September 3, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 4, 2023
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4:51 p.m. ET, September 3, 2023

President Zelensky fires Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Jonny Hallam

Oleksii Reznikov attends a ceremony in Kyiv on August 23.
Oleksii Reznikov attends a ceremony in Kyiv on August 23. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, saying the ministry needs "new approaches" as the war with Russia enters its 19th month.

"This week, parliament will be asked to make a personnel decision. ... I have decided to replace the minister of defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war," the Ukrainian leader said.

Zelensky nominated Rustem Umerov, the former people's deputy of Ukraine, to become the new defense minister.

"The Verkhovna Rada (legislature) of Ukraine knows this person well, and Mr. Umerov does not need any additional introductions," Zelensky said. "I expect parliament to support this candidate."

Key context: Reznikov's removal comes in the wake of a number of corruption scandals involving Ukraine's Ministry of Defense. While Reznikov has not been implicated in any of them, the scandals have still been seen to damage him by association.

Zelensky has said rooting out corruption across Ukraine's government is vital to Kyiv's chances of attaining long-awaited membership in NATO and the European Union.

The Ukrainian president made cracking down on internal scandals a central issue in his campaign for office.

On Saturday, one of Ukraine's most powerful oligarchs and a key Zelensky supporter, Ihor Kolomoisky, was arrested as part of a fraud investigation.

5:32 p.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Ukrainian girl who lost both legs in train attack takes part in half marathon

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Victoria Butenko and Yulia Kesaieva

Yana Stepanenko lies in her bed at a public hospital in Lviv on May 12, 2022.
Yana Stepanenko lies in her bed at a public hospital in Lviv on May 12, 2022. Emilio Morenatti/AP

A Ukrainian girl who lost both legs in a Russian missile strike on a train station last year ran a small part of a half-marathon Sunday in western Ukraine.

Yana Stepanenko, who is 12, lost both legs during shelling at Kramatorsk railway station, which killed at least 50 people, including five children, in April 2022.

On Sunday, she started running the Lviv half marathon with prosthetic legs. 

Organizers of the event, titled Lviv Unbroken Half Marathon 2023, said online that it was being held on the “557th day of the new reality, the Unbroken reality.” 

“Ukrainians were expected to fall in 72 hours, yet they kept running until day 557 and will keep running until the finish line. Until our victory,” the event's website reads. 

Yana ran 70 meters of the marathon. A video posted by the charity Unbroken Ukraine showed her in a pink T-shirt, setting off energetically, among a group of mostly men with missing limbs and on crutches. 

"I've only recently got running prostheses, and I usually wear regular ones. So I'm just learning to run — a little scared because I'm not used to it yet. But I want to support children who have also lost their legs and cannot run. I want them to see what I'm doing and say to themselves, 'Yes! I can do it too! I can run too!'" Yana said, as quoted by the Lviv City Council on its website. 

After the attack on April 8, 2022, Yana, badly wounded, travelled to San Diego, California, for rehabilitation. She stayed there with her family for nine months, according to a story posted by the charity Unbroken on YouTube. The family returned to Ukraine in August, that story said.

The city council said almost 1,900 participants ran in Sunday’s half marathon, which was canceled last year because of the war.

1:37 p.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Heavy fighting rages in Donetsk and Kharkiv

From CNN’s Yulia Kesaieva and Eve Brennan

A Ukrainian soldier shoots from his position near Bakhmut in the Donetsk Region, on Saturday.
A Ukrainian soldier shoots from his position near Bakhmut in the Donetsk Region, on Saturday. Ukrainian Armed Forces Press Service/Reuters

Heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continues to rock part of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Illia Yevlash, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military, said on Sunday.

The Ukrainian military refers to the area of the fighting as the Kupiansk-Lyman sector, named for two major cities in the area. Russia has committed thousands of additional troops to this area to repel Ukraine's counteroffensive.

The fighting near Kupiansk has gotten so intense that it has forced civilians to evacuate in recent weeks.

Yevlash said that Russia shelled Ukrainian positions 570 times Saturday while also attacking using aircraft. Yevlash added that Russian troops are focusing their efforts just across the border from Kharkiv, targeting the village of Novoiehorivka in Luhansk. Their aim, Yevlash said, is to "carve out a corridor" in Ukraine's defenses from higher ground in Novoiehorivka 

Yevlash said that five firefights had taken place over the last 24 hours, none of which were successful for Russia. He claimed 126 Russian troops were killed and seven Russian drones, one field ammo depot and vehicle were destroyed.

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield reports from either side of the conflict.

CNN's Tim Lister contributed to this post

10:32 a.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Zelensky discusses grain corridor with France's Macron

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

Zelensky is seen in Athens, Greece, on August 21.
Zelensky is seen in Athens, Greece, on August 21. Theodore Manolopoulos/Greek Presidency Press Office/Reuters/FILE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the “functioning of the grain corridor” with his French counterpart during a Sunday phone call, he said on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

“We also discussed ways to ensure the functioning of the grain corridor and enhance the security of the Odesa region,” Zelensky said after his phone call with Emmanuel Macron.

The call came shortly after Russia carried out strikes on a port in Odesa used for grain shipments.  

Renewing the Black Sea grain deal is likely to feature when Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip on Monday.

7:53 a.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Ukraine accuses Russia of trying to create a "food crisis" after attacks on port infrastructure

By CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

Ukraine has accused Russia of trying to create a food crisis after it attacked port infrastructure in the southern Odesa region.

At least two people were injured in the attacks, Ukrainian officials said. It is not clear where exactly was hit but an official said the port of Reni had been targeted.

The Danube river has become the main way for Ukraine to export its grain after the collapse of a UN and Turkey-brokered deal.

“Russian terrorists continue to attack port infrastructure in the hope that they will be able to provoke a food crisis and famine in the world,” the head of the office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, said on the messaging platform Telegram. 

“The main task for us and our partners today is to eliminate the ability of the Russian military-industrial complex to produce weapons for strikes against Ukraine. And to increase responsibility for those who help the enemy to circumvent sanctions.” 

“It [capability to produce weapons] cannot function without foreign components for weapons. After the destruction of the Russian military-industrial complex, the defeat of Russian troops will be complete.”

Talks loom: The Russian strike on the port in Odesa region came early Sunday, a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia with the grain deal likely to be a topic.

The meeting comes after Russia's foreign minister said the country is willing to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal once it sees guarantees that promised benefits will be implemented. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has presented “a set of concrete proposals.” 

8:50 a.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Putin and Erdogan to meet in Sochi amid bid to revive vital grain deal

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Sophie Tanno

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the city of Sochi on Monday.

The summit will take place against the backdrop of Ankara’s efforts to convince Moscow to reconsider its withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has previously reiterated that Russia will be ready to rejoin the Black Sea initiative as soon as it sees guarantees that benefits promised to Russia will be implemented.

What is the Black Sea grain deal? Russia pulled out of the Turkey and UN-brokered deal on July 17, delivering a blow to global food supplies.

The deal allowed for the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports. It had already been renewed three times, but Russia repeatedly threatened to pull out, arguing that it had been hampered in exporting its own products.

Since leaving the deal, Russia has unleashed a series of attacks on grain supplies in key Ukrainian cities, including the port city of Odesa.

The collapse of the deal has pushed up global food prices and could tip millions in poor countries into hunger.

Ukraine's replacement: Kyiv's navy launched a new route for civilian vessels moving to or from the Black Sea in August.

Since then several vessels have left port, despite the threat of Russian mines.

Even with the new route, Ukraine hasn't been able to guarantee the safety of shipping so has been exploring ways for merchant vessels to get insurance

Bringing Russia to the table: Turkey has been taking on the role as mediator in attempts to reimplement the grain deal.

At a briefing in Moscow on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan reiterated that reviving the deal was important for the world.

The UN has been seeking to revive the deal as well. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday that he had sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "a set of concrete proposals."

6:08 a.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Ukrainian oligarch and Zelensky supporter Ihor Kolomoisky arrested in fraud investigation

From CNN's Olga Voitovych, Josh Pennington, Pauline Lockwood and Heather Chen

Ukrainian business tycoon and one of Ukraine's most famous billionaires, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, was arrested after being suspected of fraud at a court hearing in Kyiv on September 2.
Ukrainian business tycoon and one of Ukraine's most famous billionaires, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, was arrested after being suspected of fraud at a court hearing in Kyiv on September 2. Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images

One of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs has been arrested in a fraud investigation, state media in the country report.

A Kyiv court on Saturday ordered Ihor Kolomoisky, a key supporter of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 2019 presidential campaign, to 60 days in pre-trial detention while authorities investigate fraud charges against him, reported Ukrinform.

Kolomoisky’s media and banking businesses have made him one of the richest men in Ukraine.

However, the US State Department has previously accused him of using his “political influence and power for personal benefit.”

The State Department sanctioned Kolomoisky in March 2021 for his alleged involvement in “corrupt acts that undermined rule of law and the Ukrainian public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions and public processes.”

On Saturday, the Shevchenkivskyi District Court ordered Kolomoisky be held until October 31, Ukrinform said, and he was given the option of posting bail in excess of 500 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($14 million).

Read the full story here.

5:15 a.m. ET, September 3, 2023

Traffic on the Crimean Bridge temporarily disrupted

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh 

A general view of the Crimea bridge on July 25.
A general view of the Crimea bridge on July 25. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Traffic has resumed on the Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, after being temporarily suspended early Sunday, according to the Russian-installed operator of the bridge.

The operator did not say why traffic was temporarily suspended, but it has been a frequent target for Ukrainian attacks,

"Those on the bridge and in the inspection area are asked to remain calm and follow the instructions of transportation security officers," the operator said on Telegram shortly before 4am local time. 

On Saturday, Russia said it had stopped an overnight Ukrainian attack on the Crimean Bridge, which links the annexed Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said that Ukrainian forces attempted to attack the bridge with two unmanned explosive-laden boats.

Why the bridge matters: The bridge was opened with much fanfare by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 and is symbolic of his desire to take over Ukraine and bind it to Russia forever.

It’s also a vital supply link for Russia’s military operation in Crimea.