July 7, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 3:32 a.m. ET, July 8, 2023
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11:51 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

Lack of unity on Sweden and Ukraine's NATO membership threatens the alliance, Zelensky says

From Svitlana Vlasova

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky makes a statement to the press after his meeting with Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, on July 7.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky makes a statement to the press after his meeting with Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, on July 7. Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters

The lack of unity among NATO members on Sweden and Ukraine’s accession is threatening the strength of the US-led alliance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says.

“We are expecting unity from the NATO Alliance. NATO’s strength is in unity," Zelensky said during a news conference in Bratislava, Slovakia.
"It is very important for the NATO states to know that they are protected. And through unity, they feel protected. And I think there is still a question about Sweden, a question whether or not to invite Ukraine, I think it lacks unity,” he added.. “And I think it threatens the strength of the NATO alliance.”

Ahead of the NATO summit next week in Vilnius, Lithuania, Zelensky said he is looking for "steps towards these positive results. This is very important for the safety of the whole world."

8:50 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia warn NATO about threat from Belarus 

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta 

Presidents of Lithuania, Poland and Latvia wrote a letter to the NATO Secretary General and the heads of the NATO alliance, warning them about the threat "posed by Russia’s aggressive actions and the evolving situation in Belarus."

"The cooperation between Russia and Belarus has deteriorated the security of the region and that of the entire Euro-Atlantic area,” Presidents Gitanas Nausėda, Andrzej Duda and Egils Levits stated, according to the Lithuanian President’s Communication Group.

They pointed to Russia's use of Belarusian territory in its war against Ukraine, and Moscow stationing tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, calling it "an escalatory move" and "a direct threat to the security of our community."

9:15 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

The US is expected to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine. Here's why that's controversial

From CNN's Brad Lendon

The remains of a rocket that carried cluster munitions found in a field in the countryside of Kherson region on April 28.
The remains of a rocket that carried cluster munitions found in a field in the countryside of Kherson region on April 28. Alice Martins/For The Washington Post/Getty Images

The United States is expected to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine on Friday that will include cluster munitions for the first time, defense officials have told CNN.

CNN first reported last week that US President Joe Biden’s administration was strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial weapons to Ukraine, whose forces have been struggling to make major gains in a weeks-long counteroffensive.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • What is a cluster munition? Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs, are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets, also known as submunitions. 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.
  • What type of cluster bomb is the US said to be giving to Ukraine? The US has a stockpile of cluster munitions known as DPICMs, or dual-purpose improved conventional munitions, that it no longer uses after phasing them out in 2016. The bomblets in a DPICM have shaped charges that, when striking a tank or armored vehicle, “create a metallic jet that perforates metallic armor,” according to an article on the US Army’s eArmor website.
  • Why are cluster munitions more controversial than other bombs? As the bomblets fall over a wide area, they can endanger non-combatants. In addition, somewhere between 10% to 40% of the munitions fail, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The unexploded munitions can then be detonated by civilian activity years or even decades later. The Cluster Munition Coalition, an activist group trying to get the weapons banned everywhere, says potentially deadly cluster submunitions still lie dormant in Laos and Vietnam 50 years after their use. In a statement Friday, Human Rights Watch said both Ukraine and Russia had killed civilians with their use of cluster munitions in the war so far.

Read more about the controversial weapons here.

10:24 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

CNN tours a disused military camp in Belarus that could be used by Wagner fighters if they arrive

From CNN's Matthew Chance, Katharina Krebs, Luis Graham-Yooll, and Mick Krever in Osipovichi, Belarus.

Maj. Gen. Leonid Kosinsky, left, speaks with CNN journalist Matthew Chance in the Belarusian army camp near Tsel village, Belarus, on July 7.
Maj. Gen. Leonid Kosinsky, left, speaks with CNN journalist Matthew Chance in the Belarusian army camp near Tsel village, Belarus, on July 7. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The Belarusian government on Friday showed CNN and other foreign media outlets a disused military camp about an hour outside Minsk that they say could be used to house Wagner fighters, should they come to the country.

The plan to host Wagner in Belarus is on hold, President Alexander Lukashenko told CNN during a news conference on Friday.

Neither Wagner mercenary fighters nor their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin are in Belarus, Lukashenko said, adding "it doesn’t depend on me, but on Russian authorities and Wagner PMC (private military company) itself whether they come to Belarus or not."

The foreign media outlets were given a brief tour on Friday of a tent city erected on a military base near Osipovichi.

“There is absolutely no connection between this camp and Wagner,” Maj. Gen. Leonid Kasinsky told CNN. “Yesterday the President said that if Yevgeny Prigozhin makes a decision together with his commanders to come to Belarus to set up, then this camp among other places could be offered to them.”

Major General Leonid Kasinsky shows a tent camp near the village of Tsel in the Asipovichy District, Belarus, on July 7.
Major General Leonid Kasinsky shows a tent camp near the village of Tsel in the Asipovichy District, Belarus, on July 7. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The camp can house around 5,000 personnel, he said, but is currently occupied by only around a dozen troops. The large canvas tents, baking in the hot summer sun, are currently outfitted with little more than rough and ready lumber bunks and no mattresses.

When asked whether he had been told to prepare the camp for Wagner, Kasinsky demurred. “We prepared this camp within for the training of (Belarusian) territorial defense and militia,” he said.

8:08 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

"There are still gaps to be bridged" for Sweden's accession to NATO, Stoltenberg says 

From CNN’s Alex Hardie

Some hurdles still remain to be overcome for Sweden to accede to NATO as Turkey remains opposed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.

A meeting on Thursday with senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland was "constructive," Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference in Brussels, adding, "we made progress."

Turkey – a strategically important NATO member due to its geographical location in both the Middle East and Europe, and the alliance’s second-largest military power – is blocking Sweden’s accession for a number of reasons

"I’m confident that we will continue to make progress but there are still gaps to be bridged," Stoltenberg said ahead of the NATO summit next week in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The alliance chief said those "gaps" are the reason he has invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to meet on Monday in Vilnius.

“That’s the way to overcome differences when they exist, as they now do, in the issue related to the final ratification of Swedish accession into NATO,” Stoltenberg added.  

7:44 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

NATO leaders expected to "reaffirm Ukraine will become a member," chief says

From CNN’s Alex Hardie

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a press conference held following a meeting attended by delegations from Turkiye, Finland, and Sweden, in Brussels, Belgium on July 6.
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a press conference held following a meeting attended by delegations from Turkiye, Finland, and Sweden, in Brussels, Belgium on July 6. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday he expects leaders at the US-led alliance's summit next week to "reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO."

Stoltenberg said he expects allied leaders will agree on a "package with three elements to bring Ukraine closer to NATO."

The first of those would be a "multi-year program of assistance to ensure full interoperability between the Ukrainian armed forces and NATO," he said at a news conference in Brussels.

Secondly, Stoltenberg said, "we will upgrade our political ties by establishing the NATO Ukraine Council."

Thirdly, "I expect our leaders will reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO and unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal," the alliance head continued.

The summit will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania.

7:41 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

Ukraine says it has advanced more than a kilometer around Bakhmut in past 24 hours

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Vasco Cotovio

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 57th Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorised Infantry Brigade fires a 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops at a position near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine on July 5.
A Ukrainian serviceman of the 57th Kost Hordiienko Separate Motorised Infantry Brigade fires a 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops at a position near the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine on July 5. Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Ukraine says its troops have moved forward by more than a kilometer (0.6 miles) around the embattled city of Bakhmut in the past 24 hours as it continues to apply pressure on Russian forces in the area. 

“The defense forces continue to hold the initiative there (in the Bakhmut direction and are) putting pressure on the enemy, conducting assault operations, and advancing on the northern and southern flanks,” the spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhii Cherevatyi told Ukrainian national broadcasters.

“In particular, over the past day, they have advanced more than a kilometer," he said.

Cherevatyi went on to say the fighting is fierce with Russian forces putting up some resistance. 

“They (the Russians) sometimes have small counterattacks, but in general, we have the initiative,” he added. “Most importantly, we are moving forward despite the fact that we have parity in forces and means -- we have no advantage over them.”

6:58 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

Supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine "not an option" for Germany

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, right, Swiss Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, center, and Austrian Federal Minister of Defence, Klaudia Tanner attend D-A-CH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) Defence Ministers meeting in Bern, Switzerland, on July 7.
German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, right, Swiss Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, center, and Austrian Federal Minister of Defence, Klaudia Tanner attend D-A-CH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) Defence Ministers meeting in Bern, Switzerland, on July 7. Alessandro Della Valle/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Germany will not send cluster munitions to Ukraine as it is a signatory to a convention banning the production and use of that type of weapon, the country's defence minister Boris Pistorius said Friday, following a meeting with his Austrian and Swiss counterparts in Bern.

"Germany has signed the convention, so it is no option for us," Pistorius told reporters, adding "those countries that have not signed the convention -- China, Russia, Ukraine and the US -- it is not up to me to comment on their actions."

The United States is expected to announce a new military aid package to Ukraine on Friday that will include cluster munitions for the first time, defense officials told CNN.

CNN first reported last week that the Biden administration was strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial weapons to Ukraine, as the Ukrainians have struggled to make major gains in their weeks’ old counteroffensive and amid concerns about ammunition shortages.

6:20 a.m. ET, July 7, 2023

Czech Republic to help Ukraine with F-16 pilot training

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasova and Zahid Mahmood

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala visit the Velvet Revolution Memorial in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 7.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala visit the Velvet Revolution Memorial in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 7. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

The Czech Republic will provide Ukraine with combat helicopters and assist Kyiv with the training of F-16 fighter jet pilots, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Friday.

“The Czech Republic will help with the training of pilots including pilots for F-16 and we will supply Ukraine with F-16 flight simulators so that the training can happen not just in the West but in Ukraine as well,” Fiala said speaking at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky in Prague.

Fiala also said the Czech Republic have already sent 676 pieces of heavy equipment and over 4 million pieces of medium and large calibre ammunition to Ukraine.

“This means that every day, since the first day of the war, about 10,000 pieces of ammunition and at least one tank, rocket launcher, howitzer and so on have been leaving the Czech Republic for Ukraine,” he said.

When asked about Russia’s frozen assets in the West, Fiala said the Czech Republic and European allies were discussing ways in which the frozen assets could be used to help fund Ukraine’s post war reconstruction.

"This is not a simple topic, either from a legal or other points of view, but intensive negotiations are taking place precisely so that we can also use these frozen assets to help Ukraine," Fiala said.