July 5, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023
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10:39 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Ukraine's military says it is succeeding in offensive around Bakhmut

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Lauren Kent 

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop a T-64 tank at the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 3.
Ukrainian servicemen ride atop a T-64 tank at the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 3. Alex Babenko/AP

Ukraine's military said on Wednesday that it is seeing success in the offensive near the battered eastern city of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian troops are putting "pressure" on Russian forces both north and south of Bakhmut and continue to drive Russia out of previously captured positions, according to the spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Andriy Kovalov. 

"In the area of (the village of) Klishchiivka they have partial success, they are entrenching themselves on the achieved lines," Kovalov said. "The enemy is resisting strongly, using reserves and suffering heavy losses."

Ukraine's General Staff said in its Wednesday update that in the area of Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops resisted Russian aircraft and artillery attacks in the two villages of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Bohdanivka.

Russia "is focusing its main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka directions, and heavy fighting continues," with 40 combat engagements within the last day, the General Staff update added. Ukraine claimed it repelled Russian offensives in those towns, as well as in the area south of Novoselivske in the Luhansk region.

In the south: Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct offensive operations in the directions near Melitipol and Berdiansk, "entrenching themselves on the achieved lines, inflicting artillery fire on the identified enemy targets, and carrying out counter-battery measures," according to the update.

"In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, the enemy is focusing its main efforts on preventing the advance of our troops," the General Staff said. 

Within the last day, Ukraine recorded 59 attacks from Russia's multiple-launch rocket systems and 47 airstrikes. 

Here's the latest map of control:

7:18 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Kremlin denies report of Xi warning Putin against using nuclear weapons

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a document signing ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on March 21.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a document signing ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on March 21. Getty Images

The Kremlin rejected a report that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against wielding nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

According to a Financial Times report, Xi issued the warning to Putin during a face-to-face meeting in Moscow March. However, the Kremlin said Wednesday that the report is false. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said "as a result of this important visit, a lot of information was provided, the essence of the negotiations was clearly stated in the signed documents.

"Everything else is fiction."

The close relationship between both leaders has come under the spotlight since the invasion in February 2022.

Some background: Peskov's comments came after officials in Kyiv warned of a possible Russian assault on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said authorities are prepared should Moscow could carry out "completely reckless actions" on the Russian-occupied plant.

Russia could attack the plant, she warned, to turn the momentum of the war in its favor and "achieve its military goals."

CNN's Olga Voitovych and Lindsay Isaac contributed reporting.

8:04 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Ukraine says it is prepared for possible Russian attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Lindsay Isaac

A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on March 29.
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Russian-controlled Ukraine, on March 29. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Ukrainian officials said they have procedures in place for a potential Russian assault on the Zaporizhzhia power plant, as Kyiv warned of a provocation from the Kremlin at the facility.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar warned Moscow is capable of "completely reckless actions" that could it try to pass off as sabotage by Ukraine. At the same time, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there is a "great threat of sabotage by Kyiv" at the plant, which could have "catastrophic consequences."

Maliar said on Wednesday: "In order to minimize potential negative consequences, emergency services have been training for several days in four Ukrainian regions -- Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv -- to overcome the consequences of a possible terrorist attack on the ZNPP."

Russia could attack the plant, she warned, to turn the momentum of the war in its favor and "achieve its military goals," she added.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Kremlin on Tuesday of possibly planting explosives on the roof of the Zaporizhzhia plant, an assertion based on military intelligence. 

Radiation levels are "within normal limits" and in the 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) zone around impacted power plants and areas around Chernobyl are "within monthly average values," according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials in Nikopol in southern Ukraine said the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant is operating normally and there have been no "significant movements of occupiers' manpower and equipment." 

Local military official Yurii Malashko echoed Maliar and said that while Russian forces are "unpredictable," Ukrainian special forces are ready for any dangerous development and have "checked the necessary equipment and worked out response plans."  

The Ukrainian state energy company Energoatom said the water level in the cooling pond is "stable and under control," despite a Russian attack on the Kakhovka dam, which provides water for cooling the plant, causing extensive flooding in the nearby Kherson region. 

Russian-installed officials in Zaporizhzhia rebuffed concerns raised by Ukrainian authorities, saying "everything is normal," and the plant is operational. 

CNN's Anna Chernova, Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova contributed reporting.

6:42 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Putin will try to consolidate power after Wagner insurrection, Zelensky says

Exclusive from CNN's Erin Burnett, Yon Pomrenze, Mick Krever and Victoria Butenko in Odesa, Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to CNN's Erin Burnett on July 2.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to CNN's Erin Burnett on July 2. Mick Krever/CNN

As Russian President Vladimir Putin navigates the aftermath of last month's stunning Wagner insurrection, he will be trying to "consolidate his society," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an exclusive CNN interview.

"He will (do) everything in order to break and nullify the Wagnerites' fame and everything they were doing. He will be distancing himself from all that and will be communicating extensively in order to unify the society," Zelensky said.

He added that Putin had been notably out of public sight since a secretive Kremlin deal ended the mercenary group's brief, chaotic rebellion.

"After all these events, where did Putin go?" Zelensky said. "He rarely comes outside to the street. We see him in his offices, etc., but we never see him out and about."

Behind the scenes: Some analysts agree that Putin is likely working behind the scenes to calm any troubled waters in the Kremlin and secure his position.

"He will do everything to consolidate his power. He will execute necessary purges or will reshuffle some people. He will not just let it go," said Alexander Korolev, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

He added that Putin's moves may not be "very visible to external observers, but he will do everything, like any authoritarian leader would do, to make sure that his grip on power is strong, especially now when there is war."

CNN's Jessie Yeung contributed reporting to this post.

7:37 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Zelensky to CNN: "Half of Russia supported Prigozhin" in Wagner uprising

Exclusive from CNN's Erin Burnett, Yon Pomrenze, Mick Krever and Victoria Butenko in Odesa, Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to CNN's Erin Burnett on July 2.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to CNN's Erin Burnett on July 2. Mick Krever/CNN

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country's intelligence showed the Kremlin was measuring support for Yevgeny Prigozhin — head of the Wagner paramilitary group, which led a short-lived insurrection last month — and claimed half of Russia had supported the mutiny.

The insurrection saw Wagner fighters, led by Prigozhin, seize control of military facilities in two Russian cities and march toward Moscow before a secretive deal with the Kremlin abruptly ended the rebellion. Prigozhin pulled back his forces, and has since been exiled to Belarus.

The incident has been widely framed by Western analysts as a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin's veneer of total control, with speculation about what this could mean for the war as Ukraine continues its slow counteroffensive.

"Half of Russia supported Prigozhin. Half of Russia supported Putin," Zelensky told CNN. "Some of the Russian regions were balancing in the meantime without knowing for sure who to support."
"We all see this process that shows half of the Russian population is in serious doubt," he added.

Though Russian public support for the war remains high, this crack was illustrated at the end of the insurrection, when Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters prepared to depart the city of Rostov-on-Don.

A video verified and geolocated by CNN showed Prigozhin’s vehicle stopping as a resident approached to shake the Wagner boss’ hand; around them, residents cheered.

Watch moment:

Editor's Note: Erin Burnett’s full interview with Volodymyr Zelensky airs Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

7:10 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Ukrainian shelling targets Russia's Belgorod and Kursk regions, Russian governors say

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Jake Kwon

Women look at a house destroyed by recent Ukrainian strikes in the town of Valuyki in the Belgorod region, Russia, on July 5.
Women look at a house destroyed by recent Ukrainian strikes in the town of Valuyki in the Belgorod region, Russia, on July 5. AFP/Getty Images

The neighboring regions of Belgorod and Kursk in southwestern Russia were attacked by shelling from across their borders with Ukraine, Russian officials claimed Wednesday.

In a statement on Telegram, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the shelling lasted more than an hour as Ukrainian forces fired 12 shells from "Grad" multiple rocket launchers.

“The air defense system shot down three targets approaching the town and an unmanned aerial vehicle,” Gladkov said.

One woman suffered a shrapnel wound to her chest, he added.

Homes in both regions and a school in Kursk were damaged, according to their governors. 

CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

Remember: Attacks on Russian soil, particularly in regions bordering Ukraine, have increased in recent months as the effects of the Kremlin's war reverberate onto its own territory. On Tuesday, Russia's defense ministry said it intercepted five Ukrainian drones near Moscow in what it called a "terrorist" attack.

6:59 a.m. ET, July 5, 2023

Analysis: Putin may not be complaining after India downplays Russia-friendly summit

Analysis from CNN's Simone McCarthy

Modi speaks with Putin during the SCO Summit on Monday.
Modi speaks with Putin during the SCO Summit on Monday. Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Last year, the world watched closely as China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi of India and other world leaders within a Moscow-friendly group gathered in the Uzbek city of Samarkand for a high-profile, two-day summit.

The spotlight was on how each of the attending leaders interacted with Putin — who at the time was more than six months into a brutal invasion of Ukraine that had sparked a humanitarian disaster, roiled the global economy and triggered global food insecurity.

This time around, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit’s host country India appeared keen to avoid that kind of scrutiny, opting instead for a virtual summit — a muted arrangement that may have also suited the SCO’s two leading members, Putin and Xi.

India’s summit, which took place Tuesday afternoon, lasted roughly three hours and culminated with the release of a joint declaration some 5,000 words shorter than the one released in Samarkand.

Also missing were the typical group photos, chummy dinner and opportunities for sideline meetings between heads of state from the body of leaders from Eurasia that Russia and China have long seen as a critical means to counter so-called Western influence in the region.

New Delhi did not give a specific explanation when it announced last month it would hold the event online, and on Tuesday said the format “in no way signifies, hints, insinuates the dilution in the objectives that we are trying to see of the SCO summit.”

But observers say that Modi — who has been busy tightening India’s ties with the United States, including during a state visit late last month — was likely keen to avoid the optics of welcoming Putin and Xi to the capital for an SCO summit.

Read the full analysis here.

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

It's early morning in Kyiv and Moscow. Here's what 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 Bakhmut.

Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister said Russia is "throwing all its forces" to try and stop Kyiv’s advances near the devastated eastern city.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is "the only source of danger" to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as he warned of a potential provocation from Moscow at the facility.

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

  • Donetsk shelling: Two people were killed and dozens of others injured, including children, following Ukrainian shelling of the eastern city of Donetsk on Tuesday, Russian-installed authorities said. A number of apartment buildings, a school and kindergarten were damaged, they added.
  • Kharkiv attack: Russian shelling of the town of Pervomaiskyi injured at least 43 people, including 12 children, Ukrainian officials said. "Russians fired a high-explosive projectile," which caused several cars to catch fire and caused damage to high-rise buildings, according to Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office.
  • Moscow flights diverted: At least 16 flights to Moscow's Vnukovo airport were diverted Tuesday, according to Russian state media. Some flights were rerouted "for security reasons" due to an attempted 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.
  • Prisoner swaps: 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.
  • Grain agreement in doubt: There are no grounds for renewing the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal, which is set to expire on July 17, the Russian foreign ministry said. The agreement 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 ministry claimed.
  • 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 Group. 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's 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 another year. Zelensky welcomed the news while US President Joe Biden said it was an "important signal of stability" heading into the summit.
10:25 p.m. ET, July 4, 2023

Ukrainian shelling kills at least 2 in Donetsk, Russia-backed officials say

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Two people were killed and dozens of others injured, including children, following Ukrainian shelling of the eastern city of Donetsk on Tuesday, Russian-installed authorities said.

Alexei Kulemzin, the occupied city's Moscow-backed mayor, said in a Telegram post that two people died in Petrovskiy district after sustained shelling by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) throughout the day. 

Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) Denis Pushilin said a 2-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy were among 25 people injured in Makiivka district.

A number of apartment buildings, a school and kindergarten were damaged, he added.