Day 510: Russia attempts to intensify offensive operations on Kupyansk axis

Russia attacks southern Ukraine with missiles and drones overnight. Russian forces attempt to intensify offensive operations on the Kupyansk axis. Saudi Arabia and Turkey hold secret talks to return Ukrainian children taken by Russia, the Financial Times says.

Ukraine’s air defenses destroy all six Kalibr cruise missiles, 31 of 36 Shahed drones that Russia launches overnight at southern Ukraine

Russia launched Shahed drones and Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukraine overnight on July 18, mostly targeting the southern regions of Odesa and Mykolayiv.

Falling debris and shock waves damaged some port facilities and a few residential buildings and injured an elderly man at his home. He was taken to hospital.

According to the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, overnight on July 18, Russia launched six Kalibr cruise missiles and 36 attack drones Shahed-136/131 from the south. Ukraine’s air defense destroyed all Kalibr missiles and 31 out of 36 drones. 

In Mykolayiv, a drone hit an industrial facility.

Russia allegedly fired the missiles from the frigate Admiral Essen and launched the drones from the Chauda training ground in Crimea.

All missiles and most of the drones were intercepted in Odesa and Mykolayiv regions, the rest of the attack drones were shot down in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovska regions. Ukraine’s air defenses also destroyed one reconnaissance drone.

Russian forces attempt to intensify offensive operations on Kupyansk axis

As Ukrainian troops advance in the south, Russian forces are trying to intensify offensive operations along the Kupyansk – Lyman line, at the border between Kharkiv and Luhansk regions. They deployed more than 100,000 troops, almost 1,000 tanks and hundreds of pieces of multiple rocket launchers to the area.

Kupyansk is the second-largest rail hub in Kharkiv region after Kharkiv. It sits 40 kilometers away from the state border with Russia. Russian forces captured the city in the first days of the full-scale invasion. On September 10, 2022, Ukrainian troops liberated Kupyansk in a lightning counteroffensive in Kharkiv region.

Russia’s occupying force has never abandoned attempts to recapture the positions they lost last autumn in Kharkiv and Luhansk regions. They continue to put pressure on Ukrainian troops along the Kupyansk – Lyman line. (Lyman is a town in Donetsk region recaptured in early October 2022). 

While fighting in the area has been raging for months and this section of the frontline has never stopped being a hot spot, Russian forces intensified offensive operations there in July 2023.  

On the evening of July 17, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said that the “the enemy is engaging in offensive operations on the Kupyansk line, aiming to defeat our troops near Kupyansk and to continue to advance deep into our positions.”

Saudi Arabia and Turkey hold secret talks to return Ukrainian children taken by Russia, the Financial Times says

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are seeking to broker a deal to repatriate Ukrainian children taken to Russia and held in children’s homes or adopted by Russian families, according to four people familiar with the talks, the Financial Times said.

Officials in Kyiv and Moscow are compiling lists of the thousands of children moved to Russia since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as part of the mediation process, which has not been previously reported.

The highly sensitive talks, which have been ongoing for several months, indicate third parties are still looking for ways to agree compromises between Ukraine and Russia in the hope they can evolve into channels for potential peace talks aimed at ending the war.

Former Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, who has previously mediated with Ukraine with Putin’s blessing in peace negotiations, prisoner exchanges and a grain deal, is also involved in the discussions, according to two people familiar with the matter. Saudi Arabia raised displaced children at a meeting of officials from selected G20 members in Copenhagen in June as part of broader discussions about the need for third parties to talk to both Ukraine and Russia, according to a diplomat briefed on the talks.

The issue is so contentious that Ukrainian and Russian officials have refused to speak to each other directly, unlike for some past prisoner swaps or ceasefire negotiations. “There is no [direct] communication with the Russian side,” said Daria Herasymchuk, children’s rights commissioner in president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office. “Moreover, we are convinced that there can be no talks in this direction, because it is not a question of exchange of prisoners of war, these are civilians, these are children,” the Financial Times quotes her as saying.

Last year, Saudi Arabia mediated the release of 10 foreign nationals who fought on Ukraine’s side. President Zelenskyi said that the release of war prisoners was a subject of intense discussions during his visit to Turkey on July 8 was. He brought home from Turkey five former commanders of Ukraine’s garrison in Mariupol. 

China’s big foreign policy game. Ukraine in Flames #482

Throughout the years, China has evolved from a closed and self-sufficient nation to an active player on the global stage. Its foreign policy is guided by a set of principles that seek to protect its national interests, promote economic development, and maintain domestic stability. At the core of China’s foreign policy lies the concept of ‘peaceful development,’ emphasizing non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations and the pursuit of mutually beneficial cooperation. Watch Ukraine in flames #482 to find out about Chinese foreign policy, how it was shaped, what decision-making mechanisms it adopted and how it works in the ruling era of Xi Jinping.


  • Alina Hrytsenko, Chief Consultant of the National Institute of Strategic Studies
  • Iliya Kusa, International Politics Expert of the Analytical Center “Ukrainian Institute of the Future”
  • Ihor Lytvyn, Former Ambassador of Ukraine, Co-Chairman of the Ukrainian-Chinese Business Council