What you need to know
- Russian authorities report more missile strikes in Crimea's Sevastopol
- Ukraine says senior Russian commanders were killed in an attack on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed Ukraine's peace plan at the UN
DW has more on the main headlines concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Saturday, September 23:
Pope: Don't 'play games' with Ukraine over arms deliveries
Pope Francis has blamed the weapons industry for being a key driver of the "martyrdom" of Ukrainians during Russia's invasion of its neighbor,
"It seems to me that the interests in this war are not just those related to the Ukrainian-Russian problem but to the sale of weapons, the commerce of weapons," he said in a conversation with reporters while returning from Marseille, France.
The pope then went on to criticize the withholding of weapons — an apparent reference to Poland's recent announcement that it is no longer sending arms to Ukraine.
"We should not play games with the martyrdom of these people ... "I've seen now that some countries are pulling back, and aren't giving weapons," he said.
A number of countries, including the United States, face internal political pressure to stop or curtail spending on weapons sent to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to US lawmakers on Thursday for continued support amid doubts by some Republicans over whether Congress should approve more aid.
Francis has long denounced the weapons industry as "merchants of death," but he has also asserted the right of countries to defend themselves.
Francis had been asked by reporters if he was frustrated that his efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine had not succeeded.
The Vatican has sent an envoy, Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, to Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing to meet with leaders there.
Francis said he did feel "some frustration."
Lavrov dismisses Ukraine peace plan at UN
"It is completely not feasible," Lavrov told a news conference at the United Nations about a 10-point peace blueprint promoted by Kyiv.
"It is not possible to implement this. It's not realistic and everybody understands this, but at the same time, they say this is the only basis for negotiations."
Speaking after his address at the UN General Assembly in New York, Lavrov said the conflict in Ukraine would be resolved on the battlefield if Kyiv and the West stuck to that stance.
He added that Moscow pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal — which had allowed the safe passage of Ukrainian food exports from Black Sea ports — because promises made to Russia had not been met.
He said the latest UN proposals to revive that export corridor for Ukrainian agricultural products were "simply not realistic."
The diplomat also claimed that Western powers, through their support to Ukraine, have effectively entered direct war against Moscow.
"You can call it anything you want, but they are fighting with us, they are straight-up fighting with us. We call it a hybrid war, but that doesn't change things," Lavrov said.
Zelenskyy meets Sudanese leader, discusses Russian paramilitaries
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has held an impromptu meeting in Ireland's Shannon airport with the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. According to Zelenskyy, they talked about Russia-funded armed groups.
"We discussed our common security challenges, namely the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia," Zelenskyy wrote on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.
The Ukrainian president thanked Sudan, which is currently in the midst of a deadly civil war, for its support of Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Russia's Wagner mercenaries operated in Ukraine after Moscow's invasion up until the group's late leader Yevgeny Prigozhin led a revolt against Russian military leaders.
Western diplomats and media have said the group is also present in Sudan, although Wagner denied this.
Ukrainian forces break through Russian lines in south — general tells media
The Ukrainian army has broken through Russian lines in southern Ukraine, the general leading the counteroffensive there has told US media.
Ukraine launched its counteroffensive to claw back territory from Russian forces in June.
Progress has been slower than expected, with heavily mined territory slowing Ukrainian forces significantly, but Kyiv has in recent weeks reported making strategic advances in the Zaporizhzhia region.
"On the left flank (near the village of Verbove) we have a breakthrough and we continue to advance further," general Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told US broadcaster CNN.
He acknowledged that the advance had been slower than Ukraine hoped. "Not as fast as it was excepted, not like in the movies about the Second World War," he said in the CNN interview. But he stressed it was important "not to lose this initiative."
Tarnavskiy said recapturing the city of Tokmak — some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the front line — would be a major victory for the counteroffensive, because it would allow Ukrainian forces to push further towards occupied Melitopol and annexed Crimea.
Germany has granted asylum to 90 Russian conscientious objectors
Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, around 3,500 Russian men of military age have applied for asylum in Germany.
However, only 90 of them have so far received protection status. That's according to a response from the German Interior Ministry to an inquiry from Left party member of parliament Clara Bünger.
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has processed more than 1,500 of the applications from Russia, the ministry said. Meanwhile, for around 1,100 applications, another EU member state is responsible for the asylum procedure due to the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that asylum-seekers must apply for protection in the first EU country in which they were first registered.
Bünger said that protection status for 90 people is a "grotesquely low number," given that there are hundreds of thousands of Russians "who are on the run because they do not want to take part in the war in Ukraine that violates international law."
Russia reports renewed attacks in Crimea
Russian authorities reported more airstrikes in Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea.
Moscow illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
"According to preliminary information, air defenses have been working in Sevastopol," Mikhail Razvosheyev, the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, wrote on Telegram.
He said debris was scattered following the strikes to the north of the city, but the information could not be independently verified.
Razvosheyev's report comes a day after Ukrainian forces launched an attack on the headqaurters of the Black Sea fleet on Friday, sparking a fire at the military base.
Ukraine's army said dozens were killed or injured in the attack, "including senior fleet commanders."
Russia said only one person was missing following the strikes but did not say whether people were killed.
'High turnover' among Russia's senior military ranks, says UK Ministry of Defence
Three successive commanders of one of Russia's most prestigious airborne regiments have either resigned or been killed since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
The 247th Guards Air Assault Landing Regiment commanders Col. Vasily Popov and Col. Konstantin Zizevsky were likely killed, the ministry said in its latest update.
Col. Pytor Popov likely resigned, it added.
"The experience of the 247th highlights the extreme attrition and high turnover in Russia's deployed military, even amongst relatively senior ranks," the statement said.
rm/jcg (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)