August 4, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Caolán Magee, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET, August 4, 2023
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6:46 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

US and Western officials fear Putin unlikely to change course in Ukraine before 2024 election

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler and Kevin Liptak

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to the Murmansk Region of Russia on July 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to the Murmansk Region of Russia on July 20. Kremlin Press Office

Top US and European officials are concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is factoring the 2024 US presidential election into his��Ukraine war plan in hopes that a loss by President Joe Biden next year will lead the US to curtail its support for Ukraine and improve Russia’s negotiating position, four US officials told CNN.

One US official said they have “no doubt” that Putin is “trying to hold out” until the 2024 election. 
Another source familiar with the intelligence said “Putin knows Trump will help him. And so do the Ukrainians and our European partners,” the source said. “So even though we haven’t seen anything explicitly to that effect, you have to assume, I believe, that everyone is thinking it.”
A European diplomat told CNN that they believe Russia trying to ride out the war in Ukraine until the US election “is exactly Putin’s plan.”

The US does not yet have explicit intelligence about Putin’s mindset, or whether he is purposefully dragging out the war in hopes of a Donald Trump or Republican presidential victory.

But next year’s election remains a key factor that top Western national security, intelligence and diplomatic officials believe will influence Putin’s decisions in Ukraine, making it even less likely the war is resolved before the end of next year.

Read full article here.

6:40 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

CNN Poll: Majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine in war with Russia

From Jennifer Agiesta, CNN Polling Director

Most Americans oppose Congress authorizing additional funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, as the public splits over whether the US has already done enough to assist Ukraine.

Overall, 55% say the US Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine vs. 45% who say Congress should authorize such funding. And 51% say that the US has already done enough to help Ukraine while 48% say it should do more. A poll conducted in the early days of the Russian invasion in late February 2022 found 62% who felt the US should have been doing more.

Partisan divisions have widened since that poll, too, with most Democrats and Republicans now on opposing sides of questions on the US role in Ukraine.

Read full article here.

6:02 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Poland detains Belarusian man suspected of spying for Russia

From CNN’s Catherine Nicholls and Antonia Mortensen

Poland has detained a Belarusian man suspected of being involved in a Russian spy network, Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński said Friday.

 “The internal security agency detained another, the sixteenth, suspected of involvement in a Russian spy network,” Kamiński posted on Twitter.

The man is accused of taking part in “reconnaissance of military facilities and ports,” as well as carrying out “propaganda activities for Russia,” according to Kamiński.

Mariusz Kamiski, Minister of Interior and Administration, seen during a press conference near the new fence on the Polish-Belarusian border near the village of Nowdziel, Poland, on June 30, 2022.
Mariusz Kamiski, Minister of Interior and Administration, seen during a press conference near the new fence on the Polish-Belarusian border near the village of Nowdziel, Poland, on June 30, 2022. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Some context: Tensions are escalating between Warsaw and Minsk after Poland announced it will increase the number of soldiers along its border with Belarus.

On Saturday, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said more than 100 Wagner mercenaries had moved toward the Suwałki corridor, calling it “a step towards a further hybrid attack on Polish territory.”

The Suwalki gap is a 60-mile line that is strategically significant to NATO, the EU, Russia and Belarus.

Poland also alleged on Tuesday that two Belarusian helicopters entered its airspace. Belarus denies the allegations.

After the alleged incident, Poland expressed “a very firm protest” against Belarus on Wednesday as Warsaw summoned Minsk’s charge d’affaires.

7:10 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Russian media says operations normal at port after drone attack

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Victoria Butenko

The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti says that the port of Novorossiysk "is working in normal mode after the night UAVs attack," citing the Russian Seafarers Union.

"Cargo operations are going on as planned," RIA Novosti reported.

Despite video evidence to the contrary, it added that "the Russian military had repelled an attack by two surface drones in Novorossiysk, with no casualties or damage," quoting regional governor Veniamin Kondratiev.

"Regarding civilian vessels and in the port, everything is calm," the Seafarers Union was quoted as saying.

Some context: The attack on Russian naval vessels in the port of Novorossiysk Friday was carried out in a joint operation of the Security Service of Ukraine with the Ukrainian Navy, a Ukrainian source told CNN.

A sea drone loaded with 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of the explosive TNT attacked the ship, which had about 100 Russian servicemen aboard, the source claimed.

Social media videos show a Russian warship listing heavily and being towed after Moscow claimed it had foiled a Ukrainian sea drone attack on the Black Sea base.

Social media videos and several Russian blogger accounts appear to identify the vessel being towed as the warship Olenegorsky Gornyak.

5:19 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Heavy losses inflicted on Russians in east, Ukraine says, plus difficult battles around Bakhmut

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych and Julia Kesaieva

Ukrainian soldiers firing artillery in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on August 1.
Ukrainian soldiers firing artillery in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on August 1. Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Ukrainian military says it has inflicted "significant losses" on Russian forces along the eastern front, preventing any advances.

Pavlo Kovalchuk, spokesman for the General Staff, said Ukrainian units "continue to hold back the Russian offensive at the Kupyansk and Lyman directions."

"In the Bakhmut direction, the Defense Forces are consolidating their positions. Heavy fighting continues," he added. 

Maksym Zhorin, the acting commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade which has been heavily involved in the fighting around Bakhmut, said Wednesday that "extremely difficult daily battles are taking place" near the city.

The Ukrainians have been trying to take high ground south of the city.

"This area is still extremely important and promising for the enemy. The enemy still sees Bakhmut as an important point from which to continue its offensive," Zhorin said.
"The most combat-ready Russian units are being redeployed here to first stop our advance, deter it, and then even launch their offensive. But these are just dreams - they are not succeeding in the first stages at the moment," he added.

The commander of Ukrainian land forces, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Thursday that "as the enemy continues active offensives in the Kupyansk and Lyman sectors, our troops are daily disrupting their plans to break through our defense, inflicting significant losses in personnel and equipment."

The General Staff said that Russian efforts to conduct offensives in the Donetsk region -- specifically around Avdiivka and Mariinka -- had been repelled.

Kovalchuk said that in the south the offensive in the directions of Berdiansk and Melitopol continues, with Ukrainian units "consolidating their positions."

Meanwhile, it also alleged that in the occupied city of Enerhodar, the Russians are forcing workers at the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to apply for Russian passports "or face threats of reprisals."

4:45 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Ukrainian city of Berdiansk rocked by explosions

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

The Ukrainian city of Berdiansk, which is occupied by Russia, was rocked by a series of explosions on Thursday night.

Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of nearby Melitopol, told Ukrainian television: "Last night, the entire temporarily occupied city of Berdiansk woke up due to explosions."

"I think we will know the results of the liquidation of the occupiers during the day. It is interesting that yesterday between Berdiansk and Prymorsk there was also the liquidation of an ammunition depot that had been detonating for at least several hours. It was also noisy in Prymorsk yesterday," Fedorov added.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed Zaporizhzhia military-civilian administration, said the attack occurred soon after 1 a.m. local time (6 p.m. ET) and claimed that air defenses had worked, destroying all five attack drones targeting the city.

"All aerial targets were hit, there were no casualties or damage," Rogov claimed on Telegram.

Some context: Berdiansk sits on the Azov Sea and is roughly 45 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Mariupol.

Russian military troops first occupied Berdiansk government buildings on February 27 last year, three days after Russia’s invasion began.

5:27 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Ukrainian source tells CNN a joint operation targeted the Russian warship

From CNN's Victoria Butenko

The aftermath of a sea drone attack in Novorossiysk, Russia, on August 4.
The aftermath of a sea drone attack in Novorossiysk, Russia, on August 4. Telegram

The attack on Russian naval vessels in the port of Novorossiysk Friday was carried out in a joint operation of the Security Service of Ukraine with the Ukrainian Navy, a Ukrainian source told CNN.

 "A big navy ship Olenegorsky Gornyak was hit," the source said.

A sea drone loaded with 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of the explosive TNT attacked the ship, which had about 100 Russian servicemen aboard, the source claimed .

"As the result of the attack the Russian ship has received serious damage and is not able to fulfill its duties," the source said.

Social media videos and several Russian blogger accounts appear to identify the vessel being towed as the warship Olenegorsky Gornyak.

CNN has been provided with video that shows an unmanned sea drone approaching a ship that appears to match the identity of the Russian naval vessel seen listing in the port of Novorossiysk. The 36-second video, shot from the sea drone itself, shows it approaching a ship at night. The video ends just as the drone reaches the ship.

CNN is unable to conclusively verify the ship's identity.

In a statement earlier Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said two uncrewed boats targeted the Novorossiysk naval base in Krasnodar province, but the attack was repelled by Russian ships.

3:58 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Videos show listing Russian Navy ship being towed after Ukrainian sea drone attack

From CNN's Tim Lister

An attack on Russian naval vessels at a Black Sea port on Friday was carried out in by the Security Service of Ukraine with the Ukrainian Navy, a Ukrainian source told CNN. 
An attack on Russian naval vessels at a Black Sea port on Friday was carried out in by the Security Service of Ukraine with the Ukrainian Navy, a Ukrainian source told CNN.  Social Media

A Russian Navy ship is seen listing heavily and being towed near a Black Sea naval base in videos circulating on social media Friday after the Russian Defense Ministry claimed it had foiled a Ukrainian sea drone attack.

The videos appear to identify the vessel being towed as the Russian landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak. Several Russian bloggers also identified the vessel as the Olenegorsky Gornyak.

CNN has been provided with video that shows an unmanned sea drone approaching a ship that appears to match the identity of the Russian naval vessel seen listing in the port of Novorossiysk.

The 36-second video, shot from the sea drone itself, shows it approaching a ship at night. The video ends just as the drone reaches the ship.

CNN is unable to conclusively verify the ship's identity.

What Moscow says: In a statement earlier Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said two uncrewed boats targeted the Novorossiysk naval base in Krasnodar province, but the attack was repelled by Russian ships.

The ministry also said it downed 10 Ukrainian drones over Crimea, the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

This post has been updated with additional information.

3:04 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visits troops in Ukraine

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet in New Delhi, India, on April 28, 2023.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet in New Delhi, India, on April 28, 2023. Adnan Abidi/Reuters/FILE

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has visited frontline troops in Ukraine, Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday.

Shoigu was briefed by commanders of the Centre military group and thanked troops for "conducting successful offensive operations in the Lyman direction," the ministry said.

Shoigu stressed the importance of combat tactics, such as inflicting “pre-emptive fire on the enemy while knocking him out of the held positions," it said.

The defense minister's trip comes days after Russia's top general, Valery Gerasimov, visited troops in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

Shoigu and Gerasimov were previously the targets of attacks by Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, who accused them of incompetence before he launched a short-lived rebellion in June.