July 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023
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7:39 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Russia launches air strikes on Odesa for a second night in a row

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Sebastian Shukla and Josh Pennington


Russia launched an attack on Odesa early Wednesday, the second night in a row the southern port city has been targeted.

Ukraine's air defenses were repelling a Russian attack, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Odesa military administration said.

"More Kalibr (cruise missile) launches have been documented from the Black Sea," spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk said on Telegram.

A CNN team in Odesa witnessed a sustained barrage from the air defense near the direction of the port. The team also heard at least three large bangs.

Oleh Kiper, head of the Odesa region's military administration, urged people not to come close to windows.

"Do not approach the windows, do not film or show the work of air defense forces," Kiper said on his Telegram page Wednesday. "All residents of Odesa Oblast take shelter!"

Russian forces launched airstrikes on Odesa on Tuesday in retaliation for Kyiv's attack Monday on the strategic and symbolic Crimean bridge linking the annexed peninsula to the Russian mainland.

7:17 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

It's past midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Russia would be prepared to return to the critical Black Sea Grain Initiative if Moscow's demands are met by international partners, according to remarks made by Russia's permanent representative at the United Nations headquarters.

Gennady Gatilov's comments come after the Kremlin said Monday that it is allowing a deal struck to allow the export of Ukrainian grain to expire

Here's what else you should know:

  • Black Sea grain deal: A senior European Union official said the EU is “extremely concerned” about Russia’s withdrawal and will expand its solidarity lanes to aid Kyiv in exporting Ukraine's grain. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that Russia’s decision was a “stab on the back at global food security prices.” French President Emmanuel Macron said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin made a “huge mistake” with his decision to “weaponize” food and Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told CNN that the move was "very deplorable." Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said the withdrawal will "inevitably" result in more crises around the world.
  • Support for Ukraine: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which met virtually Tuesday, discussed Kyiv’s “urgent need for ammunition.” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the meeting demonstrated the allies’ “unwavering support for Ukraine."
  • On the ground: Two civilians were killed and seven people were injured by Ukrainian shelling in different parts of separatist-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, a local official said. Meanwhile, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the Ukrainian counteroffensive is “far from a failure” despite moving slower than anticipated. And Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says the military was creating conditions to continue advancing along the southern front.
  • Russian special forces: Putin transferred the Grom special forces unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the jurisdiction of the Russian National Guard (or Rosgvardiya), which will allow it to be deployed to the front lines in Ukraine, said Alexander Khinshtein, a member of the Russian Parliament from Putin’s United Russia party. The move comes just weeks after Putin met with the leadership and personnel of the Ministry of Defense, the Russian National Guard, the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, following an attempted coup by the Wagner private military group.
  • Ukrainian strike impact: Ferry crossings across the Kerch Strait, which separates annexed Crimea from Russia, have been suspended, the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia in the Republic of Crimea announced on Tuesday. The announcement follows an apparent strike Monday by Ukrainian forces on the bridge, which damaged the road.
7:22 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

DeSantis downplays war in Ukraine and won't say if he would continue to send aid if he were president

From CNN's Steve Contorno and Kit Maher

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday, July 18, in South Carolina. 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday, July 18, in South Carolina.  CNN

Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed the conflict in Ukraine in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday.

Some Republicans have grilled the Republican presidential candidate over his dismissal of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” not of “vital” national interest. During the interview, DeSantis doubled down, calling the war a “secondary or tertiary interest,” though he said he would be “willing to be helpful to bring it to a conclusion.”

“The goal should be a sustainable, enduring peace in Europe, but one that does not reward aggression,” the Florida governor said.

Asked if he would stop arming Ukraine or sending financial support, DeSantis wouldn’t say. Instead, he advocated for turning the focus of the US military away from Europe and toward Asia and China.

“I am not gonna diminish our stocks and not send (them) to Taiwan. I’m not gonna make us less capable to respond to exigencies,” DeSantis told Tapper, calling the island’s future a “significant interest.”

6:52 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Moscow would return to grain deal if its demands are met, Russian ambassador says 

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Gennady Gatilov gives a press conference in Geneva, on April 26.
Gennady Gatilov gives a press conference in Geneva, on April 26. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Russia would be prepared to return to the Black Sea grain deal if Moscow's demands are met by international partners, according to Russia's permanent representative at the United Nations headquarters, Gennady Gatilov.

In remarks published on the Russian Foreign Ministry Telegram channel Tuesday in response to a question from Reuters, Gatilov accused the deal of deviating away from its "intended humanitarian purposes."

"Implementation of one of the two components of the Istanbul Agreements - the Russia-UN Memorandum - has failed to make any meaningful progress due to the disruptive stance of the Western countries," Gatilov said. "They continued to increase their sanctions pressure on our country, which constrained Russian agricultural exports by completely blocking bank transactions, insurance, logistics, foreign assets and supplies of spare parts."

Gatilov did say the UN "tried on its part to urge the Western governments and business structures to implement the Russian-UN Memorandum."

"However, despite the efforts, the leadership of the UN Secretariat could not overcome the resistance of the Western countries and private companies, on which depended the fulfillment of our demands," he said.

Gatilov also claimed that Ukraine "repeatedly used the Black Sea humanitarian route for provocations and attacks against Russian civilian and military vessels, as well as infrastructure."

5:36 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

2 killed by Ukrainian shelling in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk region, Moscow-backed official says

From CNN's Josh Pennington 

Two civilians have been killed and seven injured by Ukrainian shelling on Tuesday in different parts of separatist-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, a local official said.

"Two people have been killed today as a result of shelling by Ukrainian armed formations - [one each] in the Kirovskiy district of Donetsk and Vladymirovka in Volnovakha," the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, said in a Telegram message. 

"Another seven people were wounded in Donetsk, Makiivka and Staromikhailivka, including a 17-year-old boy," the post added.

Several homes, two schools and a hospital were damaged by the shelling, he said. 

"The [DPR] Republic was shelled 93 times, with more than 490 MLRS rockets, including Turkish-made rockets, being fired, including 152mm and 155mm caliber artillery shells," Pushilin added. 

6:47 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Russia pulling out of grain deal will result in more crises around the world, Zelensky says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Yulia Kesaieva 

Volodymyr Zelensky during a news conference on the closing day of the annual NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12.
Volodymyr Zelensky during a news conference on the closing day of the annual NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Ukraine's president is warning that Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal will result in more crises around the world.

"Last year, thanks to our Black Sea Grain Initiative, we managed to prevent a price crisis in the global food market. A price explosion would inevitably have been followed by political and migration crises, particularly in African and Asian countries," President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday in his evening address.

He said a wide range of countries will feel the effects and that Ukraine is "working without partners to prevent this." Russia pulled out of the deal on Monday.

"Obviously, the Russian leadership is now trying to provoke these crises. Without our exports, the deficit in the global market will, unfortunately, be very significant," Zelensky said.

Ukraine is developing options for action and agreements "to preserve Ukraine's global role as a guarantor of food security, our maritime access to the global market, and jobs for Ukrainians in ports and the agricultural industry," he said, adding Kyiv is "fighting for global security and for our Ukrainian farmers."

3:23 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Russia pulling out of Black Sea grain deal was "very deplorable," Finnish foreign minister says

From CNN's Hannah Holland and Radina Gigova

Russia's decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal was "very deplorable," as it will increase food insecurity around the world, Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told CNN's Bianna Golodryga on Tuesday. 

“We just have to find alternative ways to get the grain out of Ukraine and onto the markets to those people most in need," she said.

As for her country's recent membership in NATO, Valtonen said it "was a decision that had to be made finally." Finland decided to join the Western alliance following the invasion of Ukraine last year.

As for allowing Ukraine to join, Valtonen said any decision must await the end of hostilities.

“NATO can’t accept members who are actively engaged in a war and unfortunately, that is the case with Ukraine as we speak. Now, the most important step obviously is that we keep on supporting Ukraine in the short term on all possible levels, also with the arms deliveries so they can effectively defend themselves," she said.
3:11 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Meeting with allies demonstrated their unwavering support for Ukraine, defense minister says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Vasco Cotovio

The latest meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group — informally known as the Ramstein meeting — demonstrated the allies’ “unwavering support for Ukraine," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted on Tuesday.

Priority was placed on the supply of weapons and equipment Ukraine “urgently” needs to continue liberating occupied territory, he said.

Reznikov thanked Luxembourg and Estonia for their proposals on IT and Lithuania for their demining coalition initiative. He also thanked US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for leading “an unprecedented coalition against evil.”

“Together, we are working hard to achieve victory, a just peace and a better future,” he concluded.


Some background: The US and Europe are struggling to provide Ukraine with the large amount of ammunition it will need for a prolonged counteroffensive against Russia, and Western officials are racing to ramp up production to avoid shortages on the battlefield that could hinder Ukraine’s progress.

The dwindling supply of artillery ammunition has served as a wake-up call to NATO, US and Western officials told CNN, since the alliance did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a protracted land war in Europe following decades of relative peace.