July 2, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Hafsa Khalil, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:17 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023
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8:22 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

Poland to step up security on Belarus border, minister says 

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin and Antonia Mortensen

Poland will send 500 police officers to bolster security along its border with Belarus, the Polish interior minister said Sunday.

“Due to the tense situation on the border with Belarus I have decided to bolster our forces with 500 Polish police officers from preventive and counter-terrorism units,” Mariusz Kamiński tweeted, adding the officers would join the border guards already guarding the frontier.  

The announcement comes after the Polish Border Guard said 187 people had tried to illegally cross into Poland from Belarus on Saturday. The border guard also said a Ukrainian citizen was detained for helping five Ethiopians to cross.  

The situation at the border has been tense in recent years as migrants hoping to travel deeper into Europe from Poland have attempted to cross, and has been complicated by the war in Ukraine.

A crisis erupted in late 2021 when thousands of migrants were stranded on the Belarus side of the Kuznica crossing for months in grueling conditions. 

Some context: Belarus has been a close ally to Russia both before and since the invasion of Ukraine last year, and has agreed to Russia's plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in the country. On Tuesday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that most of them had arrived.

Belarus previously had no nuclear weapons since the early 1990s, when it it agreed to transfer them all to Russia after gaining independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

7:36 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

Zelensky says short-lived Wagner rebellion has diminished Russia's strength on battlefield

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Maria Kostenko

A Wagner fighter walks past a tank in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24.
A Wagner fighter walks past a tank in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24. Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s attempted rebellion in Russia last week “greatly affected Russian power on the battlefield” and could benefit Ukraine's counteroffensive.  

“They are losing the war. They have no more victories on the battlefield in Ukraine, and so they are starting to look for someone to blame,” he said at a news conference with Spanish media that took place in Kyiv on Saturday. 

But Prigozhin’s rebellion could be beneficial in the early stages of Ukraine's counteroffensive, he added. 

We need to take advantage of this situation to push the enemy out of our land,” he said.  

Zelensky said the counteroffensive will not be done quickly because he values human lives and is strategic in where troops are deployed. 

“Every meter, every kilometer costs lives... You can do something really fast, but the field is mined to the ground,” he said. “People (are) our treasure. That's why we are very careful.” 

Zelensky also claimed 21,000 Wagner mercenaries have been killed in eastern Ukraine. He did not specify over what time period the supposed deaths took place.

“The most powerful group of Wagnerites was in eastern Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

“Our troops killed 21,000 Wagnerites in eastern Ukraine alone; 80,000 Wagnerites were wounded,” he added. “These were enormous losses for the Wagner PMC.” 

Neither side releases battlefield casualty counts, and CNN cannot independently verify Zelensky's claims. 

6:24 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

Russia is accused of committing "ecocide" in Ukraine. But what does that mean?

From CNN's Radina Gigova

On June 6, Ukraine suffered an environmental catastrophe. The collapse of the Kakhovka dam in the south of the country sent water thundering downstream, killing more than 100 people according to Ukrainian officials. It wiped out villages, flooded farmland and nature reserves, and swept up pollutants like oil and agricultural chemicals as it made its destructive path towards the Black Sea.

The causes of the collapse have yet to be established – whether it was targeted as part of Russia’s war in Ukraine, or whether it was a structural failure – but what is certain is that it is one of the biggest ecological disasters Europe has seen in the last few decades.

And Ukraine is calling it “ecocide.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the collapse as “an environmental bomb of mass destruction.” High-profile figures outside the country have agreed. The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, on a visit to Kyiv on Thursday, told reporters that “ecocide and environmental destruction is a form of warfare as Ukrainians by this point know all too well, and so does Russia.”

The term “ecocide” may be an unfamiliar one to many, but there has been a long-running fight to get large-scale environmental destruction recognized as an international crime, prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Read the full story here:

5:52 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

Ukraine's air defenses shot down 8 Shahed drones and 3 cruise missiles

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Alex Stambaugh

Ukraine's air defense destroyed eight Shahed drones and three Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russia overnight Saturday into Sunday, the air force said in a statement. 

The Iranian-made drones were launched from the southeast and the cruise missiles were launched from the Black Sea, Ukraine's Air Force said, adding all targets were destroyed. 

Air defense was operating in the South, East and Center Air Commands, it added. 

Last month saw a barrage of air strikes on Ukraine. One air attack on the capital Kyiv, saw dozens of the Iranian-made drones enter "in waves," prompting the air raid alarm to ring for over three hours, according to the head of the city's military administration. All were identified and destroyed, he said.

4:37 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

Russia launches Shahed drone attacks on Kyiv, official says

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Alex Stambaugh 

Russia has launched an air attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv overnight Saturday into Sunday, using Iranian-made drones for the first time in 12 days, according to the head of the city's military administration. 

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said Ukraine's air defense detected and destroyed all the targets in airspace around Kyiv. 

Popko said Shahed barrage munitions were used, according to preliminary information. 

Three homes were damaged by falling debris in two districts of Kyiv, according to Ruslan Kravchenko, head of the Kyiv regional state administration. 

One of the homes caught fire and sustained damage to the ceiling and walls, while two others sustained minor damage, Kravchenko said. 

A resident of one of the homes was injured in the leg, he added. 

4:07 a.m. ET, July 2, 2023

CIA chief says Ukraine war provides a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" for recruiting Russians

From CNN’s Sam Fossum

CIA Director William Burns is seen in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 25.
CIA Director William Burns is seen in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 25. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/FILE

Discontent with the war in Ukraine has created what CIA Director William Burns called a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" for the recruitment of Russians.

"Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership, beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression. That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at CIA, at our core a human intelligence service. We're not letting it go to waste," Burns said in remarks to the Ditchley Foundation in England. 

Burns pointed to a recent CIA outreach effort on the popular social media platform Telegram, showing Russians how to contact the CIA securely on the dark web, which he said has garnered 2.5 million views in its first week. 

We're very much open for business," Burns said.  

CIA officials involved in the project previously told CNN that Russia's invasion had created a historic opening for US intelligence and that a previous recruitment drive immediately following the launch of the invasion last year had been quite successful.  

Burns also addressed the recent rebellion by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, saying that his actions and speech prior to their march on Rostov-on-Don illustrate how the war has undermined Putin's power.