod region and twodrones over Moscow region on Monday.

There were no casualties reported and only minimal damage, the ministry said.

Ukraine has not yet commented.

8:02 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

US Embassy in Minsk urges American nationals to leave Belarus

From CNN's Mariya Knight andSvitlana Vlasova

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (1)

The US Embassy in Minsk on Monday urged American citizens not to travel to Belarus and asked those who are now in the country to depart immediately following the closure of two of the six border crossings on the Lithuanian border.

The embassy also listed Belarus’ “facilitation of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus, the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, the risk of detention, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens residing in or traveling to Belarus” among the reasons to withhold from traveling.

The embassy said to consider departing Belarus via “the remaining border crossings with Lithuania and Latvia, or by plane.”

“US citizens are not permitted to enter Poland overland from Belarus,” the embassy said.

6:15 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Zelensky applauds pledges to provide Ukraine with long-sought F-16 fighter jets. Here's what else to know

From CNN staff

President Volodymyr Zelenskyhas hailed a "historic" agreement with the Netherlands and Denmark to give Ukraine much sought-afterF-16 fighter jets. According to Zelensky, the Netherlands will give 42 of the jets to Kyiv, adding to 19 pledged byDenmark.

Meantime, as intense fighting continues across the front lines, the Russian ambassador to Denmark has described theproposed transfer of F-16 fighter jets from Denmark to Ukraineas an "escalation" in the conflict.

Here are the top headlines to know:

  • F-16s to Ukraine: Zelensky used an address to Denmark's parliament to thank the country for its support, including a pledge to provide Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets. He said the first group of pilots in Denmark would be immediately retrained on the F-16. Another group of pilots who had recently graduated will head to the UK to complete a longer program, which will take up to two years. Zelensky later said Greece will also train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 jets.
  • Evacuations and intense fighting: Russian forces have been making a push near the city of Kupiansk in recent weeks, defense officials said. People from around Kupiansk in northern Ukraine are still being evacuated, Ukrainian officials said. More than 550 people have been evacuated since August 9, according to Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv region military administration.
  • On the front lines: Heavy fighting continues in Bakhmut with Russian forces trying to knock Ukraine's troops out of position in the eastern city. So far, Ukraine has recaptured a total of 42 square kilometers there, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. In Donetsk,Russian forces attempting to encircle the town ofAvdiivka "are not succeeding," Maliar said. In the south,Ukrainian forcescontinue their offensive toward Melitopol and Berdiansk in the Zaporizhzhia region, she added.
  • Attacks in Russia: Russian air defenses downed a second drone over the Moscow region Monday morning, according to the country's defense ministry.Two people were injured by debris from one of the drones, the region's governor said. Russian authorities also said thatdroneswere intercepted in the Kaluga and Belgorod regions in the west of the country on Monday. Ukraine confirmed Monday it carried out a drone attack on a Russian military air base located just more than 200 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Ukraine. The incidents come after Russia reported several Ukrainian drone attacks across the country over the weekend.
  • In the Black Sea: Ukraine is exploring ways to help merchant vessels acquire insurance for operating in the Black Sea in the wake of the collapse of the UN-brokered Grain Initiative. Ukraine's government considered launching its own international insurance pool, which would be coordinated with an international institution or with other governments, according to Oleksandr Hryban, an adviser to the economy minister.
7:55 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Wagner chief talks about making "Africa freer" in unverified video circulating online

From CNN's Jen Hauser

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (2)

Video circulating on pro-Russian military blogs on Mondayshowed Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claiming to be in Africa and talking about making Russia greater on all continents.

It is unclear when or where the video was shot, butPrigozhinis shown holding a rifle and standing in what appears to be a desert area.

"Wagner PMC is conducting RPD (reconnaissance and search operations), making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa — even freer. Justice and happiness for the African peoples. Let's make it a nightmare for ISIS, al-Qaeda and other thugs. We are hiring real bogatyrs (ancient Slavic warriors) and continue to fulfill the tasks that were set before us and that we promised we would handle,"Prigozhin said in the video.

Some background: Wagner has played a prominent role in the Ukraine war. But, Prigozhin has been notoriously critical of the Russian military hierarchy since the war in Ukraine started.

In June, the paramilitary group launched anapparent insurrection, claimed control of military facilities in two Russian cities, and warned that his troops would head for Moscow.

Since the uprising his whereabouts have been unclear, though Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have brokered the deal between Prigozhin and Putin, which ended the insurrection. Since then, Lukashenko has invited Wagner forces into Belarus to help train his country’s military.

6:10 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Ukraine confirms drone attack on Russian air base near Moscow

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukraine on Monday confirmed it carried out a drone attack on a Russian military air base located just more than 200 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian drone attack on Shaykovka air base in Russia's Kaluga region left “at least one aircraft damaged," Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Defense Intelligence, said in an interview with Ukrainian media on Monday.

"At least one plane is damaged. As in most cases, the Russian regime is trying to hide the true extent of losses and damage," Yusov said.

The Shaykovka military air base operates Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range bombers that have been used by Russia to strike targets in Ukraine since the start of the invasion last year.

The Ukrainian air force reported on August 15 that aircraft operating from the Shaykovka air base had launched four Kh-22 air cruise missiles toward Ukraine.

According to Yusov, Monday's attack was carried out “in clear coordination with the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

"There are people who, in coordination with the Main Directorate of Intelligence, completed the assigned tasks,” Yusov said, adding that this specific task was carried out from within the Russian territory. “In many other cases” Ukraine’s Intelligence performs various tasks from within the Russian territory, he said.

Russian social media blog Baza, which has close contacts with the Russian security services, said a Ukrainian drone had crashed on the territory of the Shaykovka air base on Monday.

Baza reported that "an unused aircraft at the airfield was damaged … However, this information has not been officially confirmed."

Another Russian Telegram channel, Mash, said "the Ukrainian armed forces attempted to attack the Shaykovka military airfield in the Kaluga region."

The Russian defense ministry has not commented on the incident.

5:20 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Pope discusses war in Ukraine with top US general

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (3)

Pope Francis discussed thewar in Ukraine with the top United States general during a meeting at the Vatican Monday.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley was “honored and privileged” to have the opportunity to meet the Pope, according to spokesperson Col. Dave Butler.

The two met for about 30 minutes, and Milley presented Pope Francis with a copy of the US Constitution, Butler said.

During the discussion about Ukraine, the Pope was particularly concerned about the number of civilian casualties during the ongoing war.

Milley, who routinely meets his counterparts and other dignitaries in his formal dress uniform, was instead wearing a civilian suit.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of the war in Ukraine. Earlier this month while in Portugal, the Pope rhetorically asked what path Europe was taking if not to end the war in Ukraine. He has urged Russia to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative and said the Vatican is part of a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

In avideo releasedby the Vatican, Milley is heard telling the Pope that he would pray for him.

It was a “humbling experience overall” for Milley to meet the Pope, Butler said.

4:12 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Greece will train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, Zelensky says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (4)

Greecewill train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens Monday.

Zelensky said that in addition to the training, Ukraine is very grateful for a new defense package Greece pledged for Ukraine.

Zelensky also said that “Greek companies are ready to take part in the transporting of Ukrainian grain” and his country is counting on it as the restoration work of the port of Odesa is underway.

Mitsotakisemphasized that Greece will help reconstruct Ukraine with a focus on the city of Odesa.

Zelensky also noted that Greece has joined the G7 countries on security guarantees for Ukraine and signed a declaration to support Ukrainian Euro-Atlantic integration.

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (5)

Correction:An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed remarks on Greece's future training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Only Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made those remarks.

12:15 p.m. ET, August 21, 2023

Here's how Ukraine hopes to get grain shipments moving again

From CNN's Hanna Ziady,Tim ListerandMaria Kostenk

August 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news (6)

Ukraine is in talks with some of the world’s biggest insurance companies to cover ships traveling to and from its ports in the Black Sea — a crucial step toward a full resumption ofvital grain exportsaround the globe.

Work on an insurance mechanism followsRussia’s withdrawalfrom the Black Sea Grain Initiative last month, which threatens the safe passage of ships carrying grain to and from Ukrainian ports.

The collapse of the deal — brokered by Turkey and the United Nations a year ago — has already pushed upglobal food pricesand could tip millions in poor countries into hunger.

To keep grain shipments moving, Ukraine’s government will share potential losses with insurers, which should make cover for travel through risky Ukrainian waters more affordable for commercial shipping companies.

“We are now actively working with the international insurance community,” Oleksandr Hryban, an adviser to Ukraine’s economy minister,toldthe country’s state news agency Ukrinform.

Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market, and professional services firm Marsh McLennan — which owns the world’s biggest insurance broker Marsh and consultancy Oliver Wyman — are among the companies involved in the talks, Hryban said.

The program could be finalized within a couple of weeks, according to Marcus Baker at Marsh, and will replace the previous arrangement, which insured shipments as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative but was paused when Russia pulled out of the deal. The risk of a ship becoming a casualty of the war surged as a result.

Read more about this here.

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