July 3, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Laura Smith-Spark, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 4, 2023
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1:39 p.m. ET, July 3, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog: Zaporizhzhia plant has reconnected to backup power line but situation still very fragile

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15.
A view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been reconnected to the backup power line for the first time in four months, the head of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog said Monday.

The power plant, which is the largest in Europe, "reconnected to its only available back-up power line four months after it was lost, but the site’s power situation remains extremely fragile during the ongoing military conflict and is not sustainable," Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.

"The ZNPP’s connection to the single remaining 330 kilovolt (kV) power line — out of six such back-up lines before the conflict — was cut on 1 March due to damage sustained on the other side of the Dnipro River and restored in the evening of 1 July. Work to reconnect the power line had been hampered by the difficult security situation in the southern region," the statement said.

Energoatom, the company that runs nuclear power plants in Ukraine added before the backup power supply was restored "Zaporizhzhia NPP was 'hanging' on only one line of connection with the national power grid and experienced seven complete blackouts."

More background: The IAEA has raised concerns as to the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, previously describing the situation as “increasingly unpredictable." It has frequently been disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to intense Russian shelling, repeatedly raising fears across Europe of a nuclear accident.

The plant is currently held by Russian forces but mostly operated by a Ukrainian workforce. It is also significant because Ukraine relies heavily on nuclear power. Ukraine would lose 20% of its domestic electricity-generating capacity if Russia kept it.

1:51 p.m. ET, July 3, 2023

Ukrainian president and German chancellor call for the extension of Ukraine grain agreement

From Olga Voitovych, Inke Kappler in Berlin and Jessie Gretener in London

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday to discuss the “political, military, and humanitarian situation in Ukraine,” according to a spokesperson for the German government.

German spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said in a news release that Scholz and Zelensky called for the extension of the United Nations Ukraine grain agreement, which is due to expire on July 17.

Zelensky said he had a "long and fruitful phone call" with Scholz. In addition to discussing the grain deal, the Ukrainian president said on his Telegram channel that the two leaders also talked about the situation on the battlefield.

"I am grateful for the important signals of support for Ukraine at the London Recovery Conference and the European Council meeting" and for additional defense aid, Zelensky said in the post.

Some background: The grain agreement was initially signed in 2022, allowing grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. On May 17th, when the deal was last set to expire, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the deal would be extended for two more months.

Why this matters: Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the World Food Programme (WFP). According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market. It is also a key global player in the market of sunflower oil.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a UN body, warned at the time that as many as 47 million people could be pushed into “acute food insecurity” because of the war.

CNN's Sophie Tanno contributed reporting to this post.

1:03 p.m. ET, July 3, 2023

2 people hospitalized after Russian shelling in Kherson region, local official says

From CNN's Josh Pennington

A couple in their fifties were wounded in a Russian attack on a village in the Kherson region Monday in southern Ukraine, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram post.

Shelling hit near a local church, the official added.

"Two people were wounded in the shelling — a 59-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman. Both of the wounded were hospitalized and are receiving treatment from doctors," the post said.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, local officials said a Russian drone attack hit the northeastern city of Sumy, killing at least two people.

11:12 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023

US ambassador meets with detained journalist Evan Gershkovich, Wall Street Journal says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Jennifer Hansler 

The US ambassador to Russia has met with jailed US reporter Evan Gershkovich according to his employer, the Wall Street Journal. 

The WSJ said it is the second time Gershkovich has been granted consular access to Ambassador Lynne Tracy since he was detained in March.

Jenny Palmer, the spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow, confirmed to CNN that the meeting had occurred.

Last month, a Russian court upheld his extended detention in a Moscow prison until at least the end of August. 

More context: Russia’s main security service, the FSB, has claimed that Gershkovich, a correspondent based in Moscow, had been trying to obtain state secrets.

His arrest in March was the first detention of an American reporter in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War, rattling White House officials and further straining ties between Moscow and Washington.

The US State Department has officially designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained in Russia. US President Joe Biden has also been blunt about Gershkovich’s arrest, urging Russia to “let him go."

CNN's Anna Chernova, Sophie Tanno and Jo Shelley contributed reporting to this post. 

2:21 p.m. ET, July 3, 2023

At least 2 people killed in drone attack on northeastern Ukrainian city, military says 

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Olga Voitovych

At least two people were killed in a Russian drone attack on the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, the regional military administration reported in an update on Monday. 

“As a result of the attack of the Shahed drones in Sumy, 2 people were killed and 19 wounded,” the administration said in a Telegram post. 

“There are 4 injured people who remain in healthcare facilities, 2 of them are in intensive care, and the other 2 are in condition of moderate severity,” the administration added. 

There was a five-year-old child among the injured, according to the administration.

10:36 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023

Ukraine charges former head of Crimean security service with treason for spying for Russia

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Ukraine has charged Oleh Kulinich, the former head of the Crimean Department of the country's security service (SBU), with five offenses related to spying for Russia. 

The SBU said Monday it has submitted an indictment for Kulinich on the charges of high treason, weapons charges, theft, leadership of a criminal enterprise and unauthorized leaving of a military unit.

He was arrested a year ago after a special operation by the SBU and the State Bureau of Investigation and has been in custody since. 

"We did our best not only to detain a high-level traitor, but also to collect a strong evidence base on which the court will be able to pass a fair verdict. This is a clear signal to all those who work for the enemy: The SBU will definitely find you and make you accountable for your actions, no matter where you are hiding. We will drag every 'mole' into the light," Head of SBU Vasyl Maliuk said in a statement. 

Kulinich is suspected of collaborating with the Russian security services and received the operational nickname "Kotyhoroshko."

9:59 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023

At least 1 killed after 4 drones hit Ukrainian city of Sumy, officials say 

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

An administrative building and 2 multi-apartment residential buildings were damaged as a result of Shahed 136 drone attacks over Sumy, Ukraine, on July 3.
An administrative building and 2 multi-apartment residential buildings were damaged as a result of Shahed 136 drone attacks over Sumy, Ukraine, on July 3. Sumy Regional Military Administration

Four Russian attack drones hit the centre of the northeastern city of Sumy, hitting two residential apartment blocks and an administrative building, according to the Sumy Regional Military authority.

At least one person was killed and at least 16 people were injured in the attack. Rescue and firefighting operations are ongoing, the authority said on telegram. 

8:46 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023

Russia will hold local elections in 4 annexed regions in September, authorities say

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the country's Central Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on July 3.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the country's Central Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on July 3. Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia is set to hold local elections in the four Ukrainian regions controlled by Moscow, the head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) said Monday.

Voters will elect local governors and other officials in September, Ella Pamfilova told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting. 

The date for those elections is set for September 10, the CEC said on Telegram.

Russia-appointed governors of the four annexed regions, that the West regards as illegal, had put forth an initiative to hold local elections, according to Pamfilova, who added that the initiative was approved after consideration together with the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Russian defense ministry.

“The leaders of all four new subjects — the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions — came to us with an initiative [suggesting] that the need to hold these elections has emerged,” she said.

In September, 41 other regional elections will take place to elect governors, members of legislative assemblies or both across Russia, Pamfilova said. 

8:48 a.m. ET, July 3, 2023

Ukraine hopes for international tribunal into Russia’s crimes of aggression

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in Dublin, Ireland

Ladislav Hamran, left, President of Eurojust, Andriy Kostin, center, Prosecutor General of the Ukraine, and Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General, of the U.S., attend a joint press conference in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 3.
Ladislav Hamran, left, President of Eurojust, Andriy Kostin, center, Prosecutor General of the Ukraine, and Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General, of the U.S., attend a joint press conference in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 3. Peter Dejong/AP

Ukraine hopes an international tribunal into alleged Russia’s crimes of aggression can be held based on the work of a new evidence-gathering centre launched Monday. 

Speaking during a news conference marking the centre’s launch in the Hague on Monday, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, said he anticipated prosecutors working at the centre will not only gather evidence but also begin building a “prosecutorial strategy” which could be used by a future tribunal. 

“I hope that this tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression would be international because the crime of aggression committed by Russia against Ukraine is the crime against global peace and security. And to fill in the gaps in international law we need an international response,” Kostin stressed. 

Ukraine has already launched criminal proceedings in domestic courts for Russian crimes of aggression, according to Kostin, adding that 312 indictments have already been issued. 

The EU also expressed support for an international tribunal despite the bloc’s Justice Commissioner, Didier Reynders, telling journalists that the first preference remains to amend existing treaty, the Rome Statute so that Russia’s crimes of aggression in Ukraine could be tried before the International Criminal Court. 

“We are open to work on all the possible solutions to have a dedicated tribunal to organize a trial by the crime of aggression…We want to be sure that we will have a very large, very broad support from the international community,” Reynders added. 

United States Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth A Polite Jr., told the news conference that the US “supports an international tribunal,” stressing its commitment to finding a “proper forum to ensure justice and accountability” for Russian crimes of aggression.

Key context: As it stands, the newly launched International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA) will not have direct investigative powers, EU criminal justice agency chief, Ladislav Harman told the news conference. Although unable to issue arrest warrants and indictments, the centre will focus on centralizing evidence of Russian crimes of aggression in Ukraine in one database with a view towards identifying evidentiary gaps “as early as possible.”