July 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Brad Lendon, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, July 21, 2023
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8:05 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Ukraine pleads for better air defenses for southern regions amid Odesa bombardment

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Emergency service personnel work at the site of a destroyed building after a Russian attack in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20.
Emergency service personnel work at the site of a destroyed building after a Russian attack in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20. Libkos/AP

Ukraine’s Air Force has asked for better air defense systems for its southern regions, after reportedly destroying just five of 19 Russian cruise missiles fired at the country overnight.

What could be shot down is being shot down,” Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force Command of Urkaine’s Armed Forces said on national television.

“Of course, we would like to shoot down more.”

Russia’s third consecutive night of attacks on Odesa has left one person dead. At least 19 were also injured by an overnight Russian attack on Mykolaiv.

Ihnat said that it is “no possibility” to shoot down Russia’s Oniks and Kh-22 missiles with Ukraine’s current air defense systems because of how fast they fly.

“We need means, we need to reinforce the southern regions, our port cities, with means, in particular, against ballistic missiles,” he said. “Systems such as Patriot or SAMP-T could provide protection for this region.”

The Oniks missile, he said, “is designed to destroy watercraft, ships. It flies at a speed of more than 3,000 km per hour... When entering the target, the missile can fly at an altitude of 10-15 meters above the water to destroy the ship, which makes it difficult to detect and, accordingly, shoot down by the air defense means."

6:45 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

One dead in Odesa as Ukraine downs just a quarter of Russian cruise missiles fired overnight

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mia Alberti

Firefighters work at a site of an administrative building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20.
Firefighters work at a site of an administrative building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20. State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters

Russia’s third consecutive night of attacks on Odesa killed one person, as Ukraine’s military only managed to shoot down just over a quarter of Russian cruise missiles fired overnight.

Ukraine’s Air Force said that it had “destroyed” five of 19 cruise missiles fired at the country overnight. Just two of the five destroyed cruise missiles were in Odesa, according to Oleh Kiper, head of Odesa's regional military administration.

“As a result of the nighttime Russian attack, we have one dead in Odesa,” Kiper said on Telegram. “The victim was a security guard of a civilian building, born in 2002. Our sincere condolences to the family and friends.”

The Air Force also said it had destroyed 13 of 19 Shahed attack drones.

“Unfortunately, not all missiles were destroyed, including supersonic missiles such as the Kh-22 and Oniks, which are extremely difficult to destroy,” Kiper said in a separate update on Telegram.

“While attacking the ports of the grain deal, causing damage to the port infrastructure, the terrorists also hit civilian infrastructure that was not related to the ports. They destroyed an administrative building in the center of Odesa, where the blast wave damaged several other buildings, including residential ones. 4 local residents were injured, including 1 child.”

Rescuers work at a site of a building heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack in central Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20.
Rescuers work at a site of a building heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack in central Odesa, Ukraine, on July 20. Serhii Smolientsev/Reuters

The mayor of Odesa, Hennadii Trukhanov, posted a video to Facebook on Thursday standing in the destruction caused by a Russian munition near a nursery.

“Another terrorist attack by non-humans, creatures, on the peaceful city of Odesa,” Trukhanov says in the video. “Look at what they are doing. This is a nursery. There is a kindergarten nearby. Civilians live nearby. They destroyed everything. We are looking for a person under the rubble. A person was injured and taken to the hospital in a serious condition.”

“What can I say? There is nothing to say. Creatures, non-humans. I am holding back my emotions because they are overflowing. There will be an answer for this. They will answer for everything -- to humanity, to God," said Trukhanov.
6:23 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Putin will travel somewhere in Russia today, Kremlin says

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin will “make a regional trip today” to an unnamed location in the country, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a Thursday conference call.

“For obvious reasons, we do not announce regional trips and do not tell in advance about places of visit. We will be doing it during the day,” Peskov said.

It was confirmed Wednesday that Putin will not attend the BRICS summit hosted by Johannesburg, South Africa, in late August, halting months of speculation triggered by an arrest warrant issued against the Kremlin leader for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Read the full story here:

6:22 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

US will provide more air defense systems and attack drones in $1.3 billion Ukraine aid package, Pentagon says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 15.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gives a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 15. Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP/Getty Images

The US has committed to providing Ukraine with more air defense systems and attack drones in a $1.3 billion aid package announced Wednesday, according to the Department of Defense. 

The package includes four more National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), which are medium-range air defense batteries that have already helped Ukraine withstand ongoing Russian barrages of missiles and drones. It is the same system used to protect Washington, DC, and the area around the nation’s capital. 

The latest commitment will give Ukraine a total of 12 NASAMS from the United States. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last November that the NASAMS had a 100% success rate in intercepting Russian attacks. 

The latest package falls under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which is part of the long-term US commitment to provide aid to Ukraine. Unlike drawdown packages, which are pulled directly from Defense Department stocks and can be sent in relatively quickly, USAI packages are contracted with industry, a process which can take months or more. 

On Tuesday, following an international meeting of countries providing aid to Ukraine, Austin said, “Make no mistake: We are determined to support Ukraine's fight for freedom for as long as it takes.”

The package also includes Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade attack drones, as well as counter-drone equipment. 

The sizable Ukraine aid package comes during Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive, which has faced stiff Russian resistance and widespread minefields, which have slowed its progress. 

The US is also expected to announce a separate aid package of about $400 million that will include more ammunition for the NASAMS, according to two US officials, as well as ammo for Patriot missile defense systems and HIMARS rocket launchers. 

The package will also contain more artillery ammunition, which officials have warned is in short supply, especially with the possibility of a prolonged Ukrainian counteroffensive that will drain current stockpiles. 

In addition, the package includes anti-tank and anti-armor weapons such as Javelins and TOW missiles, the officials said.

The officials cautioned the package has not been finalized yet and could still change. It could be announced as early as this week, one of the officials said.

Notably, the package is not expected to include more of the controversial cluster munitions, the officials said, which the US provided for the first time in the previous drawdown package announced earlier this month. 

The Biden administration decided to provide cluster munitions, known officially as dual-purpose improves cluster munitions, in part to meet the Ukrainian need for more artillery ammunition as the US and other countries ramp up their ammo production.

8:31 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

"A barbarian attitude:" Russian attack on Odesa causing “destruction of grain storage," EU says

From CNN’s Alex Hardie

 

This picture shows a grain terminal in a sea port damaged during Russian missile and drone strikes, in Odesa region, Ukraine on July 19.
This picture shows a grain terminal in a sea port damaged during Russian missile and drone strikes, in Odesa region, Ukraine on July 19. Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry/Facebook/Reuters

Russian attacks in the Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa are causing large scale destruction of grain storage, the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has warned.  

Speaking to reporters ahead of an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Borrell described the attacks as “a barbarian attitude, which will be taken into consideration by the council today.”

“Not only they withdraw from the grain agreement in order to export grain from Ukraine, but they are burning the grain,” Borrell said. 
“What we already know is that this is going to create a big, a huge food crisis in the world,” he continued.

Borrell also told reporters that he had presented a plan “to ensure the financial support for Ukraine in the next years, which will amount to quite an important amount on money,” which he said he hoped ministers will support. 

Some context: Russia said Monday it was suspending its participation in a crucial deal that allowed the export of Ukrainian grain, raising fears over global food supplies.

Under the deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, Russia allowed ships to leave several Ukrainian ports in and around Odesa and travel through an agreed corridor to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait to reach global markets.

But with Odesa under attack by Russia for three consecutive days, grain exports are expected to stall.

3:53 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Ukraine says it blocked 18 out of 38 Russian air attacks overnight

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Mia Alberti 

A firefighter works at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on July 20.
A firefighter works at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on July 20. State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters

Russia launched 38 air attacks on southern Ukraine overnight into Thursday morning, including nearly two dozen cruise missiles and kamikaze drones combined, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Air Force.

Russian forces attacked “ports, piers, residential buildings and retail chains” in the southern cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv, it added.

Ukraine's air defense destroyed 18 of the projectiles, it said, including 13 Shahed drones, two sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles and three Iskander-K land-based cruise missiles, according to the statement.

The Ukrainian Air Force claimed Russian forces fired seven Oniks cruise missiles from the Bastion coastal missile system in Crimea, four Kh-22 air-launched cruise missiles from eight Tu-22M3 aircraft, three sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles “allegedly from a submarine” in the Black Sea and five Iskander-K land-launched cruise missiles from Crimea.

The Ukrainian Air Force also said Russia launched 19 Shahed-136/131 attack drones from Crimea and Kursk. 

Ukraine fires back:  The Ukrainian Air Force also said it carried out more than 20 air strikes on "objects, places of concentration of equipment and personnel of the Russian occupiers” in recent days, the statement said. 

6:18 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Belarusian forces to hold exercises with Wagner fighters near border with Poland

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Sharon Braithwaite

A fighter from Russian Wagner mercenary group and a Belarusian service member take part in a joint training at the Brest military range outside Brest, Belarus, in this still image from a video released on July 20.
A fighter from Russian Wagner mercenary group and a Belarusian service member take part in a joint training at the Brest military range outside Brest, Belarus, in this still image from a video released on July 20. Belarusian Defence Ministry/Reuters

Belarusian forces will hold exercises with Wagner fighters near its border with Poland, Belarus' Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. 

"The Armed Forces of Belarus continue joint training with the fighters of PMC 'Wagner,'" the ministry said, referring to the paramilitary company.

"During the week, units of the special operations forces together with representatives of the company will work out training and combat tasks at the Brestsky training ground."

The ministry didn't say when exactly the exercises would take place.

Some context: At the beginning of July, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko invited Wagner forces into Belarus to help train his country’s military. The invite came shortly after the failed armed insurrection by Wagner forces against Moscow, which Lukashenko was credited with helping diffuse. 

A video emerged on Wednesday that appears to show Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin greeting his fighters in Belarus, in what would be his first public appearance since he led an armed rebellion in Russia last month. CNN geolocated the video to a previously disused military base in Asipovichy, roughly 80 kilometers (49 miles) southeast of the capital Minsk.

8:32 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Administrative building and warehouses damaged in Odesa attack, Ukrainian military spokesperson says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Alex Stambaugh 

Natalia Humeniuk attends a briefing in Odesa, southern Ukraine on May 4.
Natalia Humeniuk attends a briefing in Odesa, southern Ukraine on May 4. Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images/File

Russia's attack on the southern port city of Odesa on Thursday damaged an administrative building and warehouses in the region, with a Ukrainian military spokesperson saying at least 20 missiles and drones targeted the city.

At least four people were injured in the blast at the administrative building in Odesa city center, said Natalia Humeniuk, head of the Joint Press Centre of the Defense Forces of Southern Ukraine.

"For the third night in a row, Russians have been attacking Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. These attacks are aimed in particular with the focus on port infrastructure," Humeniuk told parliamentary TV channel Rada. 

"The hits in the (Odesa) region are related to logistics facilities — warehouses. There is no information about the casualties there yet," Humeniuk said. 

Humeniuk claimed a submarine in the Black Sea, aircraft and Kh-22 missiles were involved in the attack. She said the total number of missiles and drones aimed at targets in southern Ukraine overnight was well over 20, but that final results are still being summarized. 

11:52 p.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea kills a teenager, Russian-backed leader says

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

The Russian-backed leader of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, claimed on Thursday that a Ukrainian drone hit an area in the occupied Crimea and killed a teenage girl.

Four administrative buildings were damaged in one of the settlements in the northwest of Crimea as a result of a drone strike from Ukraine, Aksyonov said in a post on Telegram.

"Unfortunately, there were casualties – a teenage girl died," Aksyonov added.

CNN has reached out for comment to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, which has yet to respond.