Russian forces have seized a major power plant in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv says
From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq
Russian forces have taken over Ukraine's second-largest power plant, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview posted on YouTube on Wednesday.
"They have achieved a small tactical advantage by taking Vuhlehirsk," adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.
The coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant is in the eastern Donetsk region, close to the border with Russian-controlled Luhansk.
Arestovych added that Russian forces were attempting to consolidate gains in the area. The Russians are now "moving to strategic defense on all conquered fronts," rather than taking over the Donetsk region "at this stage," he said.
He said it is based on an "assumption, which is sufficiently substantiated, that a strategic decision has been made in the Kremlin."
The Ukrainian military said Wednesday is had repelled Russian offensives in the region, which has seen heavy fighting for the past several months.
12:16 a.m. ET, July 28, 2022
CNN Exclusive: Biden administration offers convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner, Whelan
From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez and Jennifer Hansler
After months of internal debate, the Biden administration has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence, as part of a potential deal to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, according to people briefed on the matter.
These sources told CNN that the plan to trade Bout for Whelan and Griner received the backing of President Joe Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year. Biden's support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the US presented a "substantial proposal" to Moscow "weeks ago" for Whelan and Griner, who are classified as wrongfully detained.
Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken said Biden was "directly involved" and signed off on the proposal. Although Blinken did not directly confirm Bout was part of the deal, saying he "can't and won't get into any of the details of what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks now," he said "in terms of the President, of course he was not only directly involved, he signs off on any proposal that we make, and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case."
The top US diplomat said he intended to discuss the matter on an expected call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week — his first conversation with his counterpart since the war in Ukraine began — telling reporters, "my hope would be that in speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I can advance the efforts to bring them home."
"There is in my mind utility in conveying clear, direct messages to the Russians on key priorities for us. And as I mentioned, these include securing the return home of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan," he said.
Ukraine says it has rebuffed Russian offensive toward Donetsk city
From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy
The Ukrainian military said it was able to repel Russian offensives toward the Donetsk city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
In its evening update on Wednesday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said it had inflicted losses on Russian forces looking to advance in that area.
“Ukrainian soldiers successfully repelled enemy assaults in the settlement of Berestove and in the directions of" Volodymyrivka, Soledar, Rota and Semyhiria, the military said. “The enemy withdrew with losses.”
Artillery shelling and airstrikes were reported in most villages and towns around the area, and along most of the front line in the Donetsk region, as Russia “continues its attempts to improve the tactical position in the directions of the cities of Kramatorsk and Bakhmut with assault actions,” the General Staff said.
The Ukrainian military said an assault along the Bilohorivka-Verkhnokamianske axis was also repelled.
Front lines: Ukrainian forces said the Russian military has mostly maintained its defensive positions In the area around the northeastern Kharkiv region, and along the southern flank near Kherson.
11:56 p.m. ET, July 27, 2022
UK sanctions British blogger over videos from Ukraine
From CNN's Joseph Ataman
The UK government has sanctioned a British blogger over content that it says "destabilizes" Ukraine, according to the British Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
Blogger Graham Phillips was added to the UK sanctions list on Monday, according to the Foreign Office. He is the only British national sanctioned in relation to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to public records.
Philips has appealed the decision, describing it as "absolutely absurd, dangerous, ridiculous."
The British Foreign Office says Philips' work constitutes "media content that supports and promotes actions and policies which destabilize Ukraine and undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence of Ukraine."
In a video posted on YouTube on April 19, Phillips questions captured British national Aiden Aslin, who had been fighting with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. On camera, Aslin says he is not speaking under duress but is handcuffed during the video.
YouTube removed the video. At the time of writing, parent company Google had not provided a statement to CNN on the removal of the video.
On April 20, British MP Robert Jenrick, who represents Aslin's constituency in the UK, criticized the video in Parliament as a "flagrant breach of the Geneva conventions."