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Ukraine's Counteroffensive in Kherson ‘Gathering Momentum'; UK Advisor Warns of Nuclear Risk

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This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. Click here for the latest updates. 

There is "gathering momentum" in Ukraine's attempts to retake the southern city of Kherson from Russian troops, according to U.K. intelligence.

The city, taken early on in the Russian invasion and the most politically significant area occupied by Moscow, is now "virtually cut off" from the other occupied Russian territories, Britain's Defense Ministry said.

The hacktivist group Anonymous is 'embarrassing and demoralizing' the Kremlin, says cybersecurity specialist

Large data leaks performed in the name of the hacktivist group Anonymous are exposing Russia's cybersecurity defenses to be weaker than previously thought, say cybersecurity specialists.

Though Russia remains strong in its offensive capabilities, data leaks of the Central Bank of Russia, the space agency Roscosmos, several of Russia's largest oil and gas companies and other Russian companies, have "disappointed" the cyber community, said Shmuel Gihon, a security researcher at the threat intelligence company Cyberint.

"We expected to see more strength from the Russian government," said Gihon, "at least when it comes to their strategic assets, such as banks and TV channels, and especially the government entities."

Anonymous has claimed responsibility for hacking more than 2,500 Russian and Belarusian sites, said Jeremiah Fowler, co-founder of the cybersecurity company Security Discovery.  

The data leaked online is so large it will take years to review, he said.

The decentralized collective of hackers has pulled the veil off Russia's cybersecurity practices, said Fowler, which is "both embarrassing and demoralizing for the Kremlin."

— Monica Pitrelli

White House declines to provide update on U.S. proposal to Russia for release of Griner and Whelan

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. 
Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Images
US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. 

The White House declined to give an update on talks with Russia on a U.S. offer for the immediate release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

"I really cannot go into more detail just for the privacy and safety of the process. We are sharing that we did put a substantial offer on the table," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a daily news briefing.

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin said that so far "there are no agreements" on a U.S. request to release Griner and Whelan from Russian custody.

The Kremlin said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address a phone call request by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he has the time, according to a report by Interfax.

— Amanda Macias

47 million more people could face acute food insecurity if Russia's war continues, UN says

Wheat grain pours from a machine into a storage silo on Monday, July 8, 2013. Temporary silos will be built along the border with Ukraine to help export more grain to address a growing global food crisis, U.S. President Joe Biden said, according to Reuters.
Vincent Mundy | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Wheat grain pours from a machine into a storage silo on Monday, July 8, 2013. Temporary silos will be built along the border with Ukraine to help export more grain to address a growing global food crisis, U.S. President Joe Biden said, according to Reuters.

The U.N.'s World Food Program estimates that up to 47 million more people could face acute food insecurity this year if Russia's war in Ukraine continues.

Last week, representatives from the U.N., Turkey, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to reopen three Ukrainian ports, an apparent breakthrough as the Kremlin's war on its ex-Soviet neighbor marches into its fifth month.

The deal follows a months-long blockade of dozens of Ukrainian ports sprinkled along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Less than 24 hours after the deal was signed though, Russian missiles rained down on Odesa, Ukraine's largest port.

The United Nations Secretary-General has previously warned that the armed conflict in Ukraine is threatening to unleash "an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake."

— Amanda Macias

Energy on the table, Macron hosts Saudi prince for dinner

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2021.
Bandar Saudi Press Agency | Handout | Via Reuters
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2021.

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to his presidential palace and offering him dinner in controversial talks that mark another step in the Saudi leader's diplomatic rehabilitation -- a move that has drawn harsh criticism in France after the gruesome Saudi killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The visit from the prince of the oil-rich state comes after France and other European nations are seeking to secure sources of energy to lessen their dependence on oil and gas supplies from Russia amid its war on Ukraine. France is also a major weapons and defense supplier to Gulf nations.

This was the second stop — after Greece — of the crown prince's first official visit to the European Union since Khashoggi's death.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Macron could be counted on to raise human rights concerns with the prince, while also seeking to secure energy supplies from elsewhere than Russia.

— Associated Press

'We will not give up. We will not be intimidated,' Zelenskyy says following rocket attacks

In this photo illustration, a screen showing president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech before the members of the international tribunal in The Hague. He accused the Russian authorities of war crimes and international terrorism.
Igor Golovniov | Lightrocket | Getty Images
In this photo illustration, a screen showing president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's speech before the members of the international tribunal in The Hague. He accused the Russian authorities of war crimes and international terrorism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine "will not give up" despite significant Russian rocket attacks.

"Restless morning. Rocket terror again. We will not give up. We will not give up. We will not be intimidated," Zelenskyy said in a morning address on the Telegram messaging app. "Ukraine is an independent, free, indivisible state. And it will always be like that."

The Ukrainian military said on Facebook that Russian forces had intensified shelling across Ukraine and that some rockets were fired from Belarus.

— Amanda Macias

Kremlin says 'no agreements' made in U.S. offer to release Griner and Whelan

US Olympic champion basketball player Brittney Griner, accused of drug smuggling, is seen before being questioned at the Khimki City Court in Moscow, Russia on July 26, 2022.
Dmitry Korotaev | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
US Olympic champion basketball player Brittney Griner, accused of drug smuggling, is seen before being questioned at the Khimki City Court in Moscow, Russia on July 26, 2022.

The Kremlin said "there are no agreements" on a U.S. request to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan from Russian custody.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow was aware of media reports of a U.S. proposal for the release of Griner and Whelan.

"Since there are no agreements that have been finalized now, I have nothing more to add," Peskov said.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he will discuss the U.S. proposal to free Griner and Whelan with his Russian counterpart. The Kremlin said Wednesday that it has not yet received any requests for a phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Blinken.

— Amanda Macias

Security Council can’t agree on statement lauding grain deal

This photograph taken on July 27, 2022 shows a computer screen displaying Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and United Nations's flags at the opening of the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) for Ukrainian grain exports in Istanbul on July 27, 2022.
Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images
This photograph taken on July 27, 2022 shows a computer screen displaying Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and United Nations's flags at the opening of the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) for Ukrainian grain exports in Istanbul on July 27, 2022.

The U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on a statement welcoming last week's deal to get grain and fertilizer moving from Ukraine and Russia to millions of hungry people around the world, Norway's U.N. ambassador said.

The statement also would have commended Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkey's government for their key roles in arranging the agreement.

"Norway and Mexico have been working for days to unify the council in one message welcoming the significant deal to resume exports of grains, foodstuffs and fertilizers through the Black Sea," Norwegian Ambassador Mona Juul told The Associated Press. "We regret that this was not possible."

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements Friday with Turkey and the U.N. clearing the way for Ukraine — one of the world's key breadbaskets — to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports because of Russia's invasion.

— Associated Press

Russian TV presenter who protested on air charged with discrediting armed forces

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images
Marina Ovsyannikova, the journalist who became known internationally after protesting against the Russian military action in Ukraine during a prime-time news broadcast on state television, appears in court accused of "discrediting" the Russian army fighting in Ukraine over her remarks outside a Moscow court earlier this month in support of opposition activist Ilya Yashin, in Moscow on July 28, 2022.

Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian news presenter who protested her country's war on live television in the invasion's early days, was found guilty of discrediting Russia's armed forces.

A judge in Moscow cited social media posts by Ovsyannikova criticizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine as evidence.

"The evidence confirms Ovsyannikova's guilt. There is no reason to doubt its authenticity," the judge said. Ovsyannikova had called the proceedings "absurd," according to Reuters.

The evening news broadcast on the main Russian news channel, Channel 1 is seen on a laptop as it is interrupted by a woman protesting the war in Ukraine in this illustration photo on 15 March, 2022 in Warsaw, Poland. Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the network ran onto the stage with a sign reading 'No War' and 'They're lying to you here'.
STR | Nurphoto | Getty Images
The evening news broadcast on the main Russian news channel, Channel 1 is seen on a laptop as it is interrupted by a woman protesting the war in Ukraine in this illustration photo on 15 March, 2022 in Warsaw, Poland. Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the network ran onto the stage with a sign reading 'No War' and 'They're lying to you here'.

Within days of the invasion starting, Russia issued a law forbidding the spreading of "fake news" regarding its armed forces or what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, with a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment.

— Natasha Turak

Turkish foreign minister stresses need for Russia-Ukraine cease-fire after grain deal

A view of damaged buildings caused by a rocket strike in Odesa region, Ukraine on 26 July 2022. Russia launched a massive missile attack on the Odesa region and Mykolaiv, as local media informed.
STR | Nurphoto | Getty Images
A view of damaged buildings caused by a rocket strike in Odesa region, Ukraine on 26 July 2022. Russia launched a massive missile attack on the Odesa region and Mykolaiv, as local media informed.

There must be focus on reaching a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine following the grain export agreement brokered between the two last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said while at a press conference.

He added that the deal being carried out successfully could foster trust between the two sides, increasing the chances of a diplomatic solution to the war that's been raging since Russia invaded its neighbor in late February.

So far there have been no signs that trust has materialized since Turkey brokered the deal, as shortly afterward Russia launched missiles at Ukraine's port city of Odesa, as well as its second-largest city Kharkiv, and other areas.

Farmers harvest a wheat field in the Ukrainian Kharkiv region on July 19, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Farmers harvest a wheat field in the Ukrainian Kharkiv region on July 19, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia's blocking of Ukrainian ports has sent food prices soaring globally and raised international alarm, as Ukraine is one of the world's top exporters of grain and its produce feeds millions, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

— Natasha Turak

No place in Kharkiv is safe, city's mayor says

No part of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, is safe, its mayor said.

"The Russian aggressors are trying to turn Kharkiv into a pitiful city, like the ones they have in Russia," Igor Terekhov told AFP. "But they won't succeed. And, as you see, the people of Kharkiv are defending their city, weapons in hand."

"We have nine districts in the city and they are all being bombed with varying intensity and at different times. So you can't say anywhere in Kharkiv is safe," he said.

Rescue teams dig through the rubble of buildings destroyed in overnight attacks in a search for survivors, in the city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv region, on July 25, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Rescue teams dig through the rubble of buildings destroyed in overnight attacks in a search for survivors, in the city of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv region, on July 25, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Yes, it is safe in the shelters and it is safe in the metro. But there is no district, no place in the city, where you can claim it is totally safe."

By the end of March, roughly half of the city's population had fled, regional officials said at the time. Russian shelling restarted with force in recent weeks, and last week killed at least three people including a 13-year-old boy, the mayor said. The death toll in the city is estimated to be in the many hundreds.

— Natasha Turak

Nord Stream 1 flows to Europe steady

A container is decorated with a map showing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was expected to deliver Russian gas to European households, in Lubmin's industrial park, northeastern Germany, on March 1, 2022.
John Macdougall | Afp | Getty Images
A container is decorated with a map showing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was expected to deliver Russian gas to European households, in Lubmin's industrial park, northeastern Germany, on March 1, 2022.

Natural gas flows from Russia to Germany remained steady Thursday, a day after a reduction to around 20% of their full capacity.

Gazprom said its supply was 42.1 million cubic meters, compared to 42.2 mcm on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Gazprom has blamed the reduction on maintenance of a turbine along the pipeline, which has been greeted with incredulity and condemnation in Europe who say Russia is trying to blackmail nations like Germany. Natural gas prices have surged once again due to the supply squeeze.

"Higher gas prices drive up firms' costs and squeeze consumers' budgets, leaving them less money to spend on other goods and services. As a result, we expect the Eurozone to fall into recession this autumn at still high inflation," Barenberg analysts said in a new research note Thursday.

—Matt Clinch

U.K. advisor warns of accidental nuclear escalation

Stephen Lovegrove, the U.K.'s national security advisor, warned of the accidental escalation of a nuclear war with Russia or China, saying that global communication channels from the Cold War are no longer available.

"The Cold War's two monolithic blocks of the USSR and NATO – though not without alarming bumps – were able to reach a shared understanding of doctrine that is today absent," he said Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the U.S.

"Doctrine is opaque in Moscow and Beijing, let alone Pyongyang or Tehran."

He added that during the Cold War, the world benefited from a "series of negotiations and dialogues that improved our understanding of Soviet doctrine and capabilities, and vice versa."

"This gave us both a higher level of confidence that we would not miscalculate our way into nuclear war."

Watch the full video here.

— Matt Clinch

Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kherson 'gathering momentum'

A U.K. intelligence update Thursday spoke of "gathering momentum" in Ukraine's attempts to retake the southern city of Kherson from Russian troops.

The city, taken early on in the Russian invasion and the most politically significant area occupied by Moscow, is now "virtually cut off" from the other occupied Russian territories, Britain's Defense Ministry said.

"Their [Ukraine] forces have highly likely established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson," it said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine confirmed that it had attacked the Antonivsky Bridge, a key supply route for Russian forces in Kherson.

— Matt Clinch

Ukraine says Russian forces seized second biggest power plant

A monument pictured on the Nikopol embankment in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant used by the Russian invaders as the place to bombard Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Region, central Ukraine on 20 July 2022. Russian forces have seized Ukraine's second biggest power plant and Moscow will be redeploying large numbers of troops to three southern regions, said a senior advisor to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, according to NBC News.
Dmytro Smolyenko | Ukrinform | Getty Images
A monument pictured on the Nikopol embankment in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant used by the Russian invaders as the place to bombard Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Region, central Ukraine on 20 July 2022. Russian forces have seized Ukraine's second biggest power plant and Moscow will be redeploying large numbers of troops to three southern regions, said a senior advisor to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, according to NBC News.

A senior advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces have seized Ukraine's second biggest power plant, according to NBC News.

In an interview uploaded to YouTube, presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych also said Moscow will be redeploying large numbers of troops to three southern regions.

Russian-backed forces had previously said they captured the plant. The U.K. Ministry of Defence said a private Russian military company "likely succeeded in making tactical advances in the Donbas around the Vuhlehirska Power Plant," adding that some Ukrainian forces have "likely withdrawn from the area."

Frontline developments are often difficult or impossible to confirm as the situation in Ukraine can change quickly.

Natalie Tham

Blinken to speak with Russian counterpart about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan release

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he will discuss a U.S. proposal to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan with his Russian counterpart.

Blinken said he would discuss in his phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the first since Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine, the immediate release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner who "have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home."

"When it comes to our efforts to secure the return home of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner you understand that I 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," he said.

Blinken told reporters at the State Department that he will also discuss the U.N.-brokered plan to resume agricultural exports from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

Ports begin operations to export grains and other agricultural products, Ukraine's navy says

The vessel waits to be loaded at Reni river port on Danube river, in Odesa region, Ukraine, July 21, 2022.
Sergii Kharchenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images
The vessel waits to be loaded at Reni river port on Danube river, in Odesa region, Ukraine, July 21, 2022.

The Ukrainian navy said on its Facebook page that the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdenny are preparing to resume grain exports from Ukraine.

Last week, representatives from the U.N., Turkey, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to reopen three Ukrainian ports, an apparent breakthrough as the Kremlin's war on its ex-Soviet neighbor marches into its fifth month.

The deal follows a months-long blockade of dozens of Ukrainian ports sprinkled along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Less than 24 hours after the deal was signed though, Russian missiles rained down on Odesa, Ukraine's largest port.

— Amanda Macias

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

Ukrainian ports prepare to restart grain shipments; U.S. makes offer for release of detained Americans Griner and Whelan

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