July 25, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

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

Updated 5:09 a.m. ET, July 26, 2023
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5:08 a.m. ET, July 26, 2023

It's past midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Russian forces south of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut have taken heavy losses and appear to have fallen back amid intense artillery fire from the Ukrainian side, according to official and unofficial Ukrainian accounts, as well as reports from Russian military bloggers.

Ukraine has been trying to break Russian resistance here for several weeks. Ukrainian advances near Andriivka are part of a plan to encircle Bakhmut and drive out Russian forces, the spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhii Cherevatyi, said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said it has made slight progress on the southern front, in an area that has seen constant fighting for nearly two months. Valerii Shershen, the spokesperson for Ukrainian forces in the south, said troops had advanced by some 500 meters in an area near the town of Staromaiorske — a target of the Ukrainians since the beginning of their counter-offensive.

Here's what else you should know to get up to speed:

  • Grain deal: The UK believes Russia could target civilian ships in the Black Sea, following the Kremlin’s decision to leave the Black Sea Grain Initiative, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Tuesday. The Kremlin said it is “impossible” for Russia to return to the expired initiative until all conditions are met, snubbing suggestions by UN Secretary General António Guterres to rejoin the crucial deal. A European Union official proposed on Tuesday that member states should cover the additional costs of exporting Ukrainian grain by land following the collapse of the deal. And five European Union member states bordering Ukraine are requesting that an existing ban on imports of four types of Ukrainian grain be extended beyond the scheduled expiry date of September 15, the EU Council said Tuesday.
  • Russian decisions: The Russian state Duma passed an amendment extending the military call-up age to include citizens from 18 to 30 years. Also, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office has declared the TV channel Rain (Dozhd) as an “undesirable organization,” which means penalties — including jail time— for anyone in Russia who donates to or cooperates with the channel. 
  • Military aid: US intelligence officials warned Russia is building a drone-manufacturing facility in the country with Iran's help that could have a significant impact on the war in Ukraine once it is completed. And on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new $400 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine, which includes air defense munitions and armored vehicles.
  • UN investigation: Russian accounts of a rocket attack on a camp holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in July 2022 are not supported by evidence, according to the United Nations. The findings by the UN Human Rights Commissioner (UN OHCHR) support the conclusions of an extensive CNN investigation published in August last year, which demonstrated that the Russian narrative that the camp had been hit by a Ukrainian HIMARS rocket did not stand up to scrutiny. 
  • Trevor Reed update: Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who was wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly three years before being released last year, was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed Tuesday.
5:35 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

Zelensky rebukes Ukrainian lawmakers and public officials who vacation during the war 

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Amy Cassidy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is sternly rebuking lawmakers and public officials who are going on vacation during the war.

“Millions of Ukrainians are focused on one thing day after day. Not on themselves, not on their own desires, but on defending the state and their lives,” he said, according to an official English transcript of his nightly address on Tuesday. “But unfortunately, some people think that the war is somewhere far away from them."

He spoke directly to members of parliament, officials and others in public office, asking them to work "in Ukraine and for the sake of the Ukrainian people."

“When every day you search for weapons for the state, when all the attention is on providing artillery, missiles, drones, when you constantly see and feel the moral strength gained for Ukraine by our warriors, our people, who are doing everything possible and impossible for the victory and preservation of freedom, any internal betrayal, any ‘beach’ or any personal enrichment instead of Ukraine's interests triggers fury at the very least," Zelensky said.

His remarks come amid a slew of corruption scandals being reported in Ukrainian media involving public officials. 

2:37 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

5 countries bordering Ukraine ask EU to extend temporary ban on importing Ukrainian grain products 

From CNN's Amy Cassidy in London

Five European Union member states bordering Ukraine are requesting that an existing ban on imports of four types of Ukrainian grain be extended beyond the scheduled expiry date of September 15, the EU Council said on Tuesday.  

Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania would like to see a temporary EU import ban of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower oil be extended to the end of the year, Spain’s Minister for Agriculture Luis Planas Puchades said at a news conference in Brussels. He was speaking in his capacity as president of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council. 

The EU adopted the measures in May to ease logistical bottlenecks and protect local farmers from being undercut in price by cheaper grain produced in Ukraine. 

Speaking at the same event, the EU’s Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said the bloc will need to consider “new circumstances” while considering the extension given Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal.  

6:17 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

Trevor Reed, an American released by Russia in prisoner swap, was injured while fighting in Ukraine, US says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A banner with a picture of Trevor Reed hangs in Lafayette Park near the White House in March 2022.
A banner with a picture of Trevor Reed hangs in Lafayette Park near the White House in March 2022. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who was wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly three years before being released last year, was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed Tuesday.

Reed, who was freed in a prisoner swap in April 2022, was transported to a hospital in Kyiv and then evacuated to Germany for medical care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is a US military hospital near Ramstein Air Base, a US official told CNN.

The circumstances around Reed's injury in combat were not immediately clear.

The Messenger was first to report the news.

The Biden administration is aware Reed “was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

“We have warned that US citizens who traveled to Ukraine, especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there, that they face significant risks,” Jean-Pierre said. “We have said that over and over again, for the past more than 16 months now, including the real risk of capture or death — so been very clear with Americans here in this country about that.”

Jean-Pierre noted that Reed “was not engaged in any activities on behalf of the US government,” while fighting in Ukraine.

And she warned that, for Americans traveling to the region, “we are not able to provide assistance to evacuate US citizens — that’s not something that we are able to do from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in an ongoing war.”

Impact on other detained US citizens: When asked if he is concerned this will have negative implications on negotiations for Americans designated as wrongfully detained in Russia, Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, the State Department's Patel said he wouldn’t speculate. 

“We will continue to engage directly with the Russian Federation, calling for the release, you've seen us do so in the case of Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, and will continue to remain deeply engage on those issues,” Patel said.

A US official, however, said that “of course” they are concerned about the potential impact this will have on negotiations, but stressed that they should not be considered together.

“This was something an individual did of their own volition and should be treated entirely separately from negotiations for the release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan,” the official told CNN.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

1:44 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

US State Department announces new $400 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced a new $400 million tranche of security assistance for Ukraine, which includes air defense munitions and armored vehicles.

The assistance includes “air defense munitions, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, and anti-armor capabilities, as well as other equipment essential to strengthening Ukraine’s brave forces on the battlefield, helping them retake Ukraine’s sovereign territory, and defend their fellow citizens,” according to a statement announcing the latest drawdown – the 43rd to date.

Blinken also slammed Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, noting that Moscow “continues to attack Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure," including in the southern port city of Odesa.

The strikes – the latest in a wave of attacks on Odesa – killed at least one person and injured several others, Ukrainian officials said. At least 25 architectural monuments were destroyed and a historic Orthodox cathedral was badly damaged, a regional military official said.

“Russia could end this war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks against Ukraine’s cities and people,” Blinken said. “Until it does, the United States and our allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine, for as long as it takes.”

According to a State Department spokesperson, some of the specific capabilities in this pacakge are:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS)
  • Stinger anti-aircraft systems
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds
  • Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets
  • Hornet unmanned aerial systems
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing 
  • Over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades
  • Night vision devices and thermal imagery systems

1:51 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

United Nations denies Russian account of attack that killed 50 Ukraine prisoners of war last year

From CNN's Tim Lister and Gianluca Mezzofiore

A security guard stands in front of the prison building, which was damaged by shelling in July, in Olenivka on August 10, 2022.
A security guard stands in front of the prison building, which was damaged by shelling in July, in Olenivka on August 10, 2022. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Russian accounts of a rocket attack on a camp holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in July 2022 are not supported by evidence, according to the United Nations.

The findings by the UN Human Rights Commissioner (UN OHCHR) support the conclusions of an extensive CNN investigation published in August last year, which demonstrated that the Russian narrative that the camp had been hit by a Ukrainian HIMARS rocket did not stand up to scrutiny. 

More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in the strike at the detention center in the town of Olenivka.

Russian and local officials from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said the attack was carried out by the Ukrainian side, using one of the HIMARS rockets that had been recently supplied by the United States.

But the CNN investigation, based on analysis of video and photographs from the scene, satellite imagery from before and after the attack and the work of forensic and weapons experts, concluded that “the Russian version of events is very likely a fabrication. There is almost no chance that a HIMARS rocket caused the damage to the warehouse where the prisoners were being held.” 

A UN statement issued Tuesday concurred that “the information available and our analysis enable the Office to conclude that [the strike] was not caused by a HIMARS rocket.”

“The Russian Federation provided neither satisfactory assurances about secure access for the United Nations to visit the particular site, nor granted general requests by the UN Human Rights Office to access areas of Ukraine under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation," the statement said.

The UN OHCHR said that it had been able to “conduct extensive interviews with survivors of the incident at Olenivka and undertaken detailed analysis of available additional information… While the precise circumstances of the incident on the night of 28-29 July 2022 remain unclear, the information available and our analysis enable the Office to conclude that it was not caused by a HIMARS rocket."
1:07 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

EU members should cover transport costs of Ukrainian grain exports by land, official says in proposal

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

A European Union official proposed on Tuesday that member states should cover the additional costs of exporting Ukrainian grain by land following the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal

The EU is prepared to facilitate the export of all of Ukraine’s grain via the bloc’s so-called “solidarity lanes" since Russia withdrew from the UN-brokered deal — which allowed for vital grain transits through the Black Sea, EU’s Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said, speaking at a news conference in Brussels.

The additional land transits through EU member states that border Ukraine will create a spike in transport costs, he highlighted. 

“There is a risk that Russia will be beneficial of this situation,” he said, noting that food systems are excluded from the EU’s sanctions against Russia. “Because it'd be cheaper to buy grain from Russia than to pay for the for the grain from Ukraine.” 

Wojciechowski said he will propose to discuss with the European Commission — the union's executive branch – the prospect of supporting “the transport costs using also the EU money."  

12:50 p.m. ET, July 25, 2023

Ukrainian military claims slight progress on southern front despite constant fighting

From CNN's Tim Lister and Maria Kostenko

The Ukrainian military said it has made slight progress on the southern front, in an area that has seen constant fighting for nearly two months.

Valerii Shershen, the spokesperson for Ukrainian forces in the south, said troops had advanced by some 500 meters in an area near the town of Staromaiorske — a target of the Ukrainians since the beginning of their counter-offensive.

“Given the enemy's superiority in the air, manpower, weapons and equipment, the Defense Forces are not losing ground in defense and are gradually advancing in the offensive. Ukrainian troops suffer fewer losses in personnel and equipment,” Shershen said.

Elsewhere along the front lines in the south, Shershen said their had been no changes, adding that “the enemy is putting up stiff resistance, moving units and troops, and using reserves. Our attack units are consolidating their positions at the achieved lines and inflicting artillery fire.”

“There are no changes in the Melitopol direction near Robotyne due to dense mining. Demining is the top priority on the seized frontlines. Undercover demining teams are operating at full speed,” Shershen said.

In parts of the Donetsk region — where the Russians are trying to take territory — Shershen said attacks near Avdiivka and Marinka  had been repelled.

There has been virtually no change in control of territory in these directions since last year. He said Ukrainian troops “are holding back any advance of Russian troops in the areas of Krasnohorivka and Marinka. The enemy was unsuccessful in advancing in the area of Rivnopil.”

Shershen gave a glimpse into the huge consumption of munitions in Ukraine’s counter-offensive, saying “Ukrainian Defense Forces carried out 1,289 firing missions over the past 24 hours. Our artillery used over 7,550 shells and ammunition over the last day.”

In a brief Telegram post, Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who commands forces on the southern front, said: “There are successes and advances, knocking the Russians out of their positions. The work continues.”

According to the military’s general staff, Russian air strikes and artillery fire continued in many areas of the front lines in the north (Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.)

Yet another attack in the Lyman sector (close to the border of Donetsk and Luhansk) by the Russians had been unsuccessful, the general staff said.

11:55 a.m. ET, July 25, 2023

Putin will visit China in October, Kremlin says

From Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to visit China in October, when the Chinese government hosts the Belt and Road Forum, according to Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will host the 3rd International Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. He invited Putin to the event when he visited Moscow earlier this year.

The forum is China’s answer to Davos or the G20 and is designed to increase cooperation among Eurasian states. Putin attended and spoke at the first two Belt and Road Forums, held in 2017 and 2019 in Beijing.