July 24, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:10 a.m. ET, July 25, 2023
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8:49 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Ukraine will keep attacking targets in Crimea and the Kerch Bridge, defense minister says

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla, Alex Marquardt and Sana Noor Haq

The Kerch Bridge is pictured July 17.
The Kerch Bridge is pictured July 17. Reuters

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says that Ukraine will continue carrying out attacks on Russian-occupied Crimea and the Kerch Bridge that connects it to the Russian mainland, while also admitting that Ukraine’s plan for its sluggish counteroffensive is behind schedule.

As Russia has pummeled the southern port city of Odesa and the surrounding region over the past week, Ukraine has continued to carry out strikes inside Crimea. On Tuesday, Ukrainian drones hit an ammunition depot, just a week after seaborne drones struck the Kerch Bridge.

“All these targets are official targets because it will reduce their capacity to fight against us (and) will help to save the lives of Ukrainians,” Reznikov said in an interview with CNN.

Asked if Ukraine’s goal is to permanently disable the bridge, Reznikov responded: “It’s normal tactics to ruin the logistic lines of your enemy to stop the options to get more ammunition, to get more fuel, to get more food, etcetera. That’s why we will use these tactics against them.”

Reznikov also accused Russia of operating as “a terrorist state.”

The fifth night of Russian strikes in Odesa badly damaged more than two dozen landmarks in the historic city center. Drones meanwhile pounded the region’s port infrastructure, targeting crucial grain stocks days.

Read more here

8:03 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog chief says agency discovered mines at Zaporizhzhia plant site

From CNN’s Mariya Knight, Olga Voitovych and Josh Pennington  

A Russian service member stands guard at a checkpoint near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on June 15.
A Russian service member stands guard at a checkpoint near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on June 15. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered mines at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) site, agency chief Rafael Grossi said Monday —after previous claims by Kyiv that it had been mined.   

“IAEA experts have observed directional anti-personnel mines on the periphery of the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia NPP,” Grossi said in a statement, adding that the mines were spotted during a walkdown on Sunday.  

Zaporizhzhia NPP is currently occupied by Russian forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on world leaders to put pressure on Russia to hand the station over to the IAEA and for Russian fighters to leave the territory of the station.  

Grossi added that the IAEA team has been aware of the previous placement of mines outside and inside of the plant and they have been told that it was “a military decision, and in an area controlled by military.” 

“IAEA team saw some mines located in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers,” Grossi said, noting that the mines were “situated in a restricted area that operating plant personnel cannot access and were facing away from the site.”  

Grossi called having explosives on the site “inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance.”  


7:52 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Air defenses are at work in Kyiv region, local official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian air defenses are at work in the Kyiv region on the outskirts of the capital, according to Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv city military administration.

Ukraine’s Air Force said there is a threat of Russian UAV attacks in the area.

The Kyiv city military administration also said there were air raid sirens in the country’s capital early Tuesday.

5:43 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

A slow counteroffensive and drone strikes in Moscow: What to know about the war in Ukraine

From CNN staff

Progress is slow in Ukraine's counteroffensive efforts, officials said, pointing to several variables that are impeding progress on the front lines.

Ukraine has claimed responsibility for drone strikes that hit Moscow and Crimea.

Here are the top headlines:

  • Ukraine counteroffensive: Kyiv's counteroffensive is behind schedule, according to Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov. He listed a few reasons why the counteroffensive may be slower than anticipated, including ammunition, artillery shells and artillery systems. Other local officials said Russia's electronic warfare capabilities are jamming Ukrainian drones. The situation on the southern front in Ukraine has been slowed largely due to intricate minefields laid by Russian forces who were given time to build up defenses.
  • Moscow drone attack: Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, an arm of the Ministry of Defense, says it carried out a drone attack on Moscow early Monday morning, a Defense Intelligence official told CNN. The Kremlin said that all the drones targeting the Russian capital had been neutralized, in what Russian authorities described as a "thwarted" attack. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement calling on international organizations to condemn the attack and recent Ukrainian strikes on Crimea.
  • Food prices: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is arguing for a lifting of European restrictions on exports via land. Markets are concerned about a tightening supply situation following the collapse of the Black Sea grain initiative last week and a sequence of Russian drone attacks against Ukrainian port infrastructure. Wheat prices rose sharply on international markets following the strike by a Russian drone against a Ukrainian port on the Danube River.
  • Latest on Odesa attacks: Authorities in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa say that part of the city’s historic cathedral is structurally unsound after the building was hit Sunday by a Russian missile. The Odesa strikes killed at least one person and injured several others, Ukrainian officials said, the latest in a wave of attacks on the port city. The attacks also destroyed other historic buildings, Ukraine’s culture ministry said.
6:04 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Russian ability to jam drones is slowing Ukrainian advance, military says

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych, Mari Kostenko and Josh Pennington

Ukraine's counteroffensive is partly struggling because of Russian ability to jam drones, according to military officials.

Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Ukrainian forces in the south, said heavy losses were being inflicted on the Russians, but it’s clear that progress is slow.

One reason, according to Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuri Inhat, is that Russia has a major advantage in electronic warfare. 

“Regrettably, the occupiers have gone far ahead of us in this regard. You don't have to shoot down a drone with anti-aircraft missiles or anti-aircraft guns. You can simply force it to land, intercept it with electronic warfare,” he said on Ukrainian television.
“Russia today has powerful systems that interfere with the work of our defense forces. It has enough of these systems. Ukraine has made progress in electronic warfare, but we started late, we should have developed [this area] earlier," Inhat added.
6:05 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Ukrainian forces report modest progress. Here's where things stand

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych, Mari Kostenko and Josh Pennington

A Ukrainian service member prepares to fire a mortar near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on July 13, 2023.
A Ukrainian service member prepares to fire a mortar near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on July 13, 2023. Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Ukrainian forces say they are making modest progress in the east and south, as well as restraining Russian efforts to move forward in the Donetsk region, but overall there appears to have been little change on the front lines.

Ukrainian military officials said Russian minefields and electronic warfare capabilities are impeding progress.

Here's where things stand:

In the south: Oleksandr Kurbatov, with the Dnipro city territorial defense, said Monday that Ukrainian units were working hard to move forward in an area known as the Vremivskyi Ledge. 

He said that Russian forces were bringing in new units of "highly qualified military" who are using the cover of darkness and carefully designed corridors through the minefields to attack Ukrainian positions.

Valerii Shershen, a spokesperson for Ukrainian forces in the south, acknowledged that progress was slow, saying that “strike units had partial success and advanced into enemy territory from 350 meters up to 1.4 kms.” 

Near Melitopol: The general staff of the Ukrainian military said that offensive operations continued in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, and units were consolidating their positions.

Russia carried out 58 air strikes over the past day — higher than the recent average, the general staff said. Some came near the town of Kupyansk in Kharkiv, which was liberated by the Ukrainians last September and has been a target of Russian attacks. But Ukrainian officials say the Russians are being held east of the Oskil River. 

Bakhmut and the East: In the Bakhmut area, there have been efforts by the Russians to retake recently lost ground, but the general staff said a number of attacks had been repelled. 

Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian military, said that the defense forces “are gradually liberating Ukrainian land. Hundreds of meters every day, kilometers every week.”

But he said that fierce Russian resistance continued, with seven battles over the past day alone in which he claimed "94 occupiers were killed and 152 were wounded."

CNN cannot verify Ukrainian claims of advances on the battlefield or of casualty numbers.

4:02 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Biden administration imposes sanctions on 3 Malian officials for facilitating Wagner Group

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The Biden administration on Monday imposed sanctions against three Malian officials accused of facilitating the Wagner Group’s presence in that country.

The action comes weeks after Wagner chief Yevegny Prigozhin led an unsuccessful revolt against the Russian government. The Wagner Group is deeply entrenched in Mali and is accused of committing atrocities there.

“Since the arrival of the Wagner Group in Mali in December 2021, the number of civilian casualties in that country have surged by 278 percent,” the Treasury Department said in a news release Monday. “Many of those civilian deaths were the result of operations conducted by Malian Armed Forces alongside members of the Wagner Group.”

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Mali’s Minister of Defense Col. Sadio Camara, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Col. Alou Boi Diarra, and Malian Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Adama Bagayoko for their roles in supporting the Russian mercenary group.

According to the news release from the Treasury Department, “Camara planned and organized the deployment of the Wagner Group in Mali,” and in 2021, “Camara made several trips to Russia to solidify the agreement between the Wagner Group and the Malian transition government to deploy the Wagner Group to Mali.”

Diarra accompanied Camara on several of his trips to Russia, the Treasury Department said, and “in his previous role as Air Logistics Chief, Diarra significantly contributed to the logistical movement of Russian entities in Mali."

“Together, Camara and Diarra formulated and executed the plan that ultimately ushered the Wagner Group into Mali,” the agency said.

“Bagayoko serves as an advocate for the Wagner Group to the Burkinabe transition government, working to secure the Wagner Group’s deployment to Burkina Faso,” the Treasury said. “Additionally, Bagayoko is also reportedly seeking to facilitate the Wagner Group’s access to gold mining in Mali.”


2:14 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

US journalist with AFP news agency wounded in Russian drone attack near Bakhmut

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi

An Agence France-Presse journalist was wounded in a Russian drone attack while reporting from a Ukrainian position near Bakhmut on Monday, according to AFP reporters who witnessed the attack.

Dylan Collins, a US citizen on assignment in Ukraine, sustained multiple shrapnel injuries in the attack in a forested area while reporting at a Ukrainian artillery position.

The video journalist was evacuated to a nearby hospital where he is being treated. Doctors say his condition is not life-threatening.

Collins, 35, is conscious, according to the international news agency.

"We are investigating the full circumstances behind this incident. Our thoughts are with Dylan and his loved ones," AFP's Europe Director Christine Buhagiar said in a statement.

Since the start of a counteroffensive in June, Ukrainian forces have been advancing slowly to the north and south of Bakhmut in an attempt to surround Russian forces and eventually re-take the city.

Collins has been working for AFP since 2018 and has reported from Middle East conflict zones. He also covered the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for AFP.

AFP video journalist Arman Soldin was killed by Russian rocket fire near Bakhmut in May.

1:20 p.m. ET, July 24, 2023

Ukrainian counteroffensive is behind schedule but is going according to plan, defense minister says

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla and Alex Marquardt in Kyiv

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov admitted that Kyiv's counteroffensive is behind schedule, but insisted he is "not worried" because it is going according to plan, adding that it was a “misconception that every counteroffensive should be quick."

Reznikov listed a few reasons why the counteroffensive may be slower than anticipated, including ammunition, artillery shells and artillery systems. "It's a question of air defense. It's a question that we have a very long battlefield line also. And we have against us big quantity of enemies. So it’s war, it’s not a computer game," the defense minister said in an interview with CNN over the weekend in Kyiv.

The official said, “our generals, our commanders, they see the real situation on the battlefield. And again, I have to repeat the main value for us is the life of for our soldiers.” 

The situation on the southern front in Ukraine has been slowed largely due to intricate minefields laid by Russian forces who were given time to build up defenses. Ukrainian forces have had to resort to clearing, by hand, paths through the fields, Reznikov said.

The minister said the Russians have "serious security zones with the mines" and that it "very difficult to break through."

"We need to use our soldiers, sappers, deminers very slowly, and very slowly preparing the corridors for the real offensive movement," Reznikov said, adding this activity in different places would confuse Russians on the main direction that Ukraine would take.