Russia again cuts gas supplies to Europe, with Nord Stream 1 pipeline operating at 20% of maximum capacity
From CNN’s Chris Stern and Chris Liakos
Russian energy giant Gazprom has imposed a further cut on gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of maximum capacity, German network operator Gascade said in a statement Wednesday.
The Russian state-owned energy company said on Monday that gas flows would be reduced as it shuts down a turbine for repairs.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck reacted strongly on Monday, saying that “there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries."
Gas had been flowing at 40% capacity after Russia slashed exports in response to Western sanctions.
To avoid a gas shortage in winter, Germany is currently trying to fill its gas storage facilities as quickly as possible. The facilities are currently filled to about 66% capacity, according to the German gas and electricity regulator.
On Tuesday, EU energy ministers agreed to a voluntary target to reduce gas usage by 15% between August and March 2023 in order to prepare for the winter.
Gas prices have spiked more than 20% since the start of the week.
9:01 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
1 killed, another trapped as town of Bakhmut in Donetsk comes under heavy fire
From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych
One person was killed in the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Wednesday after a two-story hotel was partially destroyed by shelling, and another person was trapped in the wreckage, the State Emergency Service in Donetsk said.
Video and photographs from the area show extensive damage and fires as Russian forces move closer to the town.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said that three missiles had struck the nearby town of Toretsk, but there were no reports of casualties.
Several other communities near Bakhmut were under intense fire, added Kyrylenko, as were locations elsewhere on the front lines near the city of Donetsk.
Russian forces have been trying to advance westwards through the Donetsk region for several weeks, but have so far made only incremental progress.
4:55 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
US approves treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at US military hospital in Germany
From CNN's Oren Liebermann, Zachary Cohen and Barbara Starr
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved the treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at a US military hospital in Germany, according to a memo obtained by CNN and confirmed by two US defense officials.
The plan would allow Ukrainian troops to be treated at a US military hospital for the first time since Russia invaded the country in February. It allows for the treatment of up to 18 wounded soldiers at a time at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the massive hospital in Germany where the military has for years treated US service members who suffered injuries in combat.
Austin offered verbal guidance in late May to begin offering treatment to wounded Ukraine soldiers, according to the memo. On June 29, Austin formalized the verbal guidance in a memo entitled "Guidance for Medical Treatment of Wounded Ukrainian Service Members."
Despite the plan receiving final approval nearly one month ago, Landstuhl has not yet received Ukrainian service members for medical care.
The official said the purpose of the memo was to remove any red tape that would slow down the process of offering treatment if the need arose. The plan would permit treatment if there was no facility available in Ukraine or in a closer country. Landstuhl is approximately 700 miles from the Ukrainian border.
If Landstuhl were to receive wounded Ukrainian troops, the service members would have to leave Ukraine by train or car before the US, which has no troops in Ukraine, could evacuate them by air to Ramstein Air Base.
Poland to buy hundreds of South Korean tanks, howitzers after sending arms to Ukraine
From CNN's Brad Lendon, Yoonjung Seo and Joseph Ataman
Poland is buying almost 1,000 tanks, more than 600 pieces of artillery and dozens of fighter jets from South Korea, in part to replace equipment donated to Ukraine to help Kyiv fight the Russian invasion, the Polish Ministry of Defense told CNN on Tuesday.
The agreement, expected to be officially announced in Poland on Wednesday, will see Warsaw purchase 980 tanks based on the South Korean K2 model, 648 self-propelled K9 armored howitzers, and 48 FA-50 fighter jets, the ministry said. It would not confirm the value of the deal.
The first 180 K2 tanks, made by Hyundai Rotem and equipped with auto-loading 120mm guns, are expected to arrive this year, with the production of 800 upgraded tanks starting in 2026 in Poland, according to the ministry.
The first 48 K9 howitzers, made by Hanwha Defense, are also expected to arrive this year, with delivery of a second batch of 600 due to start in 2024. From 2025 these will be produced in Poland, the ministry said.
The ministry said these armored vehicles would, in part, replace the Soviet-era tanks that Poland has donated to Ukraine to use in its fight against Russia.
Brittney Griner will testify in Russian court as trial continues
From CNN's Dakin Andone and Anna Chernova
US basketball star Brittney Griner is expected to testify in a Russian courtroom Wednesday as part of her ongoing trial on drug charges, for which she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Griner's attorney, Alexander Boykov, confirmed to CNN the two-time Olympic gold medalist would testify, adding prosecutors will also have the opportunity to question her.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February, when authorities said they found cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport and accused the WNBA player — who plays in Russia during the league's offseason — of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance.
Ukraine says battles ongoing near Donetsk city of Bakhmut
From CNN's Tim Lister
Ukrainian officials say battles continue around the eastern city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, as Russian forces make incremental gains in the area.
Social media video published in the past 24 hours shows Russian forces in control of a power plant near the settlement of Novoluhanske, which has been a battleground for several weeks.
The military's General Staff said fighting continues in the area, but the Russians had failed in an effort to close in on the nearby town of Soledar, according to its operational update Wednesday.
Hostilities continued in two areas immediately to the west of the power plant but Russian forces had suffered casualties and pulled back, it added.
Sloviansk: The General Staff reported heavy fire from Russian tanks and artillery against settlements in a wide arc north of Sloviansk — an important target for the Russian operation. Essentially the front lines in this region have not changed in several weeks, with the Ukrainians repeatedly claiming to have repelled Russian assaults.
Ukrainian forces continue to defend the pocket of territory they still hold on the border of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The General Staff said another assault by Russian forces in the area of Verkhniokamianske had failed.
11:19 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
Ukraine confirms strikes on major bridge in Kherson, claims advances elsewhere in region
From CNN's Tim Lister and Josh Pennington
Ukrainian officials have confirmed a further attack on a key bridge used to reinforce and resupply occupying Russian forces in southern Ukraine
Multiple social media videos published on Tuesday night showed several large detonations near the Antonivskyi Bridge — the main crossing point of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region that essentially links Ukraine to Russian-annexed Crimea.
Nataliya Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Operational Command South, told Ukrainian television: "Yes, there were blows on the bridge, and they were precise."
Some context: The Antonivskyi Bridge is one of three that had previously been struck by long-range Ukrainian artillery in an effort to disrupt Russian reinforcements and supplies being moved into Kherson from Crimea.
Ukrainian officials have previously said their goal is to allow civilian traffic to continue using the bridge while making it impassable for heavy equipment.
Last week, Russian state media reported that Ukraine used long-range rockets provided by the West to target the bridge for two days in a row, causing major damage.
"Our forces keep strategic logistics and transport routes under fire control, which are of critical importance to the enemy. We are not destroying the infrastructure; we are destroying the enemy's plans," Humeniuk said.
The Antonivskyi Bridge was damaged "significantly," said Yurii Sobolevskyi, first deputy head of the Kherson regional council.
Sobolevskyi said the Russians were not letting anyone near the bridge, but the restoration would take a long time and pose problems for Moscow's forces.
Russia downplays impact: Deputy head of the Russian-backed administration in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said the "hysteria that is being spun in the media about how the war is going to be decided on this bridge, it’s just a bluff."
"Now the bridge is shut off to traffic, which only made life a little more difficult for the population of Kherson and the Kherson region. Let me emphasize again, the outcome of the hostilities, the counterattack, will in no way be dictated by their [army’s] performance," Stremousov said.
Southern counteroffensive: Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Operational Command South, also said Ukrainian forces had made advances in the north of Kherson.
"The counteroffensive in the south of Ukraine is moving forward. The Russian army is demoralized," she claimed.
She said two villages — Andriyivka and Lozove — had been liberated, and Ukrainian forces were strengthening their positions. The Ukrainian offensive in Kherson began in late May but has made only modest progress so far.
12:58 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
Russian shelling hits industrial district of Kharkiv
From CNN's Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh
Two S-300 missiles fired by Russian forces hit the industrial district of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv early on Wednesday, the city's mayor Ihor Terekhov said.
The shelling occurred around 4:25 a.m. local time, Terekhov said, adding that rescuers are already on-site sorting through the rubble.
"According to them, there are no victims, but this is only preliminary information. I hope it remains that way," he said. "I ask everyone in the city to be as careful as possible."
Kharkiv, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the war, has continued to come under attack by Russian forces.
12:20 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
US officials say "biggest fear" has come true as Russia cuts gas supplies to Europe
From CNN's Natasha Bertrand
The Biden administration is working furiously behind the scenes to keep European allies united against Russia as Moscow further cuts its energy supplies to the European Union, prompting panic on both sides of the Atlantic over potentially severe gas shortages heading into winter, US officials say.
On Monday, Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom said it would cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany in half, to just 20% of its capacity. A US official said the move was retaliation for Western sanctions, and that it put the West in "unchartered territory" when it comes to whether Europe will have enough gas to get through the winter.
In response to the turmoil, the White House dispatched presidential coordinator for global energy Amos Hochstein to Europe on Tuesday, officials said. He will be traveling to Paris and Brussels to discuss contingency planning with the US-EU energy task force created in March, one month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"This was our biggest fear," said the US official.
The impact on Europe could boomerang back onto the US, spiking natural gas and electricity prices, the official said. It will also be a major test of European resilience and unity against Russia, as the Kremlin shows no signs of retreating from Ukraine.
The US and Brussels have been pleading with EU members to save gas and store it for winter, and on Tuesday, energy ministers agreed in principle to cut gas use by 15% from August to March.
There will also be discussions in the coming days about increasing nuclear power production across Europe to offset gas shortages, officials said. Germany was planning to completely phase out its use of nuclear power by the end of 2022, but US officials are hoping to convince Berlin to extend the life of its three remaining nuclear power plants amid the energy crisis, an official said.