July 28, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 10:16 p.m. ET, July 28, 2023
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12:25 a.m. ET, July 28, 2023

Video shows Ukrainian counteroffensive reaching a critical Russian defensive line for the first time

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Three rows of dragon's teeth and trenches, east of Vasylivka, Zaporozhzhia, on March 4.
Three rows of dragon's teeth and trenches, east of Vasylivka, Zaporozhzhia, on March 4. Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine can be seen for the first time at one of Russia's long-stretching "dragon's teeth" defensive lines in a new video circulating on Russian social media. 

CNN has geolocated the video to an area just east of the small villages of Nove and Kharkove in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia oblast. 

The video was taken from a Russian military position and shows a Ukrainian military vehicle moving in a field, heading toward a ditch in front of a large row of "dragon's teeth" — concrete and rebar pyramids that can serve as barriers against tanks. The apparent driver of the vehicle appears and begins running back toward a tree line. 

What are the "dragon teeth" lines? For months, satellite images have shown that the Russians have installed the "dragon's teeth" lines across the territory they control in Ukraine. The "teeth" are laid out in three-deep rows that stretch for hundreds of miles; on either side of the concrete lines, Russian forces have also dug massive anti-tank trenches.

When the vehicle hits the trench, a big puff of dirt and smoke is seen. A second later, the front end of the vehicle appears to be stuck, with its front end sitting on top of the trench. 

It's unclear what exactly is happening in the video. Pro-Ukrainian channels claim it's their forces testing the ability for a vehicle to make it over the trench and the "dragon teeth," while pro-Russian channels claim it's a casualty of one of their military strikes. 

What is clear, however, is the Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern part of the country has made notable gains in the last several days. 

While the ability of the Ukrainians to push Russian forces back behind their "dragon teeth" line is a clear indicator, the counteroffensive has been successful so far. 

The defensive line also poses a significant obstacle that the counteroffensive will need to find ways to overcome in the days, weeks, and months to come. 

10:37 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

US intel report details increasing importance of Chinese technology in Russia's war in Ukraine   

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

China is providing technology and equipment to Russia that is increasingly important to Moscow's war in Ukraine, according to a newly released report compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

The report is unclassified and largely cites open-source data and western press reporting to support its claims. But it includes the US intelligence community assessment that China "has become an increasingly important buttress for Russia in its war effort."  

The report — mandated by the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 passed by Congress, and released by House Intelligence Committee Democrats — says that as of March, China "had shipped more than $12 million in drones and drone parts" to Russia, citing a "third-party analysis" of Russian customs data. 

Chinese state-owned defense companies have also been providing sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies with other dual-use technology "that Moscow's military uses to continue the war in Ukraine," the report says, including "navigation equipment, jamming technology, and fighter-jet parts."  

Semiconductor exports from China to Russia have also jumped considerably since 2021, it adds, with "hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of US-made or US-branded semiconductors flowing into Russia" despite heavy western sanctions and export controls. 

The report says Chinese firms are "probably" helping Moscow to evade these sanctions — though it is "difficult to ascertain the extent" of that help. The report says the intelligence community cannot be sure whether Beijing is deliberately interfering with the US' ability to conduct export control checks, via interviews and investigations, inside China. 

The report does say, however, that China "has become an even more critical economic partner for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022."

CNN has asked the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment on the report.

What the US has said: The Biden administration has repeatedly raised concerns with China about evidence it has suggesting that Chinese companies have sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine, but US officials say they have seen no signs so far that China has provided weapons or lethal military aid to Russia. 

The US believes that at the outset of the war, China intended to sell Russia lethal weapons for use in Ukraine, a US official previously told CNN. But China significantly scaled back on those plans as the war progressed, this person said — something the Biden administration has considered a victory.

What China has said: China has claimed neutrality over the war in Ukraine and called for peace in the conflict. But Beijing has also avoided publicly criticizing Russia's war efforts and the two countries have repeatedly emphasized their cooperation, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu declaring a "boundless" military partnership after a meeting in April.

12:32 a.m. ET, July 28, 2023

Ukraine says it captured a village near the southern front line as military ramps up counteroffensive

From CNN's Tim Lister, Svitlana Vlasova and Josh Pennington

Ukrainian soldiers are seen in the Ukrainian village of Staromaiorske, in this screen grab from video posted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 27.
Ukrainian soldiers are seen in the Ukrainian village of Staromaiorske, in this screen grab from video posted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 27. Telegram/V_Zelenskiy_official/Reuters

Both Russian and Ukrainian sources report intense fighting along the front lines in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, where Ukrainian forces are stepping up efforts to break through entrenched Russian defenses.

Late Thursday, video emerged of a Ukrainian unit claiming to be in the village of Staromaiorske – a target for several weeks, located east of Zaporizhzhia city.

A group of soldiers posted the video, with one saying Ukrainian fighters have "fulfilled the task and liberated the village."

The video was reposted on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Telegram account, with the caption: “Our South! Our guys!”

Earlier Thursday, the commander of a Russian-backed battalion from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic acknowledged the loss of Staromaiorske.

Kyiv's troops "methodically" took the village over the course of several days, "knocking personnel out of their shelters and turning those shelters into piles of broken bricks," said the commander, Alexander Khodakovsky. He acknowledged that losing the area was "a blow to our military ego." 

Fighting intensifies in the south: Besides committing additional brigades to the fight in the south, the Ukrainian military has kept up a campaign to degrade Russian logistical hubs, with Russian-appointed officials in occupied areas reporting several rocket strikes against the town of Tokmak, a critical resupply site.

“Tokmak has essentially become a frontline city, because the intensity of hostilities directly on the Zaporizhzhia frontline toward Tokmak is increasing every day,” the Ukrainian mayor of nearby Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, told CNN. 

Fedorov claimed Moscow's troops are "constantly suffering losses" in villages around Tokmak.

Few frontline accounts have emerged, but a member of the Freedom for Russia Legion — a militant group of Russian dissidents that fights against Moscow — said the battles are unceasing.

“In a word, it's hell,” the fighter, Kostyantyn Denysov, told RFE/Radio Liberty. “There are small arms battles along the entire contact line, counter-battery fighting.”
But, he claimed, Ukrainian troops are “stubbornly pressing the occupiers, pushing them out, mopping up and gaining ground.”

Denysov said Russia has responded with artillery barrages and aviation. Their priority is preventing the Ukrainian advance toward Tokmak and other towns near Zaporizhzhia city, including Vasylivka to the south and Polohy, further east of the city.

Denysov claimed some Russian units have suffered "such losses that they are now waiting for replenishment."

Two weeks ago, a senior Russian commander in the area was dismissed for demanding that the Defense Ministry rotate units out of frontline positions.

12:15 a.m. ET, July 28, 2023

Ukraine is "gradually advancing" south of Bakhmut, defense minister says

From CNN's Tim Lister, Svitlana Vlasova and Josh Pennington

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares to fire a mortar at Russian positions on the front line near the city of Bakhmut on July 13.
A Ukrainian serviceman prepares to fire a mortar at Russian positions on the front line near the city of Bakhmut on July 13. Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Ukraine's military is waging attritional battles south of Bakhmut with the ultimate aim of cutting Russian supply routes into the devastated eastern city, which Moscow's forces captured in the spring, according to officials.

Ukraine is "gradually advancing" south of Bakhmut and fighting persists in Klishchiivka, Kurdiumivka and Andriivka — three villages south of the city, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said.

"The fighting is quite fierce," Maliar said. "The enemy is firing intensively.”

The Ukraine military also said Ukrainian units repelled a Russian counterattack south of Bakhmut.

Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian military, said there had been 11 combat engagements in the area over the past day.

Along the border of the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, the Russians were continuing efforts to push Ukrainian units back, Maliar said.

“In the Kupyansk sector, the enemy is attacking, trying to drive us from our dominant heights," she said. "Today, our defenders repelled several attacks without losing positions,” she said.

However, Cherevatyi noted that the number of enemy assaults around Lyman was lower than average. Compared to a recent peak of 10 to 15, he said there were three enemy attacks in areas within the Serebryansky forest and Bilohorivka.