August 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Sana Noor Haq and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2:35 a.m. ET, August 3, 2022
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2:57 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Biden administration takes action against Russian elites in latest attempt to punish Kremlin for war in Ukraine 

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev, chief executive officer of PhosAgro, speaks in an interview at the opening press conference during the World Chess Tournament on March 9, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev, chief executive officer of PhosAgro, speaks in an interview at the opening press conference during the World Chess Tournament on March 9, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for World Chess)

US President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday took a series of actions targeting Russian elites — including several with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — in its latest attempt to penalize the Kremlin for its ongoing war in Ukraine.

In a statement, the Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions against a number of oligarchs, a major steel production company and two of its subsidiaries, as well as a financial institution accused of running a sanctions evasion operation and its general director.

Separately, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions on three oligarchs, a Russian state-owned company overseen by the Russian Ministry of Transport, "four individuals and one entity illegitimately operating in Ukraine’s territory in collaboration with Russia," and 24 Russian defense and technology-related entities.

The US is also imposing visa restrictions on 893 Russian Federation officials and "31 foreign government officials who have acted to support Russia’s purported annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and thereby threatened or violated Ukraine’s sovereignty," Blinken said.

Many of the designations announced by the US target oligarchs who were previously sanctioned by allies like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the European Union. The actions come as the war in Ukraine nears its sixth-month mark. 

"As innocent people suffer from Russia’s illegal war of aggression, Putin’s allies have enriched themselves and funded opulent lifestyles,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “The Treasury Department will use every tool at our disposal to make sure that Russian elites and the Kremlin’s enablers are held accountable for their complicity in a war that has cost countless lives."

The oligarchs sanctioned by the State Department Tuesday are Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, Alexander Anatolevich Ponomarenko and Dmitry Aleksandrovich Pumpyanskiy. The yacht Axioma was identified as blocked property in which Pumpyanskiy has an interest, the State Department said in a fact sheet. 

According to that fact sheet, Ponomarenko "is an oligarch with close ties to other oligarchs and the construction of Vladimir Putin’s seaside palace" who has previously been sanctioned by the UK, EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Among the oligarchs sanctioned by the Treasury Department Tuesday is Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev, the Russian billionaire founder of the chemical company PhosAgro and former government official described by the Treasury as "a known close associate" of Putin. He is also sanctioned by the UK, and according to the US Treasury, he "owns the Witanhurst estate, which is the second largest estate in London after Buckingham Palace."

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday identified the yacht Alfa Nero, reportedly owned by AG Guryev, as blocked property.

Another close ally of Putin, Alina Maratovna Kabaeva, was sanctioned Tuesday. Kabaeva is a former State Duma member and current head of the National Media Group, "a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio, and print organizations." According to the Treasury Department, "she has also been sanctioned by the EU and the UK."

AG Guryev's son, Andrey Andreevich Guryev, was also sanctioned by the US Tuesday, after previously being sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Switzerland, and the UK, as was his investment firm Dzhi AI Invest OOO.

Natalya Valeryevna Popova was sanctioned "for operating or having operated in the technology sector of the Russian Federation economy, and for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of LLC VEB Ventures," which is a sanctioned entity. She was also sanctioned for being the wife of Kirill Aleksandrovich Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Both he and the RDIF were sanctioned in the days following the start of the war. 

The Joint Stock Company Promising Industrial and Infrastructure Technologies, "a financial institution owned by the Russian Federal Agency for State Property Management," and its General Director Anton Sergeevich Urusov were sanctioned Tuesday in relation to alleged sanctions evasion. 

According to the Treasury Department, "JSC PPIT attempted to facilitate the circumvention of sanctions imposed on the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)."

The Treasury Department sanctioned Publichnoe Aktsionernoe Obschestvo Magnitogorskiy Metallurgicheskiy Kombinat (MMK), described as "one of the world’s largest steel producers," the chair of its board of directors Viktor Filippovich Rashnikov — who has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the EU, Switzerland and the UK — and two of MMK's subsidiaries.

"MMK is one of Russia’s largest taxpayers, providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation," the Treasury Department said. The agency has authorized a wind-down period for transactions with MMK and one of its subsidiaries. 

1:20 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Tensions growing in the Kherson region amid Ukrainian attacks and Russian reinforcements

 From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

A person drives a car past a crater on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro River on July 21.
A person drives a car past a crater on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro River on July 21. (AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian officials say that tensions are growing in the southern Kherson region as Russian forces try to both avoid the impact of long-range Ukrainian weaponry and reinforce their defensive positions.

Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of Kherson civil military administration, said Tuesday that “the Russians are gradually transferring personnel, battalion tactical groups and equipment to Kherson.”

“They built pontoon crossings, made platforms out of pontoons and are using tractors to move military equipment along with civilian transport,” he said.

Khlan said that after the destruction of two bridges across the Dnipro river, a large accumulation of traffic had built up at the bridge next to a hydroelectric plant in Kakhovka.

Khlan said there was a great danger that there could be street battles in Kherson, though Ukrainian forces are still a distance from population centers in the region.

Separately, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Russian forces had experienced an accident when unloading a train of ammunition and equipment on Monday at the Kalanchak railway station in the Kherson region. They had set up a smoke screen to hide the unloading, but there was then an explosion and Russian troops scattered, according to Ukraine.  

The directorate also provided more details about a reported explosion at Brylivka station on the night of July 29. It claimed that a train of more than 40 wagons with manpower, equipment and ammunition was struck.

The Ukrainian military said that the Russian military had evicted residents from their houses near the railway station so that the locals would not inform Ukrainian forces about the movement of Russian army equipment.

Fighting also continues in the north of the Kherson region. Dmytro Butriy, acting head of Kherson region military administration, said 53 settlements had been taken back from the Russians, but almost the whole area was under constant shelling.

"The situation in these villages is catastrophic," he said. 

1:01 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

G7 considers "prohibition" on transportation of Russian oil globally unless purchased at or below set price

From CNN’s Livvy Doherty in London

The Gazprom Neft's Moscow oil refinery is seen on the southeastern outskirts of Moscow on April 28.
The Gazprom Neft's Moscow oil refinery is seen on the southeastern outskirts of Moscow on April 28. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

The G7 is considering further options to stop Russia “profiting from its war of aggression and to curtail Russia's ability to wage war,” according to a statement from the forum's foreign ministers on Tuesday.

Such options could include “a comprehensive prohibition of all services that enable transportation of Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products globally” unless the oil was purchased at or below a set price, the statement said. 

The foreign ministers said Russia is using energy as “a tool of geopolitical coercion” and that they would work together to reduce G7 countries demand on Russian energy, while protecting the most vulnerable groups from the impacts of supply disruptions and rising prices. 

8:34 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Zelensky and Stoltenberg discuss NATO support for Ukraine

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio and Maria Kostenko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 2.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 2. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a phone call on Tuesday to discuss the alliance’s military support to Kyiv. 

“Good call w/Pres [Zelensky] on priorities for military support,” Stoltenberg tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s vital that #NATO & Allies provide even more assistance to #Ukraine even faster.”

Zelensky’s office echoed Stoltenberg’s remarks, calling on Ukraine’s allies to send military support at a faster rate.

“The President of Ukraine separately informed Jens Stoltenberg about the situation on the battlefield and the need for Ukraine to quickly receive more heavy weapons from NATO member states in order to successfully repulse Russian attacks and proceed to a further counteroffensive,” the Ukrainian president said in a statement on Tuesday.

“In addition, Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of receiving non-lethal military aid from the Alliance as soon as possible in the framework of the comprehensive package approved at the Madrid NATO Summit,” according to the statement.

The two sides also highlighted the resumption of grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

8:15 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Lawyer says Griner is "focused" after 7th trial hearing and predicts verdict will be "very soon"

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Khimki, Russia

US basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 2.
US basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 2. (Evgenia Novozhenina/AFP/Getty Images)

WNBA star Brittney Griner is “focused” and “nervous” after the seventh hearing in her trial in Russia ended on Tuesday without a verdict, one of her lawyers told CNN in an interview outside the courthouse in Khimki, near Moscow.

“She's still focused, and she's still nervous. And she still knows that the end is near, and of course she heard the news so she's hoping that sometime she could be coming home and we hope too,” said lawyer Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm, adding that closing debates are expected Thursday.

The verdict will be very soon,” she said.

Blagovolina said Griner’s legal team is “confident” about a positive verdict but was awaiting the court’s decision.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges early last month to try to mitigate her sentence. The 31-year-old Olympic medalist has been held in Russia since February on allegations of attempted drug smuggling, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in Russia.

Asked about their team’s strategy to challenge Russian prosecutors’ evidence after Griner pleaded to drug charges, Blagovolina said: “There are a lot of factors which should be taken by the court into account. She admitted that she did bring something, but we need to know what did she bring, what substance.”

Blagovolina also told CNN her team’s experts identified “a few defects” in the machines used to measure the substance.

7:56 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Kremlin says "megaphone diplomacy" will not help Brittney Griner exchange

From CNN's Anna Chernova

The Kremlin has warned that US “megaphone diplomacy” will not help negotiations for a prisoner exchange regarding basketball star Brittney Griner.

Moscow believes these talks should be “discrete,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

“Megaphone diplomacy and public exchange of positions will not lead to results here,” Peskov added.

Amid this pressure and after months of internal debate, the Biden administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, offering to release a convicted Russian arms trafficker in exchange for Griner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan, people briefed on the matter told CNN.

Russian officials replied to the US prisoner swap offer, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, requesting that in addition to arms dealer Viktor Bout, the US also include a convicted murderer who was formerly a colonel with the Russian spy agency, Vadim Krasikov.

7:48 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

The UN Secretary-General has cautioned that humanity is just "one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation," as "geopolitical tensions are reaching new highs," and "distrust has replaced dialogue." Meanwhile, the first ship loaded with grain to leave Ukraine since Russia began its invasion has been delayed due to bad weather.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Grain shipment delayed: The Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul said the MV Razoni was moving slower than expected and is now due to reach Istanbul on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. The Razoni departed from the Black Sea port of Odesa on Monday under a UN-brokered export deal, raising hopes that a global food supply crisis caused by Russia's invasion can be eased.
  • Foreign fighters to stand trial in DPR: Five foreigners who sided with Ukraine in the defense of the southern city of Mariupol are set to go on trial in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), accused of being foreign mercenaries. Among the five are one Swede, one Croat and three Britons.
  • Russian assault intensifies in the east: Ukrainian forces have "repelled assaults" from Russia's prolonged offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian military. "Fighting continues in the areas of Bakhmut and Zaitseve settlements," the military’s general staff said on Tuesday. Elsewhere in the southern city of Mykolaiv, Russian shelling hit a university dormitory, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Pelosi's expected Taiwan visit threatens diplomatic ties: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Washington is "bringing destabilization to the world." It comes after Moscow’s ally Beijing warned against the "egregious political impact" of Pelosi's planned visit to the self-governing island that China claims as a part of its territory and reiterated that its military "won't sit by idly" if it feels its "sovereignty and territorial integrity" is being threatened.
  • UN's "nuclear annihilation" warning: Geopolitical threats such as the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and armed conflicts including Russia's invasion of Ukraine are putting the globe at risk of a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War, according to Antonio Guterres. "Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation," he said at the opening of a United Nations nuclear treaty conference at its headquarters in New York on Monday. 
  • Brittney Griner trial: The WNBA star’s seventh hearing concluded earlier today, with her next hearing scheduled due to take place on Thursday. An expert called by Griner's defense team, forensic chemist Dmitry Gladyshev, testified that the examination of the substance in Griner's cartridges did not comply with Russian law.
7:35 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Mandatory evacuation of Donetsk region has begun, according to Ukrainian officials

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian officials said the mandatory evacuation of the Donetsk region has begun, with the first train leaving Pokrovsk and arriving further west in the city of Kropyvnytskyi. 

“The first train arrived in Kropyvnytskyi this morning. Women, children, the elderly, many people with limited mobility. Everyone was met and accommodated, everyone was helped,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in her Telegram channel on Tuesday. “Thanks to local services, international organizations and volunteers.”

The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, also announced the beginning of the evacuation, adding that trains will depart every two days. 

“Every paired-numbered day, an evacuation train will depart from Pokrovsk to Kropyvnytskyi with a stop in Oleksandria. Departure time is 16:30,” Kyrylenko posted in his official Telegram. “Do not delay - evacuate! Evacuation saves lives!”

According to Ukrainian Railways, Ukrzaliznytsia, 136 passengers — including 44 with limited mobility — were on the first evacuation train. Volunteers from World Central Kitchen provided people with food, while the Ukrainian Postal Service, Ukrposhta, supported payments at the station. 

7:27 a.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Kremlin says Pelosi's expected visit to Taiwan is "provocative" and increases tensions

From CNN's Anna Chernova

A demonstrator tears a U.S. flag during a protest against U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit, in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2.
A demonstrator tears a U.S. flag during a protest against U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit, in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan is "provocative" and increases tensions, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Tuesday.

"We cannot now say for certain whether (Pelosi) will reach (Taiwan) or not. But still everything around this tour and a possible visit to Taiwan, of course, is purely provocative," Peskov said on a regular conference call.

"This provokes the situation, leads to an increase in tensions," he added. 

Peskov went on to say that Moscow stands "in solidarity with China" on the issue of the self-governing island that China claims as a part of its territory. He added, this is a very sensitive issue and expressed regret that "instead of respecting this sensitivity," the US "chooses the path of confrontation."

Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia, according to a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official, despite warnings from Biden administration officials, who are worried about China's response to such a high-profile visit.