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Poland will increase the number of soldiers along its border with Belarus after two Belarusian helicopters allegedly violated the Polish airspace on Tuesday, according to the defense ministry.
In a statement Tuesday, the ministry said the Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak convened a meeting of Poland’s Committee on National Security and Defence Affairs after reports that the Polish airspace was violated earlier on Tuesday.
“It was established that today, August 1, 2023, there was a violation of Polish airspace by two Belarusian helicopters, which were conducting training near the border. The Belarusian side had previously informed the Polish side about the training. The border crossing took place in the Bialowieza region at a very low altitude, making detection by radar systems difficult,” the statement said. “Mariusz Blaszczak Minister of National Defense, chairman of the Committee for National Security and Defense Affairs, ordered that the number of soldiers on the border be increased and that additional forces and resources, including combat helicopters, be deployed,” the ministry added.
Poland has informed NATO of the incident and moved to summon the Belarusian chargé d’affaires to the Polish foreign ministry to “explain the incident,” according to the statement.
“As a reminder, Russia and Belarus have recently stepped up hybrid actions against Poland,” the defense ministry stressed.
Poland has been on high alert in recent weeks following the move of soldiers from the mercenary group Wagner to Belarus.
Last weekend, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that the situation along the Belarusian border is “becoming even more dangerous,” warning Wagner fighters are moving closer.
More context: More than 100 troops from the mercenary group Wagner are moving toward a thin strip of land between Poland and Lithuania, Poland’s prime minister said over the weekend and warned they could pose as migrants to cross the border. 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.
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.
A strike on the city of Yasynuvata on Tuesday left two civilians dead and another seven people wounded, including a teenage girl, according to Denis Pushilin, the head of Russian-occupied Donetsk.
"Two civilians were killed today as a result of the shelling of Yasynuvata [...] There were seven wounded, among them a teenage girl born in 2010," said Pushilin in a message on his official Telegram channel.
Yasnyuvata is a city located just to the northeast of Donetsk city — near the front lines between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
The Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said a drone was shot down in the Kara-Koba area of the occupied Crimean city amid reports of an explosion.
“According to preliminary data, an UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was shot down in the Kara-Koba area. An explosion occurred on the ground, grass and bushes caught fire,” Razvozhaev wrote on his Telegram account Tuesday. “Fire brigades are already at the scene and have started putting out the fire.”
Residents of the city reported hearing a loud explosion on Tuesday afternoon, which shook windows and set off car alarms. Some also said they could see a cloud of smoke rising from the city center.
Both Ukraine and Russia reported cross-border attacks Tuesday. Moscow said Kyiv again attempted a drone strike in Moscow, targeting the exact same building that was hit on Sunday. Kyiv accused Russia of shelling a medical facility in the southern port city of Kherson, killing a doctor and wounding a nurse.
The US is still waiting for European officials to submit a final plan for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, which the US will have to authorize before the program can actually begin, officials familiar with the matter told CNN.
The training is supposed to start this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European officials have said publicly. But two months after President Joe Biden announced US support for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, there remain a number of critical details to work out.
It is also still unclear which countries will commit F-16s to the training program—and to Ukraine itself once the program is finished. Transferring the planes to Ukraine will require separate US approval.
US defense officials told CNN that the US is still deciding whether to send American pilots to help train the Ukrainians, but that no decisions will be made until a final training plan is authorized.
Some background: The training program is being supported by a coalition of 11 NATO countries and requires official US approval because the F16 is an American technology.
The course itself is expected to be conducted in Denmark and Romania, with help from the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK, officials have said. But the details, including the dates, locations, and length of the syllabus "are still being worked out," National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said during a briefing last week.
Read more here.
CNN's Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday denied Poland's claims that about 100 of the Wagner mercenaries, who are in the country, have moved closer to the Polish border, according to a statement published by his office.
“I suddenly hear the other day that Poland has freaked out that allegedly some unit as large as 100 people is moving here. No PMC Wagner units 100 people strong have moved here. And if they have, they did it only in order to pass on combat experience to the brigades, which are stationed in Brest and Grodno," Lukashenko said during a working visit to Kamenets District, in the southwestern Brest region, according to the statement.
Last month, the Belarusian defense ministry said the country's forces will hold joint military exercises with Wagner fighters near its border with the NATO member. Wagner fighters have arrived in Belarus following a short-lived mutiny by the private military group in June.
"I need to train my own military personnel, because an army that doesn't fight is half an army," Lukashenko added according to the statement. "So they [Wagner] are here to pass on their experience."
The longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Wagner fighters "want to go nowhere" and that they stay "near Osipovichi in the center of Belarus."
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of shelling a medical facility in Kherson, killing a young doctor and wounding a nurse.
The attack occurred at 11:10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, according to the head of the Kherson City Military Administration Roman Mrochko. “One of the healthcare facilities was hit, killing a young doctor who had been working for only a few days, and wounding a nurse who is now fighting for her life!” he said on Telegram Tuesday
The doctor, who has yet to be identified, had just finished his internship and had just had his first day on the job, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health.
“Two floors of the hospital were damaged. The rubble is still being cleared, the final number of victims is unknown,” the ministry also said. “Our condolences to the family and friends of the doctor.”
Local officials said Russia had intensified shelling on the city to provide cover for rotating troops.
CNN's Maria Kostenko contributed reporting to this post.
Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have suggested that these attacks are meant to shatter any remaining sense of calm in the Russian capital.
"Moscow is rapidly getting used to a full-fledged war," said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky.
Here's what else you need to know:
- Civilians caught in the crossfire: Two ballistic missiles struck the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih — Zelensky's hometown — on Monday, killing six people and wounding dozens more. Further south, in Kherson, Russian shelling on residential areas killed four people, a top adviser to Zelensky said. Local officials said Russia had intensified shelling on the city to provide cover for rotating troops.
- Sullivan to head Saudi Arabia: US President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to attend peace talks on the war in Ukraine in the Kingdom next week. Ukraine’s hopes to use the talks to shared principles for ending the war. Russia is unlikely to attend but will monitor negotiations, the Kremlin has said.
- Gerasimov on the front lines: Russian military chief of staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov visited the front lines in the Zaporizhzhia region, the country’s defense ministry said on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear when exactly Gerasimov was at the command post, and CNN could not independently verify his exact whereabouts. Gerasimov was thrust into the position of leading Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine in January.
- Ukrainian children in Russia: More than 700,000 Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia since the beginning of the war, Russia's ombudsperson for children's rights said in a report published Monday. The report claims most of the minors arrived with parents or other relative. The ombudswoman, Maria Lvova-Belova, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have been accused by the International Criminal Court of the war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of children during the war. The Hague issued arrest warrants for them in March.
- "Reckless and irresponsible": A spokesperson for the US National Security Council spokesperson said on Monday that comments by Russia's Dmitry Medvedev on the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Kremlin's war with Ukraine were "reckless and irresponsible." Medvedev said Russia may be forced to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds. The former Russian president has made similar comments regarding the use of nuclear weapons during the war with Ukraine.
Here's a look at the latest map of control in Ukraine:
Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of conducting drone attacks within its territory in recent months.
Though Kyiv denied involvement in what appeared to be an attempted drone strike on the Kremlin on May 3, the Ukrainian military has reportedly been behind several attacks on the Russian capital since then.
Their drones have attempted to hit targets in and around Moscow three times in the last week as well as on multiple occasions since the end of May.
These incidents have caused some damage but few -- if any -- casualties. Ukrainian officials say the goal is to bring the unease and fear of war to Moscow, as the Kremlin has done to Kyiv.
Hours after the attempted drone strike in Moscow on Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that war was "returning to Russia." One of his key advisers said Tuesday that the increasing drone strike in Moscow are a sign that the the Russian capital is becoming “used to a full-fledged war.”
Moscow isn't the only Russian city that's allegedly been targeted by Ukraine's fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.
A look back at some of the suspected attacks:
- On May 7, Russian authorities said they thwarted drone attacks in Sevastopol, a city in the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
- On May 10, the regions of Voronezh, Belgorod and Kursk were targeted.
- On May 11, Kyiv was alleged to have attacked an oil depot owned by Russian state-owned oil producer Rosneft in Bryansk. An administrative building near the border was also hit.
- On May 19, four drones were shot down over the Crimean peninsula.
- On May 23, drones were used by anti-Putin Russians who launched an attack in Belgorod.
- On May 30, two people were injured and several buildings were damaged in an attack on Moscow.
- On May 31, drones were involved in incidents in the regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Krasnodar.
- On June 2, two drones attacked fuel and energy facilities in the Smolensk region of western Russia. Ukrainian drones also damaged buildings in the region of Kursk the same day.
- On June 4, five drones were shot down over the Crimean railway hub town of Dzhankoi.
- On June 5, two drones crashed on a highway in Russia's western Kaluga region.
- On June 7, explosives were dropped on Belgorod from unmanned aerial vehicles.
- On June 9, three people were "lightly injured" in a strike in Voronezh.
- On June 17, drones targeted an oil pumping station in near Novozybkov, a town in the Bryansk region.
- On June 21, Russia's counter-drone measures successfully thwarted a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle attack near a military base outside of Moscow, according to the Kremlin.
- On July 4, Russia said it intercepted five drones over Moscow.
- On July 20, a Ukrainian drone attack in Crimea killed a teenage girl, according to the region's Russian-backed leader.
- On July 24, Ukrainian drones hit two non-residential buildings in Moscow -- including one near the Ministry of Defense -- in a "thwarted" attack, Russian authorities said.
- On Friday, Ukraine attempted a drone attack on Moscow, the Kremlin said.
- On Sunday, 25 drones were intercepted over the Crimea and three over Moscow, though a business and shopping development in the west of the capital was hit.
- On Tuesday, a drone struck the same skyscraper in Moscow that was hit on Sunday. Two other drones were brought down by air defense, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.