August 5, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Tori B. Powell and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 2159 GMT (0559 HKT) August 5, 2023
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8:35 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Ukraine issues warning to ships using Russian Black Sea ports

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Tim Lister

In the wake of attacks by Ukrainian sea drones on two Russian ships in the Black Sea within 24 hours, the Ukrainian State Hydrological Service has issued a coastal warning to shipping services using several Russian ports.

It issued a coastal warning naming the ports of Anapa, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhyk, Tuapse, Sochi and Taman as within a "War risk area."

A Russian naval ship sitting off Novorossiysk was struck by a sea drone early Friday, and then one of the country's biggest oil tankers was attacked by another of the unpiloted watercraft just before midnight, according to a Ukraine Security Service source.

A Ukrainian advantage: Kyiv's maritime drones are proving very difficult to defend against and can travel hundreds of miles to their target. In using them, Ukraine is opening up a new front — and may be trying to boost morale amid slow progress in its counteroffensive.

"With each new combat mission, Ukrainian combat UAVs and maritime drones become more accurate, operators more experienced, combat coordination more effective, and manufacturers get the opportunity to improve tactical and technical characteristics," Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter Saturday morning.

Danilov said August was particularly successful for Ukrainian "hunters."

"The next step is to expand the scale, range of combat operations, and the level and severity of Russian losses," he added.

The potential disruption to Russian shipping from sea drones was further demonstrated Saturday when the appointed governor of Russian-occupied Sevastopol issued a warning to maritime traffic that one had been spotted by the Russian navy.

"The Navy has detected a surface drone, which is currently continuing its movement. All necessary measures are being taken to destroy it," Mikhail Razvozhaev announced. Russia-backed officials limited maritime travel in some areas as a result.

More background: The Ukrainian maritime drone operations appear to have escalated since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain initiative last month.

On July 20, the Ukrainian defense ministry responded to Russia's move by saying "the Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone, primarily for Russian ships and ships sailing in the Black Sea towards Russian seaports and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia. Responsibility for all risks lies entirely with the Russian leadership."

Russia, meanwhile, has stepped up its air assault on Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure, particularly in the city of Odesa.

9:14 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Analysis: Ukraine opens up new frontier by unleashing powerful maritime drones

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukraine seems intent on using a new generation of powerful maritime drones against Russian ships — both merchant and naval — in the Black Sea, opening up a new front in the 18-month war.

In the space of 24 hours, two Russian vessels — a naval landing ship and a fuel tanker — were hit in the eastern Black Sea by maritime drones. Both sustained extensive damage but remained afloat.

The fast, semi-submersible drones are proving very difficult to defend against. They are easily launched at sea and at least some variants are capable of traveling several hundred miles to their targets. If well-targeted, the 450-kilogram explosive payload is capable of crippling large vessels.

Ukrainian agencies, especially the Security Service (SBU), have been notably vocal about the use of these drones, warning that Russian infrastructure and shipping in the Black Sea is at risk. Previously, Ukrainian security forces have been reticent to speak much about such weapons.

Why now? Their use serves multiple purposes.

It represents the exploitation of new technology, much of it engineered in Ukraine, and one where the explosive charge is greater than in previous models.

At a time when Ukrainian forces are struggling to take ground, the attacks in the Black Sea are a boost to morale and a way to divide the attention of the Russian Black Sea fleet.

It may also be that Russia's refusal to renew the Black Sea grain initiative is a factor.

When Russia quit the deal last month, they warned that ships heading to Ukrainian ports would be considered military targets. The Ukrainian defense ministry responded by saying that all shipping using Russian-held ports may be considered the same.

“Ukrainian-made maritime drones are capable of destroying stationary and moving targets anywhere in the Black Sea,” warned a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser, Anton Gerashchenko.

Two weeks later, that capability is on display.

9:39 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Ukraine is training more engineering units to deal with dense Russian minefields

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

The Ukrainian military says it is stepping up the training and deployment of engineering battalions capable of dealing with the density of Russian minefields and other defensive fortifications.

The commander of the military's Support Forces, Brig. Gen. Dmytro Hereha, said in a briefing Saturday that "the enemy has set up a multi-echelon system of engineering barriers in the occupied territories, consisting of several strips of 10 to 40 km each, and their density is quite high."

Anti-tank minefields, anti-tank ditches, concrete pyramids (the so-called "dragon's teeth") and wire obstacles were among the impediments, he said, and "the enemy insidiously uses mines, including in such a way that they cannot be removed."

"To overcome such obstacles, a significant number of engineering and sapper units are needed," Hereha said, but the quantity of special engineering equipment "is not enough (now) for such a number of obstacles."

He said five engineer battalions have been formed and about 200 personnel had been trained abroad. A further 150 were receiving training outside Ukraine.

"The engineering units received up to 100 units of special equipment from partner countries as material and technical assistance to make passages in explosive and non-explosive barriers," Hereha said.

The density of minefields along the front lines in the south has been a significant impediment for Ukrainian fighters over the past two months. A senior Ukrainian official said last week that in some areas, there are as many as three mines per square meter.

7:34 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Ukraine hits one of Russia's biggest oil tankers with sea drone after attack on naval base

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Josh Pennington

A still from file footage of Russia's U.S.-sanctioned SIG tanker hit in drone attack near Crimea Bridge.
A still from file footage of Russia's U.S.-sanctioned SIG tanker hit in drone attack near Crimea Bridge. Yoruk Isik/Reuters

One of Russia’s biggest oil tankers was struck by a maritime drone, the latest salvo in a Ukrainian military campaign employing unmanned vehicles to attack far-away Russian targets by air and by sea.

The Russian-flagged ship, the Sig, was hit by a drone carrying 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of TNT shortly before midnight, according to a Ukraine Security Service source. The strike created a hole in the vessel’s engine room at the waterline on the starboard side, forcing the 11-strong crew to fight the water intake, Russian authorities said. The flooding eventually stopped.

Russia’s Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport said no casualties were reported and that the Sig was not carrying oil when the drone crashed into ship. Ukrainian officials, however, said some crew were injured and that the tanker was carrying fuel for the Russian military.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the claims.

The strike on the Sig came just hours after Ukrainian sea drones targeted a major naval base in Novorossiysk, a coastal city on the Black Sea that is home to Russia’s largest port by volume of cargo handled. An amphibious Russian landing ship was hit, leaving it tilting badly and sitting very low in the water.

Ukrainian has also stepped up its attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles in recent weeks, hitting targets well within Russian territory, including in Moscow.

Read the full story here.

9:46 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Russia releases video of defense minister visiting troops inside Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Uliana Pavlova

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

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Russian rear positions inside Ukraine, according to a statement and video released by his ministry Saturday.

In a video distributed by the Russian government, Shoigu is seen traveling by helicopter to a base near the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

Shoigu met with commanders and gave out bravery medals to servicemen.

According to the Telegram channel of the ministry, Shoigu asked if German-made Leopard tanks had appeared in the group's area of responsibility, to which the group commander, Andrei Mordichev, replied jokingly: "No, not yet; we are not lucky (with that)."

"Our guys are beating them hard over there, so maybe they won't get to you yet," Shoigu responded. 

Shoigu has been frequently criticized by the boss of the Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, for his perceived lack of support for frontline troops.

5:54 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

Analysis: Summit in Saudi Arabia is a chance for Ukraine to win friends

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

The proposed Saudi Arabia peace talks are less of a peace summit and more of a summit about peace. This isn’t Russia and Ukraine sitting down to hammer out the enduring terms of a settlement. It is, instead, Ukraine circling the wagons around its allies and trying to drag additional developing countries to its corner.

Ukraine is banking on a significant change on the front lines – progress in its counteroffensive — before entertaining the idea of diplomacy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky maintains he wants all of Ukraine restored to its 2013 borders — before Russia began its occupation by annexing Crimea. It’s unlikely he’ll achieve that militarily this year, or next. But he can seek to frame Russia’s invasion as a strategic defeat by breaking the land corridor along the Azov Sea, between Crimea and Russia’s mainland. 

The "Global South" — broadly used to describe developing countries in parts of Africa, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere in the world — will get to hear of Russia’s atrocities firsthand. Some of the countries have been close to the Kremlin. Kyiv and its allies will want to erode any sense of Moscow remaining a power in a multipolar world. India’s attendance is key in amplifying their opposition. 

The Saudi hosts will also be messaging tacitly toward one of their allies: China. While Beijing has limited its support of Russia, it also won’t want to back a loser.

The summit will aim to solidify what sort of peace Ukraine can live with. It’s no easy task. But make no mistake: With winter drawing near, US elections looming and NATO’s military support getting expended on the battlefield, word of peace talks will grow. 

This is a bid to shape those before they even become a realistic possibility.

5:51 a.m. ET, August 5, 2023

What to know about the peace summit in Saudi Arabia on Saturday

From CNN's Sophie Tanno

Saudi Arabia hosts talks on the war in Ukraine today, with Kyiv hoping to garner support from beyond its core Western backers for its peace proposals.

Here’s a brief guide to the summit in Jeddah:

What’s up for discussion? Ukraine has a 10-point peace plan, which includes items on nuclear safety, food security and the restoration of Ukrainian territory. Andriy Yermak, the top official in the Ukrainian president's office, said the goal in Jeddah was to “unite the world around Ukraine.”

Who will be attending? The talks will involve Ukraine, Western nations and representatives from developing countries, some of whom have refused to take sides in the conflict. The US will be represented, and significantly, so will be China, which still has close economic ties with Russia. 

Who is not? Russia: The country was not invited to attend the talks. The Kremlin said it would “follow the meeting.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there can be no prospect of direct peace talks with Ukraine while its counteroffensive remains ongoing. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, says direct negotiations cannot take place until Moscow removes its troops from his country's territory.

Can it achieve peace? The meetings are likely to center more around the talking stages rather than concrete steps towards peace, as Ukraine and Russia continue to express conditions that are unacceptable to the other. Despite all this, the conference will be closely watched. We will bring you the latest events as they happen.