July 4, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Ivana Kottasová and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT) July 5, 2023
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3:57 p.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Russia says it repelled a drone attack near Moscow. Here's what else you need to know

From CNN Staff

Russia said it foiled a drone attack near Moscow on Tuesday while Ukraine said it was making gains around the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut.

Meantime, the Kremlin said Russia and the United States remain in contact on the issue of exchanging prisoners, but that communication must be carried out "in complete silence." The remarks followed a visit Monday by the US ambassador to detained US reporter Evan Gershkovich in a Moscow jail.

Here's what else you need to know about the war:

Attack in Kharkiv region: Russian shelling of the town of Pervomaiskyi injured at least 43 people, including 12 children, according to the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration Oleg Sinegubov. "Russians fired a high-explosive projectile," which caused several cars to catch on fire and caused damage to the high-rise buildings, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office.

Ukraine claims gains near Bakhmut: Ukraine keeps making gains south of Bakhmut while Russia is “throwing all its forces” to try and stop Kyiv’s advance, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. “Ukrainian soldiers continue to conduct offensive operations to the south and north of Bakhmut, strengthening on the achieved lines,” the Ukraine military said in an update. 

Some flights diverted in Moscow after alleged drone attack: At least 16 domestic and international flights to Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport were diverted Tuesday, according to Russian state media. Some flights were rerouted "for security reasons" due to the "attempted drone attack by Ukrainian drones," Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said. Russia's defense ministry said it downed five "Ukrainian drones" near Moscow. Kyiv has not commented on the allegations.

Russia says it opposes renewal of Black Sea grain deal: The UN-brokered deal, which is set to expire on July 17, was established to provide "assistance to needy countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America," but "has turned into a purely commercial export of Ukrainian food to 'well-fed' countries," the Russian foreign ministry claimed in a statement. "It is obvious that there are no grounds for further continuation of the 'Black Sea Initiative.'"

Putin attends virtual summit: President Vladimir Putin thanked allies who expressed solidarity with Russia after last month's short-lived rebellion led by the Wagner private military company. He spoke at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference, hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Other leaders taking part included China's Xi Jinping, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

NATO chief gets extension: Ahead of a critical meeting of NATO leaders next week in Lithuania – expected to be dominated by Russia's war in Ukraine – the alliance resolved one outstanding issue by extending the term of Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for one more year. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news while US President Joe Biden said it was an "important signal of stability" heading into the summit.

1:53 p.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Zelensky and NATO chief discuss upcoming alliance summit in Lithuania

From Svetlana Vlasova in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a phone call to coordinate their positions ahead of the alliance’s upcoming summit in Vilnius.

A former prime minister of Norway and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, Stoltenberg became NATO’s Secretary General in October 2014.

On Tuesday, he announced his term was extended for a further year.

Ukraine is expected to be at the top of the agenda when the leaders of the military alliance meet in the Lithuanian capital next week.

1:13 p.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Ukraine has "proceeded in a very precise and well-organized way so far," German chancellor says

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin 

Romanian Prime Minister Ion Marcel Ciolacu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a press conference  on July 4, in Berlin, Germany.
Romanian Prime Minister Ion Marcel Ciolacu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a press conference on July 4, in Berlin, Germany. Janine Schmitz/Photothek/Getty Images

The Ukrainian forces have "proceeded in a very precise and well-organized way so far" in the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu, Scholz said he "never expected that everything would change from one day to the next," but added the Ukrainian defense forces had been planning operations "in a very targeted way."

Meanwhile, Ciolacu said Romania had expected the conflict to end with the Ukrainian counteroffensive, but has had to reckon with a longer-lasting conflict.

While Ukraine remains in a state of war, it cannot become a NATO member, Scholz said, adding that the criteria for NATO membership included “no open border conflicts.“

However, the important thing, he said, was NATO's "great practical support for Ukraine," which will continue.

Germany has "created the conditions to support Ukraine even for a long time if the war lasts for a long time," he added, saying that many countries will be able to support Kyiv "for one, two, three, and if need be, more years, because we don't know how long the military conflict will last."

Some background: President Volodymyr Zelensky called Monday on US President Joe Biden to invite Ukraine into NATO “now” – even if membership does not come until after the war.

Speaking in English to CNN, Zelensky said that Biden was “the decision maker” about whether Ukraine would be in NATO or not.

Ukraine’s aspiration to join is enshrined in its constitution and its relationship with NATO dates back to the early 1990s, according to the alliance. NATO is due to hold a summit in Lithuania on July 11 and 12 where leaders are expected to discuss Ukraine's membership.

1:08 p.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Ukraine claims advances south of Bakhmut

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Svetlana Vlasova

Ukrainian servicemen ride on armored personnel carriers on a road toward Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 1.
Ukrainian servicemen ride on armored personnel carriers on a road toward Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on July 1. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine keeps making gains south of Bakhmut while facing stiff resistance to the north of the embattled eastern city, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.

Russia is “throwing all its forces” to try and stop Kyiv’s advance in the area, Maliar claimed, adding that Moscow’s soldiers are pushing in the direction of Lyman, Svatove and Bakhmut, and had set up a three-tiered defense in those areas "to gain a foothold.”

“But they are still not succeeding,” she said Tuesday.

Lyman and Svatore are cities north of Bakhmut.

In its daily update, the Ukrainian Military’s General Staff also said Ukraine was consolidating positions around Bakhmut. “Ukrainian soldiers continue to conduct offensive operations to the south and north of Bakhmut, strengthening on the achieved lines,” it said. 

CNN cannot verify Ukrainian claims of battlefield gains.

Neither Maliar nor the General Staff reported any advances along the southern front, where Ukraine’s counteroffensive is meeting stiff resistance.

“At the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, the enemy is focusing its main efforts on preventing the advance of our troops,” the general staff update said. “At the same time, the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to conduct offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, securing the achieved positions, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets, and carrying out counter-battery measures.”

11:59 a.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Here's why Ukraine's counteroffensive progress has been slower than some expectations

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

Ukrainian servicemen ride in a T-80 main battle tank captured earlier from Russian troops, along a road near the front line town of Bakhmut on June 19.
Ukrainian servicemen ride in a T-80 main battle tank captured earlier from Russian troops, along a road near the front line town of Bakhmut on June 19. Serhii Nuzhnenko/Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Reuters

The minefields in southern Ukraine are so dense, the troops trying to liberate the area can only advance “tree by tree,” one soldier involved in Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the south told CNN. In all his years of service, he said, he’s never seen this many mines.

The soldier, who asked to be identified by his call sign “Legion,” told CNN he believed the actions by his troops were “quite successful and effective.” Yet as he and other Ukrainian soldiers wade through mined areas, encountering heavily fortified defenses and aerial assaults, much of the world seems to think they are moving rather slowly.

Ukraine’s Western allies are getting nervous about the fact that the progress of Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive is being measured in meters, rather than kilometers. Kyiv’s allies are well aware that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia without their help. But the slower than expected pace of the counteroffensive means their support could become increasingly unsustainable if the conflict drags on.

Many of the countries that are supporting Ukraine’s war efforts are struggling with high inflation, rising interest rates and sluggish growth. Their leaders — some of whom are facing elections in the next year and a half — need to justify the huge amount of resources they’ve poured into Ukraine when their own voters are struggling to make ends meet. That can become difficult if there isn’t much battlefield success to show for it.

For now though, the support appears unfaltering. Multiple Ukrainian and Western officials have admitted that the counteroffensive has so far failed to yield major advances — but most were quick to add that the slow progress was justified.

The front lines in southern and eastern Ukraine have not moved much over the past months, giving Russian troops plenty of time to dig in and prepare for a counteroffensive.

According to an assessment by the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), some of the most strategic sections of the front line are guarded by multiple lines of defense, making it very difficult for the Ukrainians to break through.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said that the pace is not surprising, given that Ukrainian soldiers were fighting “for their life.”

“We are giving them as much help as humanly possible, but at the end of the day, Ukrainian soldiers are assaulting through minefields and into trenches,” he said.

Read the full story here.

11:38 a.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Dozens injured in Russian attack on Kharkiv region, officials say

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova

Cars burn at a site of a Russian military strike in the town of Pervomaiskyi in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on July 4.
Cars burn at a site of a Russian military strike in the town of Pervomaiskyi in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on July 4. National Police of Ukraine/Reuters

The number of people injured during a Russian attack on a town in Ukraine's Kharkiv region has been revised up to 43, according to the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration Oleg Sinegubov.

“According to the updated data provided by the medical staff, as of now, 43 people have been wounded as a result of the shelling of Pervomaiskyi, including 12 children,” Sinegubov posted on Telegram. “5 people were treated on the spot. The condition of the injured is moderate to light.”

Sinegubov had earlier reported that the shelling had damaged a car and windows of eight multi-story buildings. Four cars at the time were also on fire, he had said.

Rescue workers are on the scene, according to the Interior Ministry of Ukraine.

"Russians fired a high-explosive projectile," which caused several cars to catch on fire and caused damage to the high-rise buildings, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office.

10:57 a.m. ET, July 4, 2023

At least 16 incoming flights to Moscow airport were diverted after alleged drone attack, state media says

From CNN’s Anna Chernova 

At least 16 flights to Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport had been diverted on Tuesday, according to Russian state media and data from the official schedule on the airport website.

Some flights were rerouted "for security reasons" due to the "attempted drone attack by Ukrainian drones" in Russia's capital, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said on Telegram.

Six of the planes were diverted due to "technical issues," according to a statement on the website of Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency, also known as Rosaviatsiya.

Flight restrictions at Vnukovo were in place from 5:10 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. local time, according to the state news agency TASS.

Flights impacted – from countries such as Armenia, Egypt and the UAE, and domestic locations such as St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Makhachkala – were redirected to other airports, according to the Vnukovo airport website.

Vnukovo is one of four major airports that serve Moscow. The airport's press office did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment. 

10:30 a.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Zelensky congratulates America on the Fourth of July 

From Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated the American people in honor of Fourth of July and thanked US President Joe Biden and Congress for supporting Ukraine.