July 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Updated 2:38 a.m. ET, July 22, 2022
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1:14 a.m. ET, July 21, 2022

Donbas region has not been "lost yet" to Russian forces, top US general says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday, July 20.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday, July 20. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Donbas region of Ukraine has not been “lost yet” to Russian forces, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said during a news conference at the Pentagon after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group.

“The bottom line is the cost is very high, the gains are very low, there is a grinding war of attrition that is occurring in the Luhansk, Donbas region,” Milley said. “To answer your question about 'is the Donbas lost?' No, it's not lost yet. The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain,” he said Wednesday.

The changes in territory between Ukrainian forces and Russian forces in the Donbas region “are measured in literally hundreds of meters. Some days you might get a kilometer or two out of the Russians but not much more than that,” Milley added. 

After the 90-day campaign Russia has made to focus on conquering the Donbas region, Russian forces have gained "very, very little" ground, he told reporters. However, he noted that the war is very intense.

“It’s very intense, a lot of violence — tens of thousands of artillery rounds every 24 hour period, lots of casualties on both sides, lots of destruction of villages, and so on," he said.

11:04 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Russia's objectives in Ukraine now extend beyond eastern Donbas region, foreign minister says

From CNN's Radina Gigova, Sana Noor Haq and Jack Guy

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a news conference at the State Department on December 10, 2019 in Washington DC.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a news conference at the State Department on December 10, 2019 in Washington DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Russia's objectives in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern Donbas region into the country's south, a senior government minister has said.

As the war in Ukraine approaches its fifth month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state media that the "geography is different."

"It is far from being only DPR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People's Republic), it is also Kherson region, Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories, and this process continues, it continues steadily and persistently," Lavrov said during an interview with RIA Novosti, published Wednesday.

Lavrov's remarks signal the Kremlin's refocused approach to the war in Ukraine.

Just three months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted military efforts onto the country's east after failing to capture Kyiv.

When Russian forces followed through with Putin's order and captured the last city in Luhansk region still in Ukrainian hands — Lysychansk — earlier this month, their next move was anticipated to be in the neighboring region of Donetsk.

If Donetsk were to fall, Moscow would overrun the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which has harbored Russian-backed separatist factions since 2014.

However, recently supplied US HIMARS Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) worth $400 million have bolstered the Ukrainian military's ability to strike Russian targets — a significant factor that has caused fresh problems for Moscow.

Earlier this month, there were huge explosions in several occupied areas in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. The available evidence, from satellite imagery and Western analysts, is that the targeting has been highly effective.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian President's Chief of Staff, repeated calls for more HIMARS weapons on Ukrainian television on Wednesday.

"Direct threat": Lavrov said that as the West continues to supply Ukraine with more long-range weaponry, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Russia's geographical objectives in Ukraine would move further away from the current line.

"We cannot allow any weapons in the part of Ukraine controlled by Zelensky or whoever will replace him that pose a direct threat to our territory or the territory of the republics that declared independence or those that wish to determine their future independently," Lavrov said.
"The President was very clear, as you quoted: denazification and demilitarization in the sense that there should be no threat to our security, no military threat from Ukraine's territory, and this objective remains," Lavrov said.

Read more here.

11:13 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Ukraine's first lady asks for air defense systems in address to US Congress

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, July 20.
Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, July 20. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP/ Pool)

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska asked the United States to send air defense systems to her country in an address to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately the war is not over, the terror continues and I appeal to all of you, on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those people who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, and those who wait for their families to come back from the front. I’m asking for something I would never want to ask, I am asking for weapons,” she told the US Congress.

Zelenska added that like many Ukrainian mothers, she craves a sense of normality and wishes they could give their children hope for the future. She also thanked the United States for the aid the country had already sent to Ukraine.

“While Russia kills, America saves and you should know about it, we thank you for that,” Zelenska said.

More weapons: Earlier Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US will send four more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine in the next package of security assistance, which will be officially announced later this week.

8:20 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Europe plans to force countries to ration gas as Russia weaponizes energy

From CNN's Anna Cooban

The European Union has unveiled its emergency gas rationing plan — a day before it fears Russia could drastically cut the flow of natural gas to the continent.

The "Save Gas for a Safe Winter" plan announced Wednesday sets a target for the 27 member states to reduce their gas demand by 15% between August and March next year. That reduction is based on countries' average gas consumption during the same months over the previous five years.

The plan is focused on curtailing demand by businesses and in public buildings, rather than private homes. Among the proposed measures, the EU Commission is encouraging industry to switch to alternate energy sources — including coal where necessary — and to introduce auction systems that compensate companies for reducing their gas consumption.

The Commission is also hoping to pass a new law that would give it the power to force states to reduce their demand for gas "when there is a substantial risk of a severe gas shortage or an exceptionally high gas demand," it said in a press release.

By September, countries would have to update their national gas reduction plans to show how they will meet the new target.

The measures come just one day before officials worry Gazprom, Russia's state gas company, may refuse to re-start deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Nord Stream 1 has been shut over the past 10 days for routine maintenance.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that a total shut off of Russian gas was a "likely scenario."

"Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon," she said in a press conference announcing the new plan.

Read the full story here.