July 8, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Laura Smith-Spark and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 5:38 p.m. ET, July 8, 2023
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8:55 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

No date set yet for Putin visit to Turkey, Kremlin says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow, Russia, on June 29.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow, Russia, on June 29. Contributor/Getty Images

No date is set yet for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Turkey, Russian state media TASS reported on Saturday, citing Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

According to TASS, Peskov said that contacts between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are possible, but the exact dates for a visit by the Russian leader to Turkey are still to be determined.

Erdogan told a press conference on Friday that Putin would visit Turkey next month. 

Peskov said Friday that the two sides were already in talks about an in-person meeting.

"Special relationship": Erdogan is engaged in something of a balancing act, as he tries to negotiate maintaining his close ties to Putin with his country's key strategic role as a member of NATO.

In an exclusive interview with CNN ahead of Turkish presidential elections in May and June, which secured him a third term, Erdogan told CNN that he has a "special" and growing relationship with Putin.

"We are not at a point where we would impose sanctions on Russia like the West have done. We are not bound by the West’s sanctions,” Erdogan told CNN. “We are a strong state and we have a positive relationship with Russia.”

However, with a key NATO summit beginning Tuesday in Vilnius, Lithuania, members of the defensive bloc have tried to persuade Turkey to toe the line — in particular, by allowing Sweden to join the alliance.

9:06 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Russian shelling kills at least 8 people in Ukrainian city of Lyman, regional leaders say

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

At least eight people were killed and 13 wounded when Russian troops shelled the small Ukrainian city of Lyman on Saturday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Earlier, officials had reported six dead and several injured.

Russian forces attacked the town with multiple launch rocket systems at around 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET), the head of Donetsk region military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

The shelling hit a private residential area, causing damage to a house and a shop. Kyrylenko added that police and emergency services are on the scene providing assistance.

Ukraine's interior ministry said rescuers had extinguished the fire in the private residential building, a nearby shop and three vehicles.

7:05 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Officials: 494 children have been killed in Ukraine since Russia's invasion started 500 days ago

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

People attend the funeral of two children who died as a result of a Russian missile strike in Uman, Ukraine, on April 30.
People attend the funeral of two children who died as a result of a Russian missile strike in Uman, Ukraine, on April 30. Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

At least 494 children have been killed and 1,051 injured since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started 500 days ago, Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office said on Saturday.

Most of the children involved were in the Donetsk and Kharkiv region, with others in regions including Kyiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv, according to the statement.

"These are not the final numbers. Work is ongoing to establish the data in combat zones, as well as in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories," the prosecutor general's office said.

Some context: The United Nations said Friday that more than 9,000 civilians, including more than 500 children, had been killed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

The UN also warned that the true number of fatalities could be much higher than the figures it had been able to confirm.

May and June saw an increase in the number of civilians killed, the UN added, after a relative decline in civilian fatalities in the first four months of the year.

3:47 p.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Ukrainian defense minister thanks US for providing Ukraine with cluster munitions

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov holds a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 5, 2023.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov holds a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 5, 2023. Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/FILE

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked the United States on Saturday for agreeing to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, according to a tweet from the minister.

Reznikov said that Ukraine had been "officially requesting these types of munitions for a long time."

“I would like to stress that in exercising our inalienable right to self-defense we will continue to strictly comply with all the international humanitarian conventions signed and ratified by Ukraine," Reznikov added.

Reznikov insisted that Ukraine would abide by the principles which it has communicated to the US and its partners. Those include using the munitions for liberating internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, using them in non-urban areas, and keeping a record of where they are used for de-mining purposes later.

Request finally granted: Throughout the war, Kyiv's Western allies have deliberated at length over whether they should send Ukraine the latest bit of military hardware it has requested. First it was artillery, then it was Leopard and Abrams tanks. The US is now supporting the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.

Each time, what initially appeared to be a bridge too far for Western nations eventually became seen as the right thing to do.

Cluster weapons followed that same trajectory. CNN first reported this week that US President Joe Biden's administration was strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial weapons to Ukraine, having long resisted Kyiv's requests.

The US confirmed Friday that it would deliver Ukraine these weapons as part of a new military aid package.

What are cluster munitions? Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs, are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets, also known as submunitions. The canisters can be dropped from aircraft, launched from missiles or fired from artillery, naval guns or rocket launchers.

The canisters break open at a prescribed height, depending upon the area of the intended target, and the bomblets inside spread out over that area. They are fused by a timer to explode closer to or on the ground, spreading shrapnel that is designed to kill troops or take out armored vehicles such as tanks.

Read more here.

8:02 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Zelensky honors Snake Island defenders on 500th day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Teele Rebane in Hong Kong

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference with leaders of African countries on June 16, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference with leaders of African countries on June 16, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images/FILE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky honored the defenders of Snake Island in a Telegram post commemorating the 500th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Saturday.

Snake Island, a Ukrainian island in the Black Sea, became famous when, on the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a Ukrainian soldier on the island delivered a message to the approaching Russian navy:

“Russian warship, go f*** yourself,” said the soldier.

The soldier’s brave defiance became an early symbol of Ukrainian resistance, at a time when many expected Russia’s military to overwhelm Ukraine’s and deliver a swift victory for Moscow.

The video post was published on Saturday morning but it is unclear when it was filmed.

“Snake Island. The free island of free Ukraine. I am grateful to everyone who fought here against the occupiers. We commemorated the heroes who gave their lives in this battle – one of the most important during the full-scale war,” Zelensky said in the post.
4:12 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Agricultural facility hit in overnight drone attack on Kryvyi Rih, says regional official

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

An agricultural production facility in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih was hit overnight in a drone strike, said the head of Dnipropetrovsk region military administration, Serhii Lysak.

The attack hospitalized one man, who is in a moderate condition, according to Lysak.

Two fires broke out, several warehouses were destroyed, and equipment and vehicles were damaged in the attack, Lysak said.

There were no other attacks on Kryvyi Rih and Nikopol districts, head of Kryvyi Rih city military administration Oleksandr Vilkul said.

Kryvyi Rih is the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

9:14 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Turkish president says Ukraine deserves to become NATO member

From CNN’s Gul Tuysuz, Radina Gigova and Mariya Knight

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announces new cabinet during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on June 3, 2023.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announces new cabinet during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on June 3, 2023. Umit Bektas/Reuters/FILE

Ukraine deserves to have NATO membership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, following talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia said it was closely watching.

Zelensky spent this week visiting NATO countries, courting support ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania beginning on Tuesday, where members are expected to reaffirm that Ukraine will eventually join.

“Without a doubt, Ukraine deserves to be in NATO,” Erdogan said.

Zelensky said he was “happy to hear” that Turkey supports Ukraine’s bid to join during a joint press conference.

While visiting the Czech Republic this week Zelensky said that he needs “a clear signal that Ukraine will be in the alliance. Not that the door is open for us, which is not enough, but that Ukraine will be in it,” he said Thursday.

NATO has an open-door policy, meaning that any country can be invited to join if it expresses an interest, as long as it is able and willing to uphold the principles of the alliance’s founding treaty. However, under the accession rules, any member state can veto a new country from joining.

Some allies, particularly those in Eastern Europe who are located closer to Ukraine and Russia, have advocated for a more concrete path for Kyiv to join the defensive alliance once the war ends.

Other officials have argued that expediting Ukraine’s NATO membership could be too provocative, and harbor major doubts about admitting a country to the alliance while it is still at war.

Read the full story here.

9:12 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Ukrainian president discusses NATO membership with Turkey's Erdogan ahead of consequential summit

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was "happy to hear" that Turkey supports Ukraine's bid to join the NATO alliance. 

Zelensky, who spoke alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a joint news conference in Istanbul, said the two leaders discussed "key issues of our work in the context of NATO, in particular preparing for a Vilnius summit."

Ukraine is expected to be at the top of the agenda of that meeting next week.

"I raised the question of Ukraine's membership in the NATO alliance and was happy to hear that the President (Erdogan) supports Ukraine to be a NATO member," Zelensky said. 

Zelensky also said the two leaders talked about "the joint work in the military-industrial complex, development of technologies, drone manufacturing and other strategic directions."

"We made certain agreements," he said. "I asked Turkey to join into the efforts of rebuilding and transforming Ukraine, it is a colossal project, and we need Turkey’s experience and technology to help us."

Some context: Both Sweden and its neighbor Finland stated their intent to join NATO through its open-door policy in May last year, just weeks after Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Finland was accepted in April of this year, doubling the alliance’s border with Russia, but Sweden’s accession is currently being blocked by Turkey.

Turkey claims that Sweden allows members of recognized Kurdish terror groups to operate in Sweden, most notably the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

12:11 p.m. ET, July 8, 2023

Here's what happened Friday in the key storylines surrounding Russia's war in Ukraine

From CNN staff

There's been a flurry of news away from the battlefield in Ukraine, as Kyiv's allies prepare for a consequential NATO summit in Lithuania in the coming days, and the United States enters uncharted territory with its latest contribution to Ukraine's fight against Russia.

If you're just catching up, here are some of the key headlines from Friday:

Ukraine gets a controversial addition to its arsenal: The US will send cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of a new military aid package, officials confirmed. The decision follows months of debate within the Biden administration about whether to, for the first time, provide Kyiv with the controversial weapons banned by over 100 countries — including key US allies.

Cluster munitions scatter “bomblets” across large areas that can fail to explode on impact and can pose a long-term risk to anyone who encounters them, similar to landmines. The US Defense Department defended its decision, in part, by emphasizing that it was providing only newer versions of the weapons which have lower "dud rates," meaning fewer bomblets go unexploded and pose a future threat.

Biden outlines his thought process: US President Joe Biden told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that it was a "difficult decision" to provide Ukraine with the cluster munitions, but that he was ultimately convinced to send the weapons because Kyiv is running out of ammunition in its counteroffensive against Russia. Moscow's success, he argued, poses an even greater threat than the controversial munitions.

"They either have the weapons to stop the Russians now — keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas — or they don’t. And I think they needed them,” said Biden, who told Zakaria he had deeply considered the issue and consulted allies.

World leaders gear up for the NATO summit: Key storylines to watch when the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, kicks off Monday include Sweden's stalled accession to the alliance. It has been left behind even as Finland, which was also driven to abandon neutrality by Russia's war, joins NATO's ranks.

The US is trying to help Sweden clear its final hurdles to membership and address objections from Turkey. Ukraine's president, meanwhile, said Friday that a lack of unity on Sweden's accession threatens the alliance's strength.

Ukraine's own admission to NATO will not immediately result from the summit, a White House official said Friday, but the gathering will provide an opportunity to discuss its future accession and rally support for its war effort. There could also be consequential meetings on the Black Sea grain deal, a vital pact for addressing global hunger by ensuring safe shipments from Ukrainian ports.