July 11, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Christian Edwards, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2023
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7:34 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Kremlin says NATO summit in Vilnius demonstrates "anti-Russian" attitude

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center, poses for an official family photo with the participants of the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center, poses for an official family photo with the participants of the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11. Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

The content of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, demonstrates a strong "anti-Russian" attitude among representatives of NATO member countries, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday during a regular conference call with journalists.

“We are talking about a summit of an alliance that has a pronounced concentrated anti-Russian nature. Russia is perceived as an enemy, an adversary," Peskov said, adding that the location of the summit near Russia's borders is not as important as the conveyed hostile stance.

Peskov warned that Ukraine's potential accession to NATO would be "highly dangerous for European security," urging those who will be weighing the decision to consider the risks associated with such a step.

On Turkey and Sweden: Addressing Turkey’s approval of Sweden's entry into NATO, Peskov said Russia acknowledges Ankara's obligations as a member of the alliance and added that despite disagreements, there are areas of mutual interest between Russia and Turkey that are significant for both countries.

But he also noted that while Turkey can orient itself toward the West, there remains a reluctance from Europe to accept Turkey as a member. 

“If you call a spade a spade, no one wants to see Turkey in Europe,” Peskov told journalists, adding that Moscow intends to further develop the dialogue with Ankara.

7:20 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Ukraine should join NATO “as quickly as possible” once “conflict finishes,” says UK Defense Secretary

From CNN's Christian Edwards in London

Ukraine should join NATO “as quickly as possible,” but only after the Russian invasion “finishes,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told CNN on Tuesday from the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long asked to join the alliance, but many members have reservations about admitting Ukraine to its ranks while it is still at war. US President Joe Biden told CNN on Sunday that Ukraine is not yet ready to join NATO – a message that Wallace echoed in the interview with CNN.

“I totally agree with the United States that we can’t have a new member in the middle of a conflict. That would just import war into the alliance,” Wallace said.

Wallace said that NATO members should “work together to make sure that Russia fails in its… illegal invasion of Ukraine,” before permitting Ukraine to join the alliance. However, once the conflict finishes, Wallace said that NATO needed to be ready to accept Ukraine as a new member.

“Given we have an open-door policy, it’s important to state that we believe Ukraine does belong in NATO,” Wallace said, adding that Ukraine had taken some of the necessary “steps” to get there, including strengthening its military and eliminating corruption.

“Whenever this conflict finishes, we should be prepared as quickly as possible to bring Ukraine into NATO,” Wallace said.

The British Defense Secretary also said he was “delighted” by Turkey’s eleventh-hour decision to green-light Sweden’s bid to join NATO on the eve of the Vilnius summit, which he claimed to have been “working quite hard behind the scenes” with other Western officials “to make sure this happens.”

“It’s really important because first of all Russia will pick on countries that don’t manage to get in or are transitioning from non-membership to membership. That can leave them exposed, and Russia, we often see, try to use division,” he said.

“But it’s also really important for the integrity of the alliance. We have an open-door policy. We say if you meet certain conditions you can join.”

When asked why Turkey finally agreed to approve Sweden’s bid, having obstructed it for months, Wallace claimed that Sweden had taken measures to “deal with the threat” posed by Kurdish terror groups that Turkey felt Sweden had been soft on.

Wallace was asked if any other concessions had been made to Turkey to secure its approval – such as being provided with F16 fighter jets or even having its bid to join the EU accelerated. “I don’t know if there was anything extra,” Wallace said, adding that “Turkey’s a long way from EU membership.”

He claimed that “the international community talked to the Turkish at length” to persuade them that Sweden’s accession to Nato is “in everyone’s favor.”

“The only winner of this schism would be Putin,” Wallace said.
7:11 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Russian senior commander killed near Russian-occupied southern city, Ukrainian officials say 

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

A senior Russian commander, Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov, has been killed near the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said.

"It is reported that today, in the area of Berdiansk, Russian Lieutenant General Tsokov Oleg Yurievich was killed," said Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko. The mayor does not currently reside in Mariupol, which is under Russian control.

"In September 2022, he [Tsokov] was already injured, but he survived," Andriushchenko said, adding that now the Russian commander's death "is completed." 

Another Ukrainian official, Yurii Mysyagin, who is a member of Ukraine's parliament, also commented on the commander's death.

"In the South, in the area of occupied Berdiansk, on July 11, 2023, Russian Lieutenant General Oleg Yurievich Tsokov was killed," Mysyagin said. "The British 'Storm Shadow' [missile] came to visit accurately," he added without elaborating further. In May, the UK delivered the Storm Shadows, long-range cruise missiles with stealth capabilities that were jointly developed by the UK and France.

CNN is unable to independently verify the reports about Tsokov's death. 

The commander, who is among the individuals sanctioned by the United Kingdom over Russia's war in Ukraine, was with Russia's 144th Motorized Rifle Division back in 2022, according to Russian state news outlet TASS. 

7:27 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Why Sweden's bid to join NATO is historic

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speaks to the media as he arrives to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11.
Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speaks to the media as he arrives to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11. Filip Singer/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store underscored the historic nature of the NATO summit in Vilnius in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"For the first time in history the entire Nordic region will be inside NATO," he said Tuesday, following Turkey's agreement to back Sweden's bid to join the alliance.

"That has profound positive implications for the way we plan our security, our defense, and how we contribute positively to NATO," he told journalists upon arrival for the summit. 

How we got here: Norway was one of the 12 founding members of NATO in 1949, along with Iceland and Denmark.

More than 70 years later, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, neighboring Nordic countries Finland and Sweden also applied to join the alliance.

Finland became NATO's 31st member in April of this year — greatly expanding the alliance's border with Russia — but Sweden's membership bid was long frustrated by Turkey, which refused to green-light its application due to what it claimed was Sweden's soft stance on Kurdish terror groups and it permitting anti-Islamic protests.

The day before the Vilnius summit was set to start, Sweden's membership prospects were still uncertain. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday even tabled a bargain of sorts, claiming that Turkey would only "clear the way" for Sweden to join NATO if Brussels would "clear the way" for Turkey to join the European Union.

However, after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later Monday, Turkey finally agreed to permit Sweden's accession to the alliance.

Hungarian President Katalin Novák also said on Tuesday that she welcomes Turkey’s decision to support Sweden’s accession to NATO.

Hungary has also objected to the possibility of Sweden joining NATO in the past. Late last month, Hungary’s leading political party Fidesz told CNN that it expected Sweden to “allay its concerns” before the country voted on Sweden’s accession into NATO.

“In recent years, Swedish government figures have regularly insulted Hungarian voters and Hungary as a whole,” Fidesz’s press office told CNN. “It is objectionable to bring disputes between countries into NATO, so we expect those involved to allay the concerns of the Hungarian parliament, so that we can vote for their accession with the largest possible majority.”

CNN's Catherine Nicholls contributed reporting to this post.

6:49 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Biden: NATO leaders "agree on the language" regarding Ukraine's future membership in alliance

From CNN's Betsy Klein in Vilnius, Lithuania

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the media in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11.
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the media in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he agreed on proposed language for Ukraine’s future ability to join NATO, comments that came moments after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a blistering statement about that expected language, suggesting it did not go far enough toward his accession goals.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is among the top agenda items for NATO leaders along with discussing a future pathway for the war-torn country to join the alliance, which has prompted some division among leaders.

“We agree on the language that we proposed – and you proposed relative to the future of Ukraine being able to join NATO. We’re looking for a continued, united NATO,” Biden said in brief remarks alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the summit site. 

Zelensky said in a tweeted statement moments earlier that he has “received signals that certain wording is being discussed without Ukraine,” emphasizing that the “wording is about the invitation to become NATO member, not about Ukraine's membership.”

“It’s unprecedented and absurd when time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine's membership. While at the same time vague wording about ‘conditions’ is added even for inviting Ukraine. It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance,” Zelensky said, adding, “Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit.”

Zelensky will attend meetings with NATO leaders Wednesday in Vilnius and will meet one-on-one with Biden. 

Biden has emphasized that Ukraine is not ready to enter NATO, telling CNN in an exclusive interview last week that Russia’s war in Ukraine needs to end before the alliance can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks.

Stoltenberg earlier Tuesday said he is "confident" that the summit will send "a positive and strong message" on Ukraine's path to membership to the alliance.

When asked whether NATO will issue an invitation to Ukraine, Stoltenberg replied, "You will see the language in a few hours because we are now finalizing the communique."

6:47 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Zelensky: "Uncertainty" over Ukraine's NATO membership is motivation for Russia to "continue its terror"

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 8.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 8. Umit Bektas/Reuters

The "uncertainty" over Ukraine's NATO membership is motivation for Russia to "continue its terror," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a strongly worded statement Tuesday on his official Twitter account. 

"We value our allies. We value our shared security. And we always appreciate an open conversation. Ukraine will be represented at the NATO summit in Vilnius. Because it is about respect," Zelensky said in a lengthy message posted in English. 

"But Ukraine also deserves respect. Now, on the way to Vilnius, we received signals that certain wording is being discussed without Ukraine. And I would like to emphasize that this wording is about the invitation to become NATO member, not about Ukraine's membership," he said. 

Zelensky is set to attend meetings with NATO leaders Wednesday in Vilnius, Lithuania.

"It’s unprecedented and absurd when time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine's membership. While at the same time vague wording about 'conditions' is added even for inviting Ukraine," Zelensky said. 

"It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance. This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine's membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror," he added. 

"Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit," Zelensky said.

6:40 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

Germany pledges $770 million weapons package to Ukraine

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin and Zahid Mahmood in London

Germany has pledged to send Ukraine a weapons and military package worth €700 million ($769.9 million), according to the country's Ministry of Defense on Tuesday.

In the statement, the German defense ministry said some of the equipment they would be delivering include two patriot launchers and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles. In addition, they would also send 25 Leopard 1 A5 main battle tanks and five Bergepanzer 2 from industrial stocks or industrial refurbishment.

The statement added that Germany pledged 31 items in total from Bundeswehr stocks, including 20,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 5,000 rounds of 155mm smoke ammunition.

In addition, Germany will send a LUNA drone system and a mine interdiction package, the statement said.

On Tuesday, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement that the weapons package is designed to “support Ukraine in its defense against Russia.”

“With it, we are making an important contribution to strengthening Ukraine’s endurance capability,” Pistorius said.
6:04 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

White House says cluster munition provisions to Ukraine are "temporary"

From CNN’s Betsy Klein in Vilnius, Lithuania

The White House sought to make clear that US President Joe Biden’s controversial decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine was a “temporary” measure, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan telling reporters that it will be a matter of “months” as Ukraine bridges a munitions gap.

“The unitary rounds that we've been providing and that we've been getting other allies and partners to provide to Ukraine, those stockpiles are running low,” Sullivan said.

He continued, “We were not prepared to leave Ukraine defenseless, period. So for us, when it came down to the choice, our choice was, despite the difficulty, despite the challenges, despite the risks of civilian harm associated with cluster munitions, the risk to civilian harm of leaving Ukraine without the ammo it needed was, from our perspective, greater," Sullivan said.

Biden told CNN's Fareed Zaharia Friday that he took the "difficult decision" to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions because "the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition" needed to sustain its counteroffensive against Russia.

Sullivan added that the US views the provision of cluster munitions as “temporary” until more unitary rounds can be produced.

“We view that as temporary because many months ago, we began the intensive process of ramping up our unitary round production. Once it hits a level where unitary round production can satisfy Ukraine's needs, then there will be no need to continue giving cluster munitions,” he said, declining to provide a timeline due to questions of usage rates and the defense industrial base hitting its production marks.

Pressed again on timing, he said, “It's months, but the question is, how many?”

Why are cluster munitions controversial?: Cluster munitions are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets. The canisters break open at a prescribed height, depending upon the area of the intended target, and the bomblets inside are dispersed over that area.

Because bomblets fall over a wide area, they can endanger non-combatants.

Over 100 countries, including the UK, France and Germany, have outlawed the munitions under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but the US and Ukraine are not signatories to the ban.

5:35 a.m. ET, July 11, 2023

NATO has not seen any movement of Wagner fighters to Belarus, Stoltenberg says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London and Mariya Knight in Atlanta

Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of the circus building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24.
Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of the circus building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24. Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images

NATO has not seen any movement of Wagner mercenary fighters to Belarus, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

"So far we haven't seen any deployment or movement of the Wagner forces into Belarus, but of course we follow closely what is happening," Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius, adding that the alliance is "ready" to defend itself against any potential threat.

There has been widespread speculation about where the Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been since the aborted mutiny on June 23-24.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko brokered an agreement for him to move to Belarus, but said last week Prigozhin was not in the country

Last week, the 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.”

According to the Lithuanian President’s Communication Group, the three leaders also pointed out that “the relocation of the Russian Wagner Group mercenaries and their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to Belarus would generate risks for the political stability in Belarus and in consequence a potential loss of control over conventional and nuclear weapons.”

The Polish Defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak tweeted on Friday that over 1,000 soldiers and almost 200 units of equipment from the 12th and 17th Mechanized Brigades were starting to move to the east of the country."

"This is a demonstration of our readiness to respond to attempts at destabilization near the border of our country," he added.