July 31, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Brad Lendon, Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:29 a.m. ET, August 1, 2023
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9:01 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Russia is intensifying its attacks on Ukraine

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio

Police officers stand guard near a residential building partially destroyed as a result of a missile strike in Kryvyi Rih on Monday.
Police officers stand guard near a residential building partially destroyed as a result of a missile strike in Kryvyi Rih on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Moscow has intensified attacks on Ukraine in response to drone strikes on his country’s territory, including those in Moscow on Sunday.

“The intensity of attacks on Ukrainian military facilities, including those supporting these terrorist attacks, has been increased several times,” he said Monday.

Speaking during a conference call with Russian Armed Forces leadership, Shoigu said that "additional measures" had been taken to protect domestic targets.

The Russian defense minister also alleged that attempted drone attacks by Kyiv were carried out to deflect from what he said was Ukraine’s lack of success on the battlefield.

“Obviously, the supplied Western weapons do not lead to success on the battlefield, but only prolong the military conflict,” he claimed. “Against the backdrop of an unsuccessful so-called counteroffensive, the Kyiv regime - with the support of Western sponsors - focused on carrying out terrorist attacks on civilian infrastructure in the cities and towns of the Russian Federation.”

Some context: No casualties were reported in the attempted Moscow drone strikes over the weekend. However, Russian bombardments in Ukraine have struck civilian homes, schools, hospitals, churches and power plants, killing thousands of bystanders in the process.

Ukraine's counteroffensive has gone slower than expected, with Russian troops putting up tough resistance as Ukrainian soldiers attempt to break through the front lines.

Since the counteroffensive started, 204.7 square kilometers (79 square miles) have been retaken, of which 12.6 square kilometers (5 square miles) were retaken over the past week, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday.

7:10 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Russia says Ukraine's drone strikes in its territory are "acts of desperation"

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Ukraine's attempts to attack Moscow with drones are "acts of desperation."

Peskov's comments came after Kyiv attempted several attacks on Russian territory using unmanned aerial vehicles over the weekend. Russia said Sunday it had downed or intercepted three drones over Moscow and another 25 over the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.

Hours after the attempted strike on Moscow, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine was succeeding on the battlefield and that war is “gradually returning” to Russian soil.

On his regularly scheduled call with journalists Monday, Peskov likened the drone attacks to "terrorist strikes." He added that security measures have been in put in place in the Russian capital to minimize the risk from these types of attacks.

10:24 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Death toll in Kryvyi Rih missile strike rises to 4

From CNN's Olga Voitivych in Kyiv, Ukraine

A view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on July 31.
A view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on July 31. State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout/Reuters

Four people have now been reported dead following missile strikes on the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, the country's emergency services said Monday.

The number of injured has risen to 43.

A rescue team comprising of 230 people and 57 vehicles are involved in the search and rescue for people from the two buildings damaged in the attack.

Three people, including a child born in 2013, have been rescued from the rubble, while 30 people were helped out of what remains of the structures.

8:12 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Analysis: What Ukraine must do to win in its southern push – and what Russia has in reserve

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Ukrainian military is doubling down on efforts to break through thick Russian defenses in its counteroffensive in the south, which has struggled to gain momentum since being launched at the beginning of June.

Ukrainian officials have said little about what fresh units are being committed to the offensive, but the military has clearly added recently-minted units equipped with western armor in at least one important segment of the southern front.

The challenges faced by the Ukrainians are perhaps less to do with numbers and more to do with capabilities, training and coordination, factors that are critical when an attacking force is faced with such an array of defenses.

The commitment of new units last week does appear to have enabled the Ukrainians to make modest advances south of the town of Orikhiv, edging closer to the important Russian hub of Tokmak some 20 kilometers to the south of the current frontline.

There are other modest successes further east, but the few frontline accounts to have emerged speak of unceasing Russian aviation and artillery strikes.

Read the full analysis here:

7:39 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Search underway for survivors of Russian airstrike on central Ukraine. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

An apartment building burns after it was hit by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on July 31.
An apartment building burns after it was hit by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, on July 31. State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters

Rescue workers in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih are searching for people trapped under the rubble of two buildings struck by Russian missiles.

At least four people were killed and another 20 were injured in the attack, Ukraine's interior minister said, cautioning the numbers could rise.

The airstrikes came after a busy weekend that saw Kyiv attempt a drone attack on Moscow and its counteroffensive made modest territorial gains.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Moscow struck: Three drones attempting to carry out a strike in Moscow were intercepted on Sunday, Russian authorities said, but a business and shopping development in the west of the capital was hit. The attack was the latest example of Ukraine's increasing willingness to send drones into Russian territory. It was Kyiv's second try at a drone strike in the Russian capital within a week and came the same day as another 25 unmanned aerial vehicles were intercepted over the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that war was "gradually returning to Russia."
  • On the front lines: Ukrainian authorities on Monday morning reported modest territorial gains around the front lines of the city of Bakhmut, which has seen some of the war's fiercest fighting. Russia's main efforts focused south of Bakhmut, attacking toward the small cities of Avdiivka and Mariinka, though their efforts were unsuccessful, Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, 204.7 square kilometers (79 square miles) have been retaken, of which 12.6 square kilometers (5 square miles) were retaken over the past week, Maliar said.
  • On the diplomatic front: Saudi Arabia is set to host peace talks to help bring an end to the war in Ukraine, a top official in Kyiv said. The Kingdom has, since the conflict began, attempted to thread the needle and maintain its relationships with both Ukraine and Russia, an important partner in the energy sector. Among those invited to the summit are Western and several developing countries -- but not Russia. To what extent the Kremlin would participate in any peace talks at the moment is unclear. Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Sunday that Moscow has never rejected peace negotiations with Ukraine but it is difficult to reach an agreement while Ukraine's army is on the offense. Zelensky has ruled out any peace negotiations until Russian troops withdraw from his country’s territory.
  • Another nuclear threat: Former Russian President and current top official Dmitry Medvedev again said Russia may be forced to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds. Medvedev has, since Moscow invaded Ukraine last year, repeatedly discussed the specter of nuclear war. Western officials and analysts have criticized those comments as irresponsible and reckless.

10:24 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Russia launches missiles strikes on central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, Kyiv says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Vasco Cotovio in London

This picture shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine on July 31.
This picture shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine on July 31. Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets/Telegram/Reuters

Russia launched a pair of missiles at the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, killing at least two people and injuring another 20, Kyiv said Monday.

Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko said a four-story school building was struck and parts of the fourth through ninth floors of a nearby residential tower were destroyed.

Klymenko also said it was likely people could be trapped under the rubble and that first responders were working at the scene. Klymenko warned residents to stay in shelters until the air raid alarm was turned off.

 “We are trying to save as many people as possible," President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter.

Zelensky said the strike in Kryvyi Rih was part of a Russian bombardment in which "the enemy has been stubbornly attacking cities, city centers, shelling civilian objects and housing.”

“But this terror will not frighten us or break us. We are working and saving our people,” he added.

This post has been updated.

3:06 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Ukraine makes modest gains in Bakhmut sector, hold off Russian attacks, defense official says

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Martin Goillandeau

Hanna Maliar speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 13.
Hanna Maliar speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 13. Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian authorities on Monday morning reported modest territorial gains around the frontlines of the city of Bakhmut, as well as repelling Russian attacks elsewhere. 

The Ukrainian Defense Forces freed two square kilometers (0.7 square miles) of territory in the Bakhmut sector over the past week, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said during a live broadcast Monday. That brings the total liberated area in eastern Ukraine to 37 kilometers 914 square miles).

She added Ukrainian troops are conducting successful offensives in areas south of the city of Bakhmut.

Maliar also said Russia “continues to focus its main efforts on the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions, and heavy fighting continues,” reporting “more than 170 battles” in those areas.

Along the eastern frontlines: Russia failed an attempt to push Ukrainian troops out of the Serebryansky forest in the Lyman sector, while Ukrainian defense forces were “holding back enemy troops effectively” in the Kupyansk sector, Maliar added.

Russian forces focused their main efforts on attacks in the Avdiivka and Mariinka directions within the Donetsk region but were also unsuccessful, she said.

She said Ukrainian Defense Forces liberated Staromaiorske, in the Donetsk region, “under heavy fire from aviation and artillery."

In the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian forces have been “successful and are consolidating their positions” in the areas of Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne.

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, 204.7 square kilometers (79 square miles) have been liberated, of which 12.6 square kilometers (5 square miles) were retaken over the past week.

2:27 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Medvedev says Russia could use nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s fightback succeeds in latest threat

From CNN's Josh Pennington, Alex Stambaugh and Brad Lendon

Dmitry Medvedev attends a meeting in Moscow on July 18.
Dmitry Medvedev attends a meeting in Moscow on July 18. Anton Novoderjozhkin/Kommersant/Sipa/AP

Russia may be forced to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds, senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday – the latest in a series of nuclear threats made during Moscow’s invasion by the key ally of President Vladimir Putin.

“Just imagine that the offensive… in tandem with NATO, succeeded and ended up with part of our land being taken away. Then we would have to use nuclear weapons by virtue of the stipulations of the Russian Presidential Decree,” said Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, in a Telegram post.
“There simply wouldn’t be any other solution,” the former Russian president added. “Our enemies should pray to our fighters that they do not allow the world to go up in nuclear flames.”

Series of nuclear threats: Medvedev, who served as president of Russia from 2008 to 2012, has struck a bellicose tone throughout Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, repeatedly raising the specter of nuclear conflict.

Last April, he warned of Russian nuclear expansion should Sweden and Finland join NATO. Helsinki joined the defense alliance later that month, while Stockholm’s path to NATO membership was cleared earlier this month after Turkey dropped its objections.

In September, Medvedev said strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.

And in January, as NATO member states debated new weapons shipments to Ukraine, Medvedev said defeat for Russia in the war could lead to nuclear conflict.

“The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram in January. “Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends.

“This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”

Medvedev’s remarks Sunday again raise the possibility that Russia could potentially lose the war following nearly 18 months of attrition – a rare admission from a senior Russian official.

They also came just hours after Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Kyiv of attacking Moscow with drones. Three drones were intercepted Sunday, but a business and shopping development in the west of the Russian capital was hit, the ministry said.

Read the full story here.

2:01 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

Ukrainian drone hit government building in Bryansk, Russian governor says

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Martin Goillandeau

A Ukrainian drone has hit a building of Bryansk’s district Department of Internal Affairs, Bryansk Governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a Telegram post on Monday.

“Overnight, the Armed Forces of Ukraine attacked the Trubchevsky district. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was dropped on the building of the district Department of Internal Affairs. There were no casualties. There is destruction of the roof and windows. Operational services are currently working on the site,” Bogomaz’s post read. 

The attack reported on Monday came after Russia said it brought down three Ukrainian drones trying to attack Moscow on Sunday, which was the second reported attack on the country's capital in a week.

Russia also said it intercepted more than two dozen drones in Crimea, the peninsula it seized in 2014.