July 6, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

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10:59 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Zelensky says 200,000 Ukrainian children are missing since Russia's invasion

From Vasco Cotovio and Svitlana Vlasova

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the Bulgarian government building in Sofia, Bulgaria, on July 6.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the Bulgarian government building in Sofia, Bulgaria, on July 6. Spasiyana Sergieva/Reuters

About 200,000 Ukrainian children are missing due to Russia's full-scale invasion, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Just imagine, we don't know where 200,000 children are now,” Zelensky said during a press conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday.

“Some of them are deported, some are in the occupied territories, and we don't know who is alive,” he continued.

Some context: Moscow has been accused of forcibly and unlawfully transferring Ukrainian children from occupied territories to Russia. In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova Belova for their responsibility in the alleged forced deportations. 

The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.

Some of the children have ended up thousands of miles and several time zones away from Ukraine. According to Lvova-Belova’s office, Ukrainian kids have been sent to live in institutions and with foster families in 19 different Russian regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.

Lvova-Belova dismissed the ICC’s arrest warrant against her, saying it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

10:11 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Ukraine's Zelensky will meet Turkey's Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday

From CNN’s Hande Atay Alam

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday, Turkish state-run media Anadolu said. 

The two leaders are expected to "discuss relations between the two countries, as well as regional and international issues, including the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine war, the Black Sea grain deal which is set to expire on July 17, and ensuring peace and stability in the Black Sea region," it said.

10:21 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Analysis: Neither Lukashenko nor Putin seem too keen on being Prigozhin’s best friend now

From CNN's Mick Krever and Matthew Chance

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during his meeting with foreign correspondents in Minsk, Belarus, on July 6.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during his meeting with foreign correspondents in Minsk, Belarus, on July 6. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

If we learned one thing from Thursday’s press conference by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, it’s that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has not been seen in public since June 24, appears to be in a decidedly perilous limbo.

Lukashenko put a gulf of distance between himself and Prigozhin the Wagner boss when he said that neither Prigozhin nor his mercenaries were in Belarus, and it was unclear if they would ever move here.

“He is in St. Petersburg. Or maybe this morning he would travel to Moscow or elsewhere,” Lukashenko said in response to a question from CNN. “But he is not on the territory of Belarus now.”

When Lukashenko was said to have brokered a deal to end Prigozhin’s would-be insurrection in Russia last month, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the agreement came about because Prigozhin and Lukashenko had known each other “personally for a long time, for about 20 years.”

But on Thursday, Lukashenko said that it was Putin who was Prigozhin’s longtime friend, who knew him “much better than I do and knows him longer than I do, about 30 years.”

Neither leader seems too keen on being Prigozhin’s best friend now.

Lukashenko, whose fealty to Russian President Vladimir Putin has led many to characterize his as nothing more than a vassal state, doubled down on his friendship with Putin.

Even if there are at times tensions, he said, “we have channels of communication and in just minutes have a conversation and in hours meet face to face. We are in the same boat. If we pick a fight and make a hole in this boat, we will both drown.”

Indeed, he said, when it comes to the Russian nuclear weapons that are newly stationed in Belarus, the two countries are joined at the hip.

“It is intended solely for defensive purposes,” he said. Were Russia to use nuclear weapons, “I am sure that it would consult with its closest ally.”

10:00 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Russia starts trials for Tu-160M bomber designed to strike remote areas with nuclear and conventional weapons

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Russia’s first experimental modernized strategic bomber Tu-160M started joint trials, state media TASS reported.

The Tu-160M is designated to strike enemy targets in remote areas with nuclear and conventional weapons, according to TASS.

The trials were conducted by crews of the Russian Defense Ministry and the design firm on Thursday, the press service of Russian state technology company Rostec told TASS. 

"The first upgraded prototype of the Tu-160M strategic missile-carrying bomber developed by the Tupolev PJSC (part of the United Aircraft Corporation within Rostec) has entered the program of state joint trials," Rostec said in a statement.

More context: Tu-160M is an upgraded version of Russia’s Tu-160, which TASS claimed is "the world’s largest and most powerful supersonic military aircraft with a variable-sweep wing to date."

Russia launched the program of restarting the production of upgraded Tu-160 strategic bombers following a decision by President Vladimir Putin.

9:53 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Ukrainian military says forces continue to advance on southeastern front

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Lauren Kent

A Ukrainian serviceman fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions at the front line, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 5.
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions at the front line, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on July 5. Libkos/AP

Ukrainian forces on the southeastern front continue to advance and take back territory, according to Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the Tavria Joint Forces Operation.

"We are moving forward, knocking out the enemy, returning our land," he said in a Thursday update, adding that Ukrainian forces have destroyed 47 units of Russian military equipment within the last day.

A spokesperson of the Tavria forces said in a Thursday briefing that despite heavy mining in the south of the Zaporizhzhia region, "we have thorough plans to continue our offensive, and our strike units continue to entrench themselves on the achieved frontiers."

"We have effective aerial reconnaissance of the area. We inflict artillery fire on the identified enemy targets. We are carrying out counter-battery measures," said spokesperson Valerii Shershen. 

"The Tavria defense forces are conducting offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions and defensive actions in the Avdiivka direction," Shershen said. "The trend is that we are creating systemic pressure through our offensive actions. There is significant progress in these two vectors."

Shershen also said the Russian military occasionally redeploys its units to reinforce different areas because it "does not know and does not guess where a major breakthrough in our offensive actions may take place."

"In this way, it tries to calculate our actions, and this creates a certain chaos, which we take advantage of," Shershen added.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a statement on Telegram that the armed forces have destroyed six ammunition depots in the Tavria sector. 

"This is our response to the enemy's frontal assaults. We are launching effective, painful surgical strikes, exhausting the occupiers, for whom the lack of ammunition and fuel will sooner or later become fatal," Maliar said. "In modern warfare, logistical targets are key."

Regarding strikes on the Makiivka district of Russian-occupied Donetsk region earlier this week, Maliar added, "This is a vivid example of the effective work of Ukrainian artillery, which delivered the fire damage, and aerial reconnaissance, which corrected the strike."

She said a large warehouse that stored artillery shells and missiles for BM-21 Grad MLRS was destroyed.

9:33 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Former CIA director calls on US to increase pressure on Russia's economy

From CNN’s Matt Egan

General David Petraeus attends the Cliveden Literary Festival 2021 at Cliveden House on October 24, 2021 in Windsor, England.
General David Petraeus attends the Cliveden Literary Festival 2021 at Cliveden House on October 24, 2021 in Windsor, England. David Levenson/Getty Images

Washington should crank up the pressure on Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin is confronted by a powerful one-two punch of military and economic failures, former CIA director David Petraeus tells CNN.

“Putin is in a very, very difficult situation,” Petraeus said in a phone interview. “We need to continue to tighten the screws.”

The perception of Putin’s ironclad grip on power was shattered by last month’s Wagner rebellion, a short-lived uprising that nonetheless amounted to the greatest challenge to the Russian leader’s authority since he rose to power in the 1990s.

Petraeus, currently serving as vice chairman of the KKR Global Institute, said Putin faces “bleeding on the battlefield” as well as “in the economy, the home front.”

“It has not been as bad as a lot of us hoped it would be. Still, they are in trouble on the home front,” he said of Russia’s economic situation.

The retired four-star general cited a range of developments that illustrate severe pain in the Russian economy, including Moscow’s mounting budget deficits, the exodus of more than 1,000 major Western companies, the withdrawal of major oil producers and their superior technology, and the severing of much trade with Europe.

The Russian government’s revenues from oil and gas fell by 47% to 3.38 trillion roubles ($37.4 billion) in the first half of the year from the same period in 2022, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing finance ministry data. Tax returns fell because of lower prices and sales volumes.

Petraeus, the former head of US Central Command, said Russia also faces a brain drain caused by the sheer number of talented citizens who left the country since the war began in February 2022.

“They’ve lost hundreds of thousands of their best and brightest — who no longer wanted to live in a country that is a global pariah,” he said.

Western sanctions have not delivered a deathblow to the Russian economy. Some, including economist Larry Summers, argue that economic penalties on Russia haven’t bitten as hard as anticipated because not enough countries have imposed sanctions.

Others, like Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, say sanctions are “working tremendously” well against Russia.

“Russia is no longer an economic superpower. This is an economy that is hemorrhaging,” Sonnenfeld told CNN.

Read more here.

9:21 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

Ukraine and Russia exchange prisoners of war

From Svetlana Vlasova, Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio

Ukraine and Russia have carried out another prisoner of war swap, both sides reported on Thursday.

“We managed to bring home 45 soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the National Guard, the State Border Guard Service and two civilians,” the head of the office of the Ukrainian President said on Telegram on Thursday. “Among them are two officers, 41 privates and sergeants, a civilian employee of Azovstal and a self defense unit member from Kherson.”

“We are bringing back the defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal. There are wounded servicemen. There are also military men from Donetsk, including Bakhmut, Zaporizhzhya and Kharkiv directions,” Yermak added. “Each of them is a hero.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense also announced the swap, and said those released have been provided with the necessary medical and psychological assistance.

This is the 47th prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine since the war began, according to Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament commissioner for human rights.

9:10 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Catch up here on the latest headlines

From CNN staff

Questions swirl around the whereabouts of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin after President Alexander Lukashenko said he is not in Belarus as was previously agreed. Here's what you need to know:

Prigozhin is in St. Petersburg, not Belarus as previously agreed: Lukashenko said Prigozhin is currently in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, adding that Wagner forces were at their “regular camps,” implying that they are not in Belarus. Lukashenko had previously said he brokered a deal to end Prigozhin's mutiny last month, convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin not to "destroy" the Wagner group and arranging for Prigozhin to move to Belarus. CNN cannot independently verify Prigozhin's whereabouts.

Lukashenko claims Prigozhin is "free": After announcing that Wagner boss Prigozhin is not in Belarus, President Lukashenko said, “I know for certain that Prigozhin is free. And right now, as well, he is free. We spoke several times on the phone. Yesterday after lunch, we talked with him on the phone and just discussed ... further actions of Wagner [private military company].”

Russian police raided Prigozhin's St. Petersburg residence and office: Russian state media have shown video purported to be of a police raid of the Wagner boss’s office and residence in Saint Petersburg, stepping up an apparent propaganda campaign against the Wagner mercenary boss. The footage shows what is described as a stash of gold, money and wigs, along with weapons and several passports apparently belonging to Prigozhin under different aliases.

Casualties rise after Russian strike in Lviv: Meanwhile in Ukraine, at least five people were killed following a Russian missile strike in the western city of Lviv on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said. The missile directly hit an apartment building, destroying the third and fourth floors and injuring a child among at least 36 people, Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs. Officials said the missile attack also destroyed more than 30 houses, over 250 apartments, 10 dormitories, two university buildings, an orphanage and a school. It also damaged one substation in Lviv. 

8:46 a.m. ET, July 6, 2023

At least 5 dead and more than 30 injured in Lviv attack, officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

The aftermath of a missile attack on July 6, in Lviv, Ukraine.
The aftermath of a missile attack on July 6, in Lviv, Ukraine. Stanislav Ivanov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

The death toll in Thursday's Russian attack on a residential building in Lviv has risen to at least five people, with at least 36 people injured, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. 

The State Emergency Service also said that seven people were rescued without injuries and 64 people were evacuated at the scene. 

Earlier Thursday, the Lviv military administration said the missile attack was "the most devastating attack on civilians in the Lviv region since the beginning of the full-scale war."

Officials said the missile attack destroyed more than 30 houses, over 250 apartments, 10 dormitories, two university buildings, an orphanage and a school. It also damaged one substation in Lviv.