Live Updates

July 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Drone footage shows vast destruction in Ukraine's second largest city
01:02

What we covered

  • Ukrainian officials say an influx of Western weapons is shifting the balance on the battlefield. CNN has identified nearly 20 strikes far behind Russian lines so far this month — some of them causing large explosions and multiple detonations.
  • In a high-profile trip to the US, Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska met with US first lady Jill Biden at the White House.
  • A number of people died and at least nine Russian soldiers were injured in an unexplained incident at a nuclear power plant in central Ukraine, a Ukrainian official said. There has been no word yet from the Russian side on what happened.
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Ukraine has a new anti-corruption chief

Oleksandr Klymenko — a detective who has taken part in several high-profile investigations — has been made the country’s top anti-corruption official.

Klymenko, who is 35 years old, was chosen by a special commission in December but his appointment has only been confirmed now.

He became a detective with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2016. He has investigated embezzlement at Ukrainian railways and the alleged involvement of senior political figures in corruption.

Klymenko has had a rapid rise through law enforcement agencies since graduating from the National Law Academy.

The post is regarded as important by Ukraine’s allies as part of its struggle with endemic corruption.

Also in the background: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suspended two important figures in his government on Sunday, questioning their leadership qualities and accusing many of their subordinates of treason and collaborating with Russia.

The two high-ranking officials — Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and State Security Service (SBU) head Ivan Bakanov, a long-time associate of the President — are now subject to an investigation and have been temporarily replaced.

White House says it hasn't seen indications that Iran has sold Russia drones

The United States has not received information yet to indicate that Russia has purchased Iranian drones for use in the war on Ukraine, John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said on Tuesday. 

Earlier in July, the White House warned that Iran is expected to supply Russia with “hundreds” of drones — including weapons-capable drones — for use in the war in Ukraine and that Iran is preparing to begin training Russian forces on how to operate them as soon as this month. 

“We don’t have any indications that the sale has actually occurred. And so therefore, we wouldn’t have any indications that there’s been training done on them,” Kirby said at the White House press briefing. 

“Now, a lot of it’s going to depend on — how many does he buy, what kind of capabilities they have. But the Iranians have a domestic production capability of drones, and those drones have lethal capabilities,” he continued. “We’ve seen that for ourselves in the attacks that they have perpetrated in Iraq and in Syria against our own troops and against our own facilities there. So, we’re watching this closely and we’re taking it seriously.” 

Last week, CNN reported that a Russian delegation has visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice in the last month to examine weapons-capable drones

Iran began showcasing the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones, also known as UAVs or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, to Russia at Kashan Airfield south of Tehran in June, US officials told CNN. Both types of drones are capable of carrying precision-guided missiles.

Kirby on Tuesday said it is “an indication of how much more desperate Mr. Putin is becoming in terms of his own defense industrial base, and the degree to which he wants to continue to prosecute this war,” he said. 

US launches initiative to support Ukrainian farmers affected by war with Russia

Farmers on their harvesters harvest barley in a field in Kharkiv, Ukraine on July 18.

The Biden administration is putting $100 million into a new program to provide Ukrainian farmers with vital supplies in order to maintain future harvests and alleviate the global food security crisis that has been exasperated by Russia’s war on the country.

Some Ukrainian farms have turned into battlefields and farmers who have maintained their harvests have been unable to get machinery and other key supplies including fertilizer, seeds and storage bins that would typically arrive through Black Sea ports. Ukraine — the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat — has also been largely unable to export their agricultural products due to Russia’s invasion. 

The initiative will also include financing for farmers who are facing rising prices at a time their incomes have been severely hit.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has already been working with more than 8,000 Ukrainian farmers to get the inputs they need to bolster their yields and the new Ukraine Agriculture Resilience Initiative (AGRI-Ukraine) effort will expend those efforts. 

“AGRI-Ukraine will target Ukraine’s immediate agricultural export challenges, while also simultaneously supporting the wider needs of Ukraine’s agriculture sector and bolstering Ukraine’s continued production of agricultural commodities through 2023. The Initiative will increase Ukrainian farmers’ access to critical agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and pesticides, enhance Ukrainian infrastructure capacity and capability to efficiently export agricultural goods, increase farmers’ access to financing and expand the capacity of Ukrainian businesses to dry and temporarily store, and process agricultural commodities,” USAID said in a news release on Tuesday.

USAID will work with banks, credit unions and governments to get the Ukrainian farmers “sustained finance to continue operations” given the challenges of risings costs of transportation, labor and other inputs, explained a USAID spokesperson. 

“USAID will work to tailor storage to individual needs — working with farmer associations — to get the right solutions to the right places,” the spokesperson said, noting that farmers in eastern Ukraine won’t have the same needs as farmers on the western side of the country.

“In the east of Ukraine, farmers’ high transport costs may result in some seeking to store grain until safer/cheaper alternatives are available. In the west of the country, farmers may need storage prior to loading their harvest on trains going across the border to Poland or Slovakia,” the spokespersons said.

USAID will also be working to raise an additional $150 million from donors and the private sector to boost the fund.  

The efforts to salvage at least some of Ukraine’s agriculture sector are “critical for Ukraine’s stabilization, recovery, and reconstruction,” the spokesperson said.

Ukraine’s economy has already fallen into a recession due to the ongoing war, and the country’s GDP could almost half this year as a result of Russia’s invasion, the World Bank said in April. Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat and sunflower oil before the war, and this year’s planting season was disrupted by fighting. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has also warned that the ongoing crisis is only poised to get worse without efforts to bring relief.

Read more here.

Russia planning annexation attempts in Ukraine, White House says

The White House said Tuesday it has intelligence showing Russia plans to further annex parts of Ukraine, repeating a playbook it used in the 2014 annexation of Crimea to seize more territory.

John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the steps Russia is planning could include “sham” referenda, installing illegitimate proxy officials, establishing the ruble as the official currency and forcing Ukrainian citizens to apply for Russian citizenship.

Kirby said the US would punish Russia for attempts to further annex Ukrainian territory and said the White House would unveil additional security assistance to Ukraine later this week.

He cited US intelligence that had been downgraded and approved for public release to make the claims about Russia’s plans. 

“Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook, very similar to the one we saw in 2014,” Kirby told reporters at the White House.

He said the potential referenda could take place soon.

“The Kremlin has not disclosed the timeline for the referenda, but Russian proxies in these territories claim they will take place later this year, possibly in conjunction with Russia’s September regional elections,” he said.

He said the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, along with the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, were the likely targets of Russia’s annexation plans.

Jill Biden meets with Ukrainian first lady at White House

U.S. first lady Jill Biden, first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and U.S. President Joe Biden pose for photos as Zelenska arrives on the South Lawn of the White House on July 19 in Washington, DC. 

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is at the White House on Tuesday to privately meet with first lady Jill Biden and take part in a larger bilateral meeting with American officials. 

Zelenska was greeted at the White House by President Joe Biden and Jill Biden. The President handed a large bouquet of flowers to Zelenska when she got out of the car and the two first ladies hugged.

According to the White House, the first ladies “will discuss the United States’ continued support for the government of Ukraine and its people as they defend their democracy and cope with the significant human impacts of Russia’s war, which will be felt for years to come.” 

Zelenska will first attend a private meeting with Biden, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting with second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Deputy Administrator of the US Agency for International Development Isobel Coleman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

During the bilateral meeting, the White House says, the first ladies will talk about ways “the United States can continue to alleviate suffering through support and humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people, and the need to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities.” 

Zelenska is in Washington this week to highlight the human cost of Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine. She met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Monday, and she is scheduled to deliver remarks to members of Congress on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning. 

Biden and Zelenska first met in person in May, when Biden made a stealth trip to Ukraine. The first ladies had been in communication prior to their meeting, which was the first time Zelenska emerged from hiding since the start of the Russian invasion in February. During their one-hour closed meeting, Zelenska shared with Biden her concerns for the emotional health of Ukrainian children.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated the day of the week Zelenska visited the White House. It was Tuesday.

CNN exclusive: Dismissed Ukrainian prosecutor general denies collaborators worked in her office

Former Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said she accepts President Volodymyr Zelensky’s dismissal but denies any collaborators worked in her office.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson on Tuesday in Kyiv, Venediktova said “Here in my office we can’t have collaborators at all, because collaboration is it’s only people who worked in occupied territory. Here is not occupied territory.”

She said a top priority of her office was working on the problems of state treason and collaborators and her office had been very open about It.

When Venediktova was asked what the real justification was for her dismissal she said, “You know that my chair, it is political chair and I was 16th Ukrainian prosecutor during 30 years. It is realpolitik in Ukraine. This is my answer.” 

When pressed on the real reasons why Zelensky had decided to dismiss her, Venediktova made it clear she doesn’t want to debate it in public because Russia will exploit it. “President now, its chief of command. He understands his strategy and tactic. And he makes his decision with his views,” Venediktova said.

War in Ukraine could cause human trafficking to get worse in coming year, US secretary of state warns

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia’s war in Ukraine could cause human trafficking to get worse in the coming year by forcing people from their homes and exacerbating food insecurity around the globe.

In the introduction for the 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) released Tuesday, Blinken noted the annual report was being “released in the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

“We are deeply concerned about the risks of human trafficking faced by individuals internally displaced by the war, as well as those fleeing Ukraine, an estimated 90% of whom are women and children. The food insecurity and other broader effects of Russia’s war exacerbate trafficking risks around the globe,” he wrote in the report.

The report covers the period of April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022 — meaning it only encompassed the first month of the war in Ukraine. However, the report noted that the Russian government’s “full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 created significant vulnerabilities to trafficking for the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine.”

Russia was placed in the tier 3 category of the 2021 report – along with 21 other countries – for failing to meet the minimum standards to combat human trafficking and “not making significant efforts to do so.” It was also identified as one of 12 governments that have “governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces, or government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers” and one of 11 countries where the governments themselves were involved in trafficking.

Mykolaiv's mayor says number of missiles being fired daily on city exceeds capacity of air defenses

A university building damaged during a Russian missile attack in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on July 18.

The mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Sienkevych, said the number of missiles being fired at the southern city on a daily basis far exceeds what its air defenses can deal with.

Sienkevych said in a news conference Tuesday that “for several weeks, the city has been shelled every morning.”

“Therefore, it is better to leave the city to save (lives),” he added.

Russia has recently resorted to using S-300 missiles — which are normally anti-air weapons — against Mykolaiv.

He said there are 230,000 residents in the city — about half of the pre-war population. Most of those who remain are the elderly, he said.

Dismissed Ukrainian prosecutor general calls for unity in a farewell address to parliament

Dismissed Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova called for unity as she addressed the Ukrainian parliament for the last time on Tuesday.

“Did the President have [the right] to make such a submission? Yes, the President had the right to make such a decision. Therefore, I believe that today a soldier in a trench should not think about power and what is happening in power,” Venediktova told lawmakers. “We must be united like never before.”

“And I remind you once again: our people are being killed, both military and civilians, as well as children. This is a chance for future generations. And this is our joint task with you so that this chance is not wasted. And the time of victory came as soon as possible,” she added.

The now former prosecutor said she was “proud” of the prosecution service she was leaving behind and called on her successor to continue her work when it came to investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed by Russia.

“You should watch and follow how all these scoundrels who raped, killed, actually shoot at civilian infrastructure, we have children killed, so that they are brought to justice,” she said. “We did everything to make it happen. We have mobile teams that work on the ground, made up of various experts, and we have a proven methodology.”

“It is very important to move these directions,” she concluded.

Putin arrives in Iran for talks with Raisi and Erdogan

Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves his presidential plane during the welcoming ceremony at the airport, on July 19, in Tehran, Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has landed in Tehran where he will hold talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to Russian state TV live pictures.

During his trip, Putin will discuss the issue of grain exports from Ukrainian ports and is expected to sign a joint statement with Raisi and Erdogan, according to the Kremlin.

Putin and his counterparts are also expected to discuss humanitarian aid to Syria.

Putin’s visit to Iran is his first trip outside the former USSR territory since the beginning of the invasion to Ukraine, second foreign trip in total. 

Death toll from Russian cruise missile attack in Vinnytsia rises to 25

Flowers and toys at the site of a lethal Russian cruise missile strike in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on July 15.

The death toll from a Russian cruise missile strike on Vinnystia last Thursday has risen to 25.

“Unfortunately, this night Natalia Falshtynska, a neurologist, who worked at the ‘Neuromed’ clinic, which was in the epicenter of the explosion, has died,” the head of the Vinnytsia region military administration, Serhii Borzov, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday.

Falshtynska was treating patients at the clinic when the missile struck. She leaves behind three children.

At least 54 people injured in the strike remain hospitalized.

“Eight of them are severely wounded, including a 20-year-old girl in critical condition, who has burns in 98% of her body,” Borzov said. “Four patients with severe burns were transported to the Lviv burn center clinic.”

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

Russian attacks are continuing in eastern Ukraine and picking up in the south, while Vladimir Putin is set for his first visit outside countries making up the former Soviet Union since Moscow launched its invasion.

Here are the key developments:

  • Battle for Donbas: Russian forces are making renewed efforts to break through Ukrainian defenses in the northeastern Kharkiv region as they try to resume their offensive toward the city of Sloviansk in the neighboring Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian military.
  • Ukraine beats back attacks: Several attacks on the town of Avdiivka have been rebuffed, according to Ukraine’s military. The head of the town’s military administration said Russia had suffered dozens of losses, and US HIMARS systems given to Ukraine are proving effective. Troops have also defended the village of Spirne and withstood assaults south of the city of Bakhmut, the military says. 
  • South Ukraine hit by strikes: The Ukrainian military has said missile strikes and attacks with rocket systems have picked up in southern Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the war in Donbas. Ukraine’s military said six people were injured during an attack on a village in the Odesa region, and the city of Mykolaiv also came under attack again on Monday evening.
  • Top Ukrainian officials sacked: Lawmakers in Ukraine’s parliament have approved President Volodymyr Zelensky’s move to dismiss the country’s prosecutor general and the head of the country’s powerful SBU security service, days after they were suspended for supposedly failing to root out Russian collaborators in their offices.
  • Putin visits Iran: Russian President Vladimir Putin will on Tuesday make just his second international trip since his invasion of Ukraine in February — and his first outside the boundaries of the former Soviet Union during this period. Putin is visiting Iran, where he will meet with Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi.
  • NATO threat and grain crisis: His visit comes amid Ukrainian claims that more than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to the Russian blockade of various Black Sea ports. Erdogan on Monday also renewed his threat to “freeze the process” of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland after conditionally agreeing to green light their bid in June.
  • Nuclear plant incident: A number of people died and at least nine Russian soldiers were injured in an unexplained incident on Monday at a nuclear power plant in central Ukraine, the mayor of the city of Enerhodar said. There has been no word yet from the Russian side on what happened.
  • Washington visit: Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday as part of her high-profile trip to the United States, where she will address members of Congress and meet US first lady Jill Biden. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken emphasized the US’ “commitment to support Ukraine’s victory.”

Dismissed Ukrainian security chief acknowledges failures and touts achievements in farewell statement

The dismissed former head of Ukraine’s SBU security service has acknowledged there were some “failures” during his three-year tenure leading the organization, but also touted his successes in a farewell statement released on Tuesday.

Among the highlights of his time as head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov highlighted the arrest of Viktor Medvedchuk, an ally and personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Have there ever been more extensive and massive exposures of enemy agents in various government agencies than in recent years?” Bakanov said in the statement published on the SBU’s website.

“Who exactly systematically took up pro-Russian parties and began to oppose enemy propaganda? When did property and important infrastructure objects, which various dealers seized earlier, begin to be returned to state ownership? This list can be continued.”

He also credited the SBU for helping to stop Russia’s early assault on Kyiv.

“Let me remind you that the enemy wanted to take Kyiv and the country in three days,” he explained. “But at this most critical moment, the enemy agents did not work - the SBU had built a clear system for their neutralization in advance.”

Bakanov went on to acknowledge that there were failures, but said that it’s difficult to change a decades-long system in a few years.

The former head thanked SBU’s staff for their work, the people of Ukraine for their trust and wished the incoming security chief a successful term. He refrained from commenting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to dismiss him, and instead called for unity as the country continues to fight back a Russian invasion. 

“Now, when the most loyal sons and daughters of Ukraine die every day, when Russian missiles kill our children and burn Ukrainian bread, we should not forget about unity. And our strength in it,” he said. “We must jointly and confidently move towards our only goal —  victory over the enemy.”

At least 1 civilian killed in missile attack on Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk

A Russian missile has hit a central part of the city of Kramatorsk, killing at least one person, according to officials in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

“We currently know about at least one dead civilian,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration. “Fires broke out in the residential block that was at the epicenter of the impact.”

Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko confirmed there were casualties.

Social media video from the scene shows fire bellowing out of a five-story apartment block and what appears to be one body covered in a blanket.

Ukrainian parliament votes to fire prosecutor general and security chief

Lawmakers in the Ukrainian parliament have voted to dismiss the country’s prosecutor general and the head of the country’s powerful SBU security service, days after they were suspended for supposedly failing to root out Russian collaborators in their offices.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had put forward resolutions to parliament for their dismissal.

The former Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, and ex-SBU head Ivan Bakanov, had been told to “clean these two departments of collaborators and state traitors,” the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andrii Smyrnov, told Ukrainian television on Monday.

“However, in the sixth month of the war, we continue to find … packs of these people, in each of these departments,” Smyrnov said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Zelensky fired several other high-ranking officials from the SBU.

Among those sacked was the deputy head of the SBU, Volodymyr Horbenko.

Zelensky also sacked the heads of the regional offices in Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Sumy, Zakarpattia and Zhytomyr.

Russia ramping up strikes on southern Ukraine

A man stands in front of a crater following a Russian airstrike in a village in the Odesa region, Ukraine, on July 19.

The Ukrainian military has said missile strikes and attacks with rocket systems have picked up in southern Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the war in Donbas.

Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s Operational Command South, said that six Russian Kalibr missiles had hit a village in Odesa region, striking residential buildings close to a school and a cultural center. Six people were injured.

In the neighboring Kherson region, she said, the Ukrainian counteroffensive was taking place in “a certain silence and secrecy. Each of our achievements, which is worth announcing, we bring to the public.”

“The occupiers are gradually releasing people in the direction of Zaporizhzhia,” she said.

Operational Command South also said that a fuel depot in the town of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk region had been hit on Monday night, as had the town’s river port, during a barrage of fire from Russian rocket systems.

It said the city of Mykolaiv also came under attack again on Monday evening.

Ukrainian troops rebuff Russian attacks on Donetsk town, official says

Russian forces have attempted several assaults on the town of Avdiivka in the last few days but Ukrainian units have held their positions, the head of the local military has said.

Avdiivka, just north of the city of Donetsk, has been bombarded frequently for three months.

“For a few days in a row the enemy is trying to conduct (an) assault in our Avdiivka direction. But all their attempts are unsuccessful,” Vitalii Barabash said, adding that the situation in the region was stable but difficult.

Russian claims to have taken settlements in the area were “fake,” he added.

“A few days ago they conducted very serious assault actions in this direction and as stated by General Staff, they had some success, but it didn’t last for long, as in the evening our positions were won back.”

Barabash said Russian troops lost four tanks, four other vehicles and around 40 Russian troops were killed. He added that four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and around 30 wounded. CNN cannot independently verify losses of either side in the conflict. 

He added that US HIMARS systems and M777 howitzers were making a difference in the conflict. “They are working on the front line, we can hear them, we see the positive impact of their work.”

But he cautioned that Russian-backed forces have built up substantial amounts of munitions over the past eight years in the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.

“It will take some time until they run out of it,” Barabash said.

Putin to make rare international trip as he visits Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin will on Tuesday make just his second international trip since his invasion of Ukraine in February — and his first outside the boundaries of the former Soviet Union during this period.

Putin is visiting Iran, where he will meet with Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi.

It comes amid Ukrainian claims that more than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to the Russian blockade of various Black Sea ports. Putin and Erdogan are set to discuss the issue of exporting grain from Ukrainian ports, the Kremlin said ahead of the trip, according to state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS.

“The work is very active. You know that on July 13, the first four-party meeting on grain was held in Istanbul with the participation of representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN. We are ready to continue work on this track, this work will be continued,” aide to the Russian President, Yury Ushakov, said at a briefing as quoted by RIA.

Meanwhile, Putin’s relationship with Iran has alerted Western officials as he prepares to ramp up ground offensives in eastern Ukraine following his troops’ capture of the Luhansk region.

Recently declassified US intelligence indicates that Iran is expected to supply Russia with “hundreds” of drones — including weapons-capable drones — for use in the war in Ukraine, with Iran preparing to begin training Russian forces on how to operate them as early as late July, according to White House officials.

“Russia turning to Iran for the help speaks volumes about the degree to which both nations, for their actions into different areas of the world, have been increasingly isolated by the international community,” the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told CNN last week.

Putin is set to hold bi-lateral talks with both leaders later on Tuesday.

Ukrainians say multiple Russian assaults into Donetsk have been resisted

Ukrainian service members fire a shell from a towed howitzer FH-70 at a front line in the Donbas region, Ukraine, on July 18.

Russian forces are making renewed efforts to break through Ukrainian defenses in the northeastern Kharkiv region as they try to resume their offensive toward the city of Sloviansk in the neighboring Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian military.

Following an airstrike, Russian forces tried to attack the village of Husarivka about 30 kilometers northwest of Sloviansk but the Ukrainian military said they “answered with heavy fire and pushed the invaders back.”

Elsewhere, along the three-sided front in Donetsk, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said many areas had come under fire. The Russians had also carried out assaults near the village of Spirne, but “had no success and retreated,” it said.

Spirne is deep inside the pocket of territory in Donetsk that Ukrainian forces are defending and has been under almost constant attack since the Russians took the city of Lysychansk in neighboring Luhansk. 

Ukrainian troops had also repelled efforts by Russian forces to launch assaults south of the city of Bakhmut, the General Staff added.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said the Russians had “attacked from four directions, almost everywhere the attack has already been repulsed.”

Further south in the region of Dnipropetrovsk, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Civil Military Administration, said Russian forces had fired at Nikopol — located across the Dnipro River from Russian-held Enerhodar — and Kryvyi Rih districts.

“Up to 40 rockets were fired at Nikopol,” Reznichenko said, adding the city had come under fire for three consecutive nights.

It's 8:30 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukraine is now able to inflict “significant losses” on the Russians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday, as other Ukrainian officials claimed an influx of Western weapons is changing the battlefield.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Battlefield shift: The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the “timely arrival” of longer range artillery such as the US HIMARS system was helping to change the war. CNN has identified nearly 20 strikes far behind Russian lines so far this month — some of them causing large explosions and multiple detonations. In his nightly video address, President Zelensky said, “It is increasingly difficult for the Russian army to hold positions on the captured territory.”
  • Officials suspended: Zelensky has suspended two key figures in his government, questioning their leadership qualities and accusing many of their subordinates of treason and collaborating with Russia. The two high-ranking officials — Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and State Security Service (SBU) head Ivan Bakanov — are now subject to an investigation and have been temporarily replaced.
  • Frontline fighting: Ukrainian forces are resisting attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said. “The enemy continues offensive attempts in the direction of the cities of Bakhmut and Siversk” but is meeting pushback from Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian General Staff said. But the leadership of the Russian-backed separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) claimed its offensive was going to plan.
  • Nuclear plant incident: A number of people died and at least nine Russian soldiers were injured in an unexplained incident on Monday at a nuclear power plant in central Ukraine, the mayor of the city of Enerhodar said. There has been no word yet from the Russian side on what happened.
  • Washington visit: Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday as part of her high-profile trip to the United States, where she will address members of Congress and meet US first lady Jill Biden. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken emphasized the US’ “commitment to support Ukraine’s victory.”
  • NATO threat: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday renewed his threat to “freeze the process” of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland after conditionally agreeing to green light their bid in June. “I would like to remind you once again that we will freeze the process if they do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions,” Erdoğan said.
  • Putin’s tech vow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged Moscow faces “colossal” difficulties in accessing high-tech goods due to Western sanctions, but said it was impossible to cut off his country from the world economy. “It is clear that we cannot develop in isolation from the whole world. But we won’t,” he said. “In the modern world, it is impossible to … put up a huge fence. It’s just impossible!”

Russian missiles hit Odesa overnight, Ukrainian official says

Destruction in the Ukrainian city of Odesa on Tuesday following a Russian missile attack.

At least six people were injured, including a child, after Russian missiles struck the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official said Tuesday.

Serhiy Bratchuk spokesman of the Odesa military administration said in a Telegram post that the city was targeted by seven “Kalibr” cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea.

Six of the Russian missiles evaded Ukrainian air defenses and hit areas with a “civilian population,” Bratchuk said.

Three homes and at least two other buildings were destroyed in the attack, with damage reported to several other structures, he added.

Battle for the south: Ukrainian officials say a steady flow of Russian military equipment is moving westward from Mariupol toward other parts of southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are on the offensive. A convoy of up to 100 units of military equipment passed through Mariupol in the direction of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday, according to Ukrainian officials. Some independent analysts believe this is to support Russian forces in Kherson that have come under attack from Ukrainian long-range weapons.

To Russia, he's a traitor and right-wing extremist. In Ukraine, he's a Russian fighting his own country

On the outskirts of Kyiv, past endless rows of Soviet-style apartment blocks, there’s a sterile rehabilitation center filled with Ukrainian troops injured on the front lines.

There are patients with nerve damage, burns, breaks, even an amputated leg — and it seems almost everyone’s inked arms and legs are spotted with shrapnel wounds.

Stepan Kaplunov lies on a bed with a medieval-looking contraption moving his leg back and forth — both legs were broken in battle when a tank shell exploded next to him.

Sporting a shaved head, beard and a sleeve of tattoos, he looks like every other Ukrainian soldier in the room — except that Kaplunov is actually Russian. It’s the only citizenship he holds.

Born in Ivanovo, about 150 miles northeast of Moscow, he grew up in Russia’s far north and later joined the Russian military, serving a tour of duty in Syria. He showed us his identification papers to prove his Russian birth.

He described himself as an “opponent of the Russian government and the presidential regime,” and described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “tyrant who is pining to restore the USSR.”

Yet, Kaplunov says, he never felt compelled to act on his opposition, until 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine — seizing Crimea and part of the Donbas region.

It moved me,” he told CNN through a translator. “I’m not going to say that 100% of my motivation is exactly justice. There’s a predisposition in people, people who like adventure, risk taking. I had been a soldier before and wanted to apply my skills, and I had sympathy for Ukraine, I thought Ukraine was right and deserved to be helped.”

So, he crossed the border, and joined up with the Azov Battalion — then a ragtag militia of Ukraine’s most hardcore fighters, many of whom were ultra-nationalists, and white supremacists.

Read Kaplunov’s story here.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the State Department on Monday in Washington, DC.

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday as part of her high-profile trip to the United States, where she will address members of Congress.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken emphasized the US’ “commitment to support Ukraine’s victory” during his meeting with Zelenska.

Blinken and Zelenska also spoke about the immense and growing human costs of Russia’s invasion.

“The Secretary strongly condemned Russia’s brutal attacks, which continue to wound and kill innocent civilians and destroy homes, hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure — including a July 14 strike on Vinnytsya that killed three children,” Price said.
“The Secretary reiterated that the United States remains dedicated to helping the people of Ukraine recover and rebuild from the devastation inflicted on them by President Putin’s unjust war.”

Price said Blinken had reiterated that the US will continue to help Ukraine respond to the significant economic and humanitarian challenges it faces, including supporting Zelenska’s mental health initiative for citizens affected by the war.

On Tuesday, US first lady Jill Biden will host her Ukrainian counterpart at the White House, according to a release from the East Wing.

Biden and Zelenska first met in person in May, when the US first lady visited Ukraine.

The first ladies had been in communication prior to their one-hour closed meeting, during which Zelenska shared with Biden her concerns for the emotional health of Ukrainian children.

Ukrainian official reports fatalities and injured Russian soldiers in incident at nuclear power plant

A number of people died and at least nine Russian soldiers were injured in an unexplained incident on Monday at a nuclear power plant in central Ukraine, the mayor of the city of Enerhodar said.

Mayor Dmytro Orlov, who is not in the Russian-occupied city, said the Russian troops “were urgently delivered to the city hospital with injuries of varying severity. Some had been hospitalized and one was in intensive care.”

“There are also dead people, but we cannot give their exact numbers at the moment,” he said.

There has been no word from the Russian side on what happened. The Russians occupied Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant early in March.

Zelensky says influx of Western weapons is shifting battlefield balance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his nightly address on Monday.

Ukraine is now able to inflict “significant losses” on the Russians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as other Ukrainian officials said an influx of Western weapons is changing the battlefield.

In his daily video message Monday, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces are “able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers.”

“It is increasingly difficult for the Russian army to hold positions on the captured territory,” he said. “Step by step, we advance, disrupt the supply of the occupiers, and identify and neutralize collaborators.”

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the “timely arrival” of longer range artillery such as the US HIMARS system was helping to change the battlefield.

“We managed to stabilize the situation. It is complex, intense, but completely controlled. An important factor contributing to our retention of defensive lines and positions is the timely arrival of M142 HIMARS, which deliver surgical strikes on enemy control posts, ammunition and fuel storage depots,” Zaluzhniy said.

CNN has identified nearly 20 strikes far behind Russian lines, in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, so far this month — some of them causing large explosions and multiple detonations.

Ukrainian service members prepare to shoot from a towed howitzer FH-70 at a front line in the Donbas Region, Ukraine, on July 18.

Zaluzhniy said he had thanked Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States, for the help of the US and its allies “in the struggle for freedom.”

Separately, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, told Ukrainian television that “today, we really have a completely different situation than it was a month ago. Now, thanks to the fact that we receive enough weapons from our partners, we have established a certain parity in certain positions.”

Danilov said Ukraine would like more weapons in future to tip the balance in its favor “so that we have as many capabilities as possible to end this war as soon as possible.”

Speaking about the situation in Donbas, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Monday that “Western weapons work not at 100% but at 200% because [Russian] warehouses are blown up. Command posts are also blown up. “

Ukrainian forces claim success in defense of cities in Donetsk

People stand in front of a destroyed market after a Russian missile strike in the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on July 16.

Ukrainian forces are resisting attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said Monday.

“The enemy continues offensive attempts in the direction of the cities of Bakhmut and Siversk” but is meeting pushback from Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian General Staff said.

At the same time, Russians are intensifying hostilities toward the town of Avdiivka, trying to improve their “tactical position,” but they were unsuccessful and had withdrawn, the General Staff added.

Avdiivka is immediately north of the city of Donetsk and remains in Ukrainian hands despite months of Russian bombardment. 

However, the leadership of the Russian-backed separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) claimed its offensive was going to plan.

Preparations are underway “to carry out the tasks planned for the liberation of the republic’s territory. The same thing is happening in Avdiivka and in the Horlivka area,” DPR militia spokesman Eduard Basurin said.

The goal of DPR forces was to surround Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut and ensure that territory held by the DPR is beyond the range of Ukrainian artillery, Basurin said.

Advances by DPR forces along with Russian units and the separatist Luhansk People’s militia would “”make it possible to force the enemy to retreat deep into the Ukraine territory, thereby securing both Donetsk and Yasynуvata and Makiivka from shelling,” he added.

Zelensky suspends top officials over staffers' "collaboration" with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has suspended two important figures in his government, questioning their leadership qualities and accusing many of their subordinates of treason and collaborating with Russia.

The two high-ranking officials — Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and State Security Service (SBU) head Ivan Bakanov, a long-time associate of the President — are now subject to an investigation and have been temporarily replaced.

“For a long enough time, we have been waiting for more concrete and sufficiently radical results from the leaders of these two departments, to clean these two departments of collaborators and state traitors,” the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andrii Smyrnov, told Ukrainian television on Monday.
“However, in the sixth month of the war, we continue to find … packs of these people, in each of these departments,” Smyrnov said.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, Zelensky appeared to suggest that the pair had been fired. “Today I made a decision to remove the Prosecutor General from office and to dismiss the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine,” Zelensky said, adding that many officials within both departments were suspected of treason.

But Smyrnov said Monday that the pair have been suspended to ensure they did not interfere with the investigations. Zelensky will decide whether or not to submit a motion to dismiss them to Ukraine’s Parliament, depending on the results of the probe.

Read more here.

Go Deeper

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Zelensky suspends top officials over staffers' 'collaboration' with Russia
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Go Deeper

Europe braces for a potential gas crisis as historic heatwave boosts demand
Zelensky suspends top officials over staffers' 'collaboration' with Russia
The 10-year-old checkers champion winning hearts and money for Ukraine's army
Ukrainian chef to launch London restaurant staffed by refugees