July 27, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 3:56 a.m. ET, July 28, 2023
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8:33 a.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Africa will become key partner in "new multipolar world," says Putin

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Africa will become one of Russia’s key partners “in a new multipolar world,” during his opening remarks at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg.

The Russian president is hosting 17 African heads of state, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with Russia's withdrawal from a key grain deal likely to be a key part of the agenda.

Such high-level summits are a rarity for Putin, who has been left diplomatically isolated by the Ukraine war. The number of African heads of state attending is less than half the number at a similar summit in 2019.

We will bring you more on this story as it develops.

4:58 a.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Zelensky visits Dnipro after "good results" in counteroffensive

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Oren Lieberman and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting the city of Dnipro amid reports of a large push by Kyiv’s forces less than a hundred miles south, along the Zaporizhzhia frontline.

“We started our working day in Dnipro. Field Staff in the area of responsibility of the Operational and strategic grouping of troops 'Tavria'. Situation at the front, course of offensive and defensive actions,” Zelensky posted on Telegram.

His visit and remarks come as Ukrainian forces continue their "offensive operation on Melitopol and Berdyansk axes, consolidating their positions, and inflict fire damage,” according to the military’s General Staff. 

Kyiv adds combat power: It also follows comments from US officials that Ukraine has committed more forces to its counteroffensive in the southeast after nearly two months of slow progress, according to two US officials —a sign that they may have identified potential weaknesses in Russian defensive lines to exploit.

The newly committed units had been held in reserve until now. The military still has additional combat power in reserve, but this is the “main bulk” of the forces committed to the counteroffensive, one of the officials said.

In the southeast, the Ukrainian counteroffensive has broken through some elements of Russian defensive lines, the official said, and the reserve units have come in to capitalize on the opportunity. 

Major push forward: On Wednesday, Ukraine appeared to have launched a major push south of Orikhiv, along the Melitopol axis, with Russian officials and bloggers saying Kyiv had committed up to 100 armoured vehicles to the offensive.

A member of the Russian-installed Zaporizhzhia military-civilian administration, Vladimir Rogov, wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces, backed by armored vehicles and tanks, had managed to “wedge in three sections of our first line of defense” near Robotyne. 

Ukraine has yet to comment on the specifics of the push. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, said only that offensive operations along the southern front were “gradually advancing,” with similar, gradual progress also taking place further east in the area of Staromaiorsk.

Zelensky concluded his nightly address on Wednesday with a cryptic message that Ukrainian forces were seeing success at the front line.

By the way, today our guys at the front had very good results. Well done,” he said. “More details later.”
12:30 a.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Ukraine has “options available” as Kyiv commits more forces to counteroffensive, US defense secretary says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, on July 18.
Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, on July 18. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukraine has “a number of options available” as Kyiv commits more forces to its ongoing counteroffensive against Russia. 

Austin didn’t comment on the status of the counteroffensive or specific battlefield details, but he said that Ukraine has been “preserving manpower and equipment,” even as their forces deliberately work their way through minefields and other obstacles.

��They still have a number of options available to them, and we can expect that they’ll continue to press,” Austin said at a press conference in Papua New Guinea alongside the country’s Prime Minister.

CNN reported earlier that Ukraine has committed more forces to its counteroffensive in the southeast after nearly two months of slow progress, according to two US officials, a sign that they have identified potential weaknesses in Russian defensive lines to exploit.

“Ukraine is well prepared and well trained to be successful, and as you heard me say last week, they fought hard, they’ve been working their way to get through the minefields and other obstacles, but they still have a lot of combat power,” Austin said.

The Ukrainian military still has additional combat power in reserve, but this is the “main bulk” of the forces committed to the counteroffensive, one of the officials said.

11:16 p.m. ET, July 26, 2023

Counteroffensive developments, grain deal discussions and other headlines you should know

From CNN staff

Heavy fighting continues in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, especially around the village of Robotyne, where Ukrainian forces have been trying to break through heavily mined Russian defensive lines, according to Ukrainian and Russian accounts.

Ukrainian forces are also "gradually advancing" in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Farther east, Ukraine is "making progress" and consolidating its positions in the area of Staromaiorske, she added.

Ukrainian forces have made only modest territorial advances in the south since the counteroffensive began at the end of May, committing more forces in the southeast after nearly two months of slow progress, according to two US officials — a sign that they have identified potential weaknesses in Russian defensive lines to exploit. Additionally, the Ukrainian Air Force says it intercepted 40 Russian missiles Wednesday.

If you're just now catching up, here's what else you should know:

  • Military weapons and technology: More than 40 Ukrainian companies have contracts to develop drones for use in the war against Russia, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
  • Grain deal developments: The US and its allies are working with Kyiv on alternative land routes to deliver critical grain to the world after Russia pulled out of the grain deal that had permitted Ukrainian grain to travel through the Black Sea, the White House said Wednesday. Meanwhile, the NATO-Ukraine Council discussed what it called a "serious security situation" in the Black Sea at a meeting on Wednesday, according to the NATO website
  • Wagner and Belarus: Belarus’ Deputy Interior Minister Nikolay Karpenkov said the newly arrived Wagner fighters provide Belarus’ armed forces with a “unique opportunity” to become battle-ready.
  • ICC updates: US President Joe Biden has decided to allow the US to cooperate with the International Criminal Court's investigation of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, two US officials and a source familiar with the matter tell CNN. The decision comes after months of internal debate and marks a historic shift, as it would be the first time the US has agreed to share evidence with the court. The US is not a party to the ICC. 
11:17 p.m. ET, July 26, 2023

Ukraine investing heavily in drone technology for war, prime minister says

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen prepare for a flight of a Leleka reconnaissance UAV in Ukraine's Donetsk region on June 27.
Ukrainian servicemen prepare for a flight of a Leleka reconnaissance UAV in Ukraine's Donetsk region on June 27. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

More than 40 Ukrainian companies have contracts to develop drones for use in the war against Russia, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Shmyhal appeared at a forum marking the first anniversary of the "Army of Drones" project that brought together Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturers. The prime minister said the production of UAVs has since increased tenfold.

Both surveillance and attack drones have played a critical role for both sides in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, assisting with targeting enemy weapons, tracking the movement of units and taking out armor.

Shmyhal said the Ukrainian government has allocated about $1 billion this year for investing in Ukrainian UAV manufacturers.

“We have eliminated customs barriers for importing spare parts and complete sets. The profit share of UAV manufacturers has been raised to 25%, and a decision has been made that will facilitate the mass production of ammunition for drones," he said.

Mykhailo Fedorov, the Ukrainian minister of digital transformation, displayed some 1,700 UAVs at the forum that are being sent to the front lines.

The program has so far trained 10,000 operators at 26 training centers, and another 10,000 are slated to be trained in the future.

However, some Ukrainian military officials have recently noted that Russia’s advantage in electronic warfare has blunted the effectiveness of drone operations, as Moscow is able to jam the UAVs.

11:19 p.m. ET, July 26, 2023

Ukrainians claim gradual progress in south amid fierce fighting

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Daria Tarasova 

Heavy fighting continues in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, especially around the village of Robotyne, where Ukrainian forces have been trying to break through heavily mined Russian defensive lines, according to Ukrainian and Russian accounts.

“We came close to Robotyne. Have not yet entered the settlement itself. Fighting continues in trench positions in front of Robotyne,” Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which is involved in the offensive, told CNN.

Ukrainian forces are also "gradually advancing" in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Farther east, Ukraine is "making progress" and consolidating its positions in the area of Staromaiorske, she added.

Ukrainian forces have made only modest territorial advances in the south since the counteroffensive began at the end of May.

Russia attempted to attack Ukrainian forces in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, but Ukraine has "stabilized the situation," Maliar added, saying it was Russia's attempt to divert Kyiv's troops from the Bakhmut area. The Ukrainian military’s General Staff also said Wednesday that Russia attempted an assault in the Lyman direction, but it was foiled.

In the eastern Donetsk region, Maliar said Russians suffered "huge losses in equipment and personnel" in an attempt to go around the town of Avdiivka.

"They want to surround the city, but they are afraid to enter it, because they will get bogged down in urban battles with our defenders, so they have been trying to bypass Avdiivka for several months now. This morning they tried to bypass Avdiivka again, but suffered huge losses in equipment and personnel," she said.

11:20 p.m. ET, July 26, 2023

US and allies working with Ukraine on alternative routes to deliver grain, according to White House

From CNN's Sam Fossum

A container filled with wheat is seen aboard a cargo ship in a sea port in Ukraine's Odesa region on March 24.
A container filled with wheat is seen aboard a cargo ship in a sea port in Ukraine's Odesa region on March 24. Reuters

The United States and its allies are working with Kyiv on alternative land routes to deliver critical grain to the world after Russia pulled out of the grain deal that had permitted Ukrainian grain to travel through the Black Sea, the White House said Wednesday. 

“We are working with our EU partners, we’re working with Ukraine and other European partners to see if there’s other ways to get grain to market over land. But that’s not as efficient,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told reporters at the White House Wednesday. 

“The best way for this grain to get to market is through maritime lanes,” he said. “But we’re working to see what we can do.”

Some background: The US has previously warned that Russia could target civilian ships in the Black Sea and blame Ukraine after the Kremlin withdrew participation from the Black Sea grain deal earlier this month. The deal was originally brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last year to ensure the safe passage of grain from Ukrainian ports. 

Ukrainian grain is critical to global food supplies, especially for developing countries. Grain prices have risen sharply since the deal collapsed and as Moscow targets Ukrainian port infrastructure.