July 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Hafsa Khalil, Jack Guy and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:09 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022
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9:21 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Former Russian journalist who held anti-war sign on state TV appears in court over fresh protest

From CNN’s Alex Hardie

Marina Ovsyannikova, who has been accused of "discrediting" the Russian army fighting in Ukraine, appears in court in Moscow on July 28, 2022.
Marina Ovsyannikova, who has been accused of "discrediting" the Russian army fighting in Ukraine, appears in court in Moscow on July 28, 2022. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Russian state TV employee Marina Ovsyannikova will appear at a court hearing in Moscow today over another anti-war protest.

Earlier this month, Ovsyannikova shared content of herself holding a one-woman anti-war protest on an embankment opposite the Kremlin in Moscow.

In the video and photo she shared on her Telegram channel, she was seen holding a poster saying: “Putin is a murderer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children are dead. How many more children need to die before you stop?” 

At her feet were two dolls and a stuffed toy stained with what looks like red paint. 

Ovsyannikova was briefly detained in Moscow on July 17, her lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov told CNN.

According to Zakhvatov, Ovsyannikova was detained by the police for “actions aimed at discrediting the Russian army” for a video statement she recorded. 

Ovsyannikova, a former journalist for Russian state TV “Channel One,” gained international attention in March for holding up a “No War” sign during a live nightly newscast on the channel. 

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour days after her protest, she said that it was “impossible to stay silent” and that she wanted the world to know that many Russians are against the invasion.

Following her protest on Russian state TV, Ovsyannikova was arrested, interrogated for more than 14 hours, released and fined 30,000 rubles (approximately $526).

A Moscow court found her guilty of organizing an “unauthorized public event.” She fled Russia in March but returned in July, according to her official Facebook page.

In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the "arbitrary arrest of a large number of anti-war protesters" in Russia was "worrying."

6:51 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Kremlin says "no agreement" has been reached on possible prisoner release

From CNN's Darya Tarasova

Following reports of a prisoner exchange offer by the US to release convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for US citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the Kremlin has responded, “so far, there is no agreement on this issue,” according to a spokesman.

When asked by journalists during his daily conference call on Thursday, Dmitry Peskov said: "Well, look, since there are no agreements now that would be finalized, then, accordingly, I have nothing more to add to what has been said.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that he expected a call with his Russian counterpart this week to discuss a "substantial proposal" presented to Moscow "weeks ago" to try to secure the release of the two Americans, whom the US say are wrongfully detained.

8:16 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Analysis: Biden faces a dilemma with the stunning prisoner swap offer to Russia

Analysis by CNN's Stephen Collinson

In this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, former Soviet military officer and arms trafficking suspect Viktor Bout, center, deplanes after arriving at Westchester County Airport November 16, 2010 in White Plains, New York.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, former Soviet military officer and arms trafficking suspect Viktor Bout, center, deplanes after arriving at Westchester County Airport November 16, 2010 in White Plains, New York. (U.S. Department of Justice/Getty Images)

Is the United States really ready to let the "Merchant of Death" out of prison?

Viktor Bout, one of the world's most notorious arms dealers, could be the key to a possible deal with Moscow to win the freedom of basketball star Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, according to an exclusive CNN report.

A "substantial offer" was made to Moscow in June, according to three sources, and President Joe Biden personally signed off on it.

To put it mildly, this is a stunning development. The Kremlin has yet to respond. But if the swap goes ahead, it could transform perceptions of how the US deals with governments who detain its citizens overseas, making American travelers more tempting targets. It would also be an act of great humanity by Biden to bring Americans home from hellish Russian prisons.

This is one of those problems with no right answer that leaders face. Freeing a prisoner like Bout is a risk. He is not only close to Russian intelligence, but could pose a future threat -- he was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill Americans, among other charges. A high-profile swap like this might also send a message to hostile governments and bandits around the world that the US will cut deals to get people home.

Read the full analysis here.

7:43 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

More than 75,000 Russians have been killed or wounded, US lawmakers told

From CNN's Melanie Zanona, Natasha Bertrand and Darya Tarasova

Ukrainian forensics experts examine the body of a Russian soldier exhumed in the village of Zavalivka, west of Kyiv, in a refrigerated rail car stacked with the bodies of deceased Russian soldiers on May 11.
Ukrainian forensics experts examine the body of a Russian soldier exhumed in the village of Zavalivka, west of Kyiv, in a refrigerated rail car stacked with the bodies of deceased Russian soldiers on May 11. (Sergei Supinksky/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Biden administration officials told US lawmakers during a classified briefing on Wednesday.

“We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge, you've got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they're tired,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and recently visited Ukraine, told CNN. “But they’re still the Russian military.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov disputed the figure in regard to a New York Times report.

“This is not a statement from the American administration," Peskov said during a call with journalists on Thursday. "This is a newspaper article. Nowadays, even the most reputable newspapers do not shy away from spreading all sorts of fakes. This, unfortunately, is a practice that is becoming more and more common. This is how it should be treated.”

It's difficult to independently gauge casualty figures in the war. Both Russian and Ukrainian officials, seeking to gain the upper hand in propaganda efforts, have at times exaggerated military advancements and downplayed setbacks. The Kremlin does not regularly provide updates on casualties; on March 25, Russia's Ministry of Defense said 1,351 of its soldiers had died in the first month of the invasion, but it has not shared any updates since.

Last week, Richard Moore, the head of MI6, said at the Aspen Security Forum that he believes the Russians will begin to lose steam in the coming weeks because they are running out of manpower. 

And the next few weeks of the war will be crucial, US and Western officials have said, because the Ukrainians are going to try to mount a major counteroffensive in the south before the winter. Ukraine is looking for additional reinforcements, lawmakers were told in Wednesday's briefing.

Ukraine will aim to take back the southern city of Kherson, which has been occupied by Russia since March, US and western officials believe.

“The sort of main conversation in the briefing was, you know, what more we can and should be doing for the Ukrainians, literally in the next three to six weeks, very urgently. Ukrainians want to go to the south and do operations in the south. And we want them to be as successful as possible,” Slotkin said.  

“I think that what we heard very firmly from President Zelensky and reinforced today is that the Ukrainians really want to hit Russia in the teeth a few times before the winter comes, put them in the best position possible, particularly hitting them down south.”

During the briefing, Slotkin said there was bipartisan support for sending Ukraine long-range missiles, known as ATACMS, that can strike as far as 180 miles away.

The Ukrainians have been urging the US to provide these systems for months, because the HIMARS they possess can only strike distances of around 49 miles. 

But national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week at the Aspen Security Forum that the US would not be providing the ATACMS, because they could be used to strike into Russian territory, which would escalate the war even further. 

3:57 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

"Partial success" for Russian forces in Donetsk, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Tim Lister

Firefighters tackle a blaze after the Russian shelling of a house in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on 27 July.
Firefighters tackle a blaze after the Russian shelling of a house in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on 27 July. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russian forces have made further incremental progress in the eastern Donetsk region, where they have been bombarding areas south of the town of Bakhmut for several weeks, according to the Ukrainian military.

In an operational update Thursday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said Russian forces were trying to advance toward Bakhmut from the south and east.

Russian forces had "partial success" in the direction of Vidrodzhennia-Vershyna and were entrenched southeast of the settlement of Vershyna, the update said.

Vershyna is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of Bakhmut. Earlier this week, the Russians took the nearby village of Novoluhankse and an adjacent power plant.

Russian advances blocked: However, the General Staff said attacks from four different directions toward Bakhmut were repelled.

It said that the Russians continue to use a wide variety of weapons, including tank fire, airstrikes and artillery, across the front lines in Donetsk.

The Russians hit several settlements north of Sloviansk in order to break down Ukrainian defenses and advance, although two such advances attempted Wednesday had been repelled, the General Staff said.

The General Staff also said it is using drones to establish the positions of Ukrainian troops as Russian artillery continues to fire on settlements around the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Battlefield overview: The General Staff assessed that Russia was focusing its main efforts on "establishing full control over the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk," and maintaining the captured southern Kherson region and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolayiv.

Russia was blocking Ukraine's maritime communications in the Black Sea, it added.

3:15 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Ukraine sets its sights on regaining southern cities and towns lost to Russian troops

From CNN's Angus Watson, Ivan Watson, Olha Konovalova, Dan Hodge and Tim Lister

A soldier stands in front of a damaged Ukrainian government administration building following shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on April 8.
A soldier stands in front of a damaged Ukrainian government administration building following shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on April 8. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Ukrainian reconnaissance team squats in a modest home in a village near Mykolaiv. Machine guns and army knapsacks line the walls, sleeping bags lie rolled out on the floor, and a pot of soup warms on the stove.

Outside, the garden shed is stacked with Javelins and other shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons.

The soldiers smoking on the porch hardly notice the boom of incoming artillery shells landing some 10 kilometers away. Today is not their turn to fight on Ukraine's southern front.

The owners of the house, who fled to Poland after the war broke out in late February, are happy in the knowledge that their village is now back in Ukrainian hands.

Senior Lt. Andrii Pidlisnyi was one of the soldiers that drove the Russians out two months ago. "At first, it was a defensive operation to stop them," he says. "After that we found some good places where we can make offensive operations and take back our territories. And now we're doing that."

Pidlisnyi commands a unit of 100 men tasked with identifying Russian positions, often by drone. They then call in the artillery.

On his computer, he shows CNN bodycam videos from his missions earlier in the war. He has had some close calls, but says his morale is high after recent successes. US hardware has helped.

One video shows Pidlisnyi sitting in a trench, using his drone to pinpoint Russian tank positions. "Call in the American gift," he says over the radio.

Russian troops are now on the defensive in this part of the south — unlike in the east, where Ukrainian troops are the ones being forced to cede ground.

Read the full story here.

2:15 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Russia says more than 25,000 evacuated in past day from occupied territories of eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh, Teele Rebane and Josh Pennington

More than 25,000 people, including nearly 4,000 children, have been evacuated to Russia from the Russian-backed separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the past 24 hours, state-run news agency TASS said Thursday, citing Russian authorities.

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia's National Defense Management Center, said about 3,000 vehicles had crossed the border into Russia in the past day, TASS reported.

Mizintsev added nearly 2.9 million people, including about 460,000 children, in total have been evacuated since the start of what he called Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Some context: Bloody battles have raged for months in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces now control the Luhansk region but have so far been unsuccessful in taking all of Donetsk. According to an adviser to Ukraine's president, Russian troops are attempting to consolidate gains in Donetsk rather than taking over the entire region "at this stage."

12:18 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Russian forces shell northeastern cities of Chernihiv and Kharkiv 

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Josh Pennington

Russian shelling was reported early Thursday in the northeastern Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

"After 5 a.m., there was a large-scale rocket attack launched from the territory of Belarus. We have preliminary information that there was a hit near Goncharivskyi. Our air defense is at work. Take care of yourselves!" V​yacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv regional military administration said on Telegram. 

Earlier in the night, officials in Kharkiv said two S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles had hit the region. 

"Kharkiv was shelled twice overnight, both coming immediately after midnight. One hit closer to the center, while the second targeted an adjacent district," Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.��"As a result, two small fires broke out and were extinguished by our rescue team. Currently we have no information about casualties," Terekhov said. 

Southern attacks: Meanwhile, "powerful explosions" were also heard early Thursday in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the city's mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.

2:28 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022

Explosions heard near Ukraine's capital Kyiv

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Josh Pennington  

Smoke rises over the city skyline after Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 28.
Smoke rises over the city skyline after Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 28. (Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters)

Explosions have been reported in the region of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, early on Thursday morning.

"The enemy launched a rocket attack on a community in the Vyshhorod district this morning. An infrastructure target was hit," Oleksiy Kuleba, head of Kyiv's regional state administration said on Telegram.

Emergency services are already on site, Kuleba said, adding that information on victims is not yet known. 

The Kyiv city state administration urged residents to seek shelter as the air raid alarm is still in effect. 

Some context: Russia initially attacked and occupied multiple Kyiv suburbs following the start of its invasion in February, before the Kremlin withdrew its forces in April from around the capital to concentrate on the east of the country. Sporadic Russian attacks against Kyiv have occurred since the withdrawal, including a series of deadly missile strikes last month.