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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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.

10:44 a.m. ET, July 31, 2023

In wake of drone attacks, Zelensky says war is "gradually" being pushed back to Russian territory

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Kostan Nechyporenko

Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Kyiv on July 19.
Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Kyiv on July 19. Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images

The war is "gradually returning" to Russia's territory, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday, after another round of drone attacks on Moscow.

"Russian aggression has gone bankrupt on the battlefield. Today is the 522nd day of the so-called 'special military operation,' which the Russian leadership expected to last for a week or two," Zelensky said.

"Ukraine is getting stronger. Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia — to its symbolic centers and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process," he added. 

Zelensky warned, however, that Russia can still attack Ukraine's critical energy infrastructure this winter, as it did last year to devastating effect. The president said that on Sunday he met with regional officials to discuss preparations for possible scenarios.

On Sunday, Zelensky also met with wounded fighters and medical teams during a trip to Ukraine's western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Attacks on Russian soil: Russia said it brought down three Ukrainian drones trying to attack Moscow on Sunday, the second reported attack on the country's capital in a week.

In recent months, Russia has also reported Ukrainian missiles reaching cities miles from the border and incursions by anti-Kremlin Russian fighters aligned with Kyiv.

11:31 p.m. ET, July 30, 2023

Officials report another drone crash on Russian soil, this time in a southern border region

From CNN's Mariya Knight

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed in Russia's Rostov region.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed in Russia's Rostov region. danilenko_vf/telegram

A drone came down in a rural area of Russia's southwestern Rostov region near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, according to regional Gov. Vasily Golubev.

“An unmanned aerial vehicle crashed in the settlement of Daraganovka,” Golubev said in a Telegram post Sunday.

The village sits about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Taganrog, where a missile was shot down on Friday. The missile’s remnants fell on the center of the city, wounding 14 people.

In the case of Sunday's drone crash, the governor said a home and a car were damaged, but no casualties were immediately reported.

The governor said officials are still determining whether the unmanned aerial vehicle was a Ukrainian drone.

Drones on Russian soil: Russia said it brought down three Ukrainian drones trying to attack Moscow on Sunday, 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.

Paired with missile strikes, like the one in Taganrog, and incursions by anti-Kremlin Russian fighters aligned with Ukraine, drones are part of the increasing number of instances where the reverberations of Moscow's invasion have reached its own territory.

11:36 p.m. ET, July 30, 2023

Ukraine reports "slow but steady" progress around Bakhmut, picking up ground each day

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Maria Kostenko

Ukraine's forces are "gradually moving forward" around the battered city of Bakhmut, while also claiming some gains elsewhere on the eastern front, a military spokesperson told CNN on Sunday.

Surrounding Bakhmut, Kyiv's military has generally been able to gain hundreds of meters per day and capture kilometers of territory each week, according to Serhii Cherevatyi, who represents the military's eastern grouping.

"This is a tactic of slow but steady progress. We realize that we have comparable forces and means, and sometimes the enemy outnumbers us," Cherevatyi said. "We use the tactics of coverage, maneuvers, ambush and not direct frontal attacks. And so, we are gradually moving forward."

In this aerial view released on June 15, destroyed buildings are seeing in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
In this aerial view released on June 15, destroyed buildings are seeing in Bakhmut, Ukraine. 93rd Kholodnyi Yar Brigade/Reuters

Remember: Bakhmut is one of the most fiercely contested cities in the conflict, with both militaries pouring significant resources into its capture. While the territory bears some strategic value, it also has become a powerful symbol in a war where Russian President Vladimir Putin has had few recent clear-cut victories.

In May, fighters with the Wagner private military group claimed to have captured the city and handed it over to Russia's military. But in the time since, Ukraine has reported that heavy fighting continues in the area and claimed regular gains all around the city.

CNN cannot independently verify battlefield reports from either side in the conflict.

Other fighting nearby: North of Bakhmut, near the focal point cities of Lyman and Kupyansk, the Ukrainian military spokesperson said Russia's military is maintaining a presence of around 100,000 troops but suffering "heavy losses."

A bit farther east, the Luhansk region's Serebryansky forest "is a site of constant fighting," Cherevatyi said. Despite Russia's strategic actions, "they are failing there," he claimed.

In his evening address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was "a good day, a powerful day" at the front lines. He highlighted Bakhmut and "other very hot and painful areas," including the small eastern cities of Avdiivka and Marinka, which have been long battered by the war.

11:58 p.m. ET, July 30, 2023

Wagner troops moving towards Polish border and could try sneaking across, PM says

From CNN's Martin Goillandeau, Sharon Braithwaite and Oleg Racz

Mateusz Morawiecki attends a press conference in Katowice, Poland on July 20.
Mateusz Morawiecki attends a press conference in Katowice, Poland on July 20. Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images

More than 100 troops from the Russian mercenary group Wagner are moving towards a thin strip of land between Poland and Lithuania, says Poland’s prime minister, who warned they could pose as migrants to cross the border.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday that his government had received information that the Wagner mercenaries were not far from Grodno, a city in western Belarus close to the land, which is also known as the Suwalki gap or corridor.

Thousands of Wagner troops are reportedly in Belarus following a failed military uprising in Russia.

Morawiecki repeated allegations that Belarus, a key ally to Russia, has been sending migrants westward in an attempt to overwhelm Polish border forces.

The troop movements, Morawiecki said, appeared to be another element in this campaign to destabilize the border.

“They will probably be disguised as Belarusian border guards and will help illegal immigrants to enter Polish territory, destabilize Poland, but they will also probably try to infiltrate Poland pretending to be illegal immigrants and this creates additional risks,” he said.

So far this year, there have been about 16,000 attempts by migrants to cross the border illegally, “pushed to Poland” by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Morawiecki said.

What exactly Wagner troops are doing in Grodno is unclear, as Wagner has not commented on the reports. But deploying Russian-allied forces near the Suwalki corridor would represent an escalation that could rattle NATO and EU members.

Though just 60 miles long, the corridor is strategically important to NATO, the EU, Russia and Belarus. The border region connects the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to Belarus and it is the only overland link between the Baltic states and the rest of the EU.

Read the full story here.