July 12, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 2:58 a.m. ET, July 13, 2022
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9:14 p.m. ET, July 11, 2022

Explosions rock Russian-occupied town in southern Ukraine for second time in 4 days, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

A series of large explosions rocked the town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region of Ukraine on Monday night. The town, like much of Kherson, is under Russian occupation. 

It's the second major explosion in four days in the town, the site of an important hydroelectric dam and a link in the water supply to Crimea through the North Crimea canal.

Video posted on social media showed loud explosions and a huge ball of fire lighting up the night sky.

Serhiy Khlan, a Ukrainian official who is a member of Kherson regional council, said on Facebook: "In Nova Kakhovka minus one Russian ammo depot. They brought, brought, stockpiled, stockpiled and now have fireworks at night."

Khlan, who is not in Kherson, warned residents of Nova Kakhovka not to venture outdoors. 

"Please take care of yourself and do not come close to the place of the detonation," he said.

The Russian state news agency TASS made no reference to an ammunition dump exploding but late Wednesday reported: "The Armed Forces of Ukraine attacked the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station in the Kherson region, a source said."

But the deputy head of the Russian backed military-civilian administration in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said Ukrainian missiles did not hit the hydroelectric power station.

TASS later said warehouses holding potassium nitrate had exploded. Potassium nitrate is a highly combustible substance used as an ingredient in fertilizer and was the cause of the Beirut explosion two years ago.

CNN cannot confirm the cause of the explosions or what was destroyed.

"There are victims, the market, hospital and houses were damaged," TASS reported, quoting the Russian-backed civil-military administration in Kherson.

Ukrainian forces have stepped up attacks using missiles and long-range artillery against Russian command posts and munitions sites in the past week.

9:01 p.m. ET, July 11, 2022

White House says Iran is preparing to supply Russia with weapons-capable drones

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Maegan Vazquez

Newly 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.

"Information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred (unmanned aerial vehicles), including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House press briefing on Monday.
"Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training session slated in as soon as early July. It's unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already."

A spokesperson at the White House National Security Council told CNN that the information Sullivan described to reporters was based on recently declassified intelligence.

Sullivan argued that news of Iran supplying the drones is evidence that Russia's attacks against Ukraine in recent weeks are coming at the "severe" cost of depleting of its own weapons.

News of Iran's supply of drones to Russia came a day before President Joe Biden's first trip to the Middle East since taking office, with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran's actions in the region and its nuclear program are expected to be a major topic of discussion.

Read more here.

4:34 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Turkish President Erdogan holds separate calls with Putin and Zelensky on grain exports

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce, Anna Chernova and Chris Liakos

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the consultation and evaluation meeting of past mayors in Ankara, Turkey, on July 6.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the consultation and evaluation meeting of past mayors in Ankara, Turkey, on July 6. (Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine and grain shipments over the phone Monday.

The Kremlin said the two leaders exchanged views on “coordinating efforts to ensure the safety of navigation in the Black Sea and grain exports to world markets.”

According to the Turkish presidency readout, Erdogan noted “it was time for the United Nations to take action for the plan regarding the formation of secure corridors via the Black Sea.” 

The Kremlin readout added that the two leaders paid “particular attention” in “further intensifying economic cooperation” on trade and energy.

The Turkish presidency readout made no mention of strengthening economic cooperation between Turkey and Russia and said that Turkey stands ready “to provide all kinds of support for the revival of the negotiation process.”

Zelensky call: The Turkish president also held a call with his Ukrainian counterpart Monday. Erdogan told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Turkey wants peace in Ukraine and is actively working on a United Nations plan to export Ukrainian grain to world markets, according to a readout by the Turkish presidency.

“Held talks with 🇹🇷 President @RTErdogan. Thanked for condolences over new civilian victims of the Russian aggression. We appreciate 🇹🇷 support. Discussed the importance of unblocking 🇺🇦 ports and resuming grain exports,” Zelensky tweeted following the call.

According to Ukrainian officials, more than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to the Russian blockade of various Black Sea ports.

8:58 p.m. ET, July 11, 2022

Ukraine claims "precise hit" on Russian military unit in occupied Kherson

From CNN's Tim Lister, Maria Kostenko, Julia Presniakova and Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukraine's campaign to attack Russian supply lines and ammunition storage sites far behind the front lines continued this weekend, with Ukrainian officials reporting another long-range strike against Russian military positions in the southern region of Kherson. 

Serhiy Khlan, a member of Kherson's regional council, said Sunday there had been "a precise hit" at the military unit of the occupiers on Pestelia Street in Kherson city.

The unit was hit twice on Sunday morning, Khlan claimed.

Images and video geolocated to Kherson showed a thick column of gray smoke rising into the air Sunday morning.

"Eyewitnesses report the cries of Russians under the rubble. The occupiers shoot in the air when someone tries to get closer," Khlan told Ukrainian television.
"Thanks to modern Western weapons, Russian air defenses cannot intercept artillery [fire]."

Khlan also spoke about the difficulty for civilians trying to leave the region.

"Regarding evacuation from Kherson region, there is no humanitarian corridor. People leave at their own risk through Vasylivka towards Zaporizhzhia; the queue of cars can last one to two weeks," Khlan said.

"The occupiers demand money for departure or even take away personal belongings from our people. In case of leaving towards the Crimea, there are risks of being taken to the filtration camps."

There is anecdotal evidence that hundreds of Kherson residents have crossed into Crimea and then traveled through Russia or Turkey.

What happened? Sunday's attack follows a series of explosions near the airport in Kherson on Saturday, and at what appears to have been an ammunition storage site in the Donetsk region. 

The official Russian news agency TASS has reported four explosions in the sky over Kherson city caused by what it said were Russian air defense systems.

TASS said its correspondent in Kherson reported smoke on Perekopskaya Street in the middle of the city. 

"Leave Kherson": Earlier on Friday, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, called on residents to evacuate the Kherson region.

"I urge you to evacuate as soon as possible, by all means. Don't wait," Vereshchuk said.
"People must look for an opportunity to leave because our Armed Forces will de-occupy. There will be huge battles," she said.

She warned residents they could be used as human shields by the Russians and staying in the occupied districts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions is dangerous.

Alexander Khinshtein, a deputy in the Russian parliament, denied Ukraine's claims of a hit.

"Ukrainian sources happily replicate a fake about a missile attack on the base of the Russian guard in Kherson," he said on Telegram. "The missile hit a 4-story building, where one of the support units of the Russian Guard used to be. A day before, it was relocated to another location."

Images geolocated by CNN show that the badly damaged building is in the middle of Kherson, but it's unclear whether it was occupied at the time it was struck.

Ukrainian military intelligence claimed Monday to have intercepted a call between Russian soldiers, in which one said that Ukrainian forces had "hit the most important command. They hit f****ng hard." The soldier said 12 had been killed in the strike.

CNN is unable to verify the authenticity of the call.

8:54 p.m. ET, July 11, 2022

Russia expands simplified citizenship application for Ukrainians

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday that would simplify the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for all Ukrainian citizens. 

Previous versions of the decree applied to residents in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), as well as the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine.

The decree establishes that "citizens of Ukraine, Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) or Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and people without citizenship permanently living in DPR, LPR or Ukraine […] are entitled to appeal for admission to citizenship of the Russian Federation via simplified procedure in accordance with the […] law ‘On citizenship of the Russian Federation'," the decree says.

What the simplified process allows: Individuals can apply for Russian citizenship without fulfilling several requirements, including living in Russia for five years, having a source of income and undergoing a Russian language examination.

The decree also says that "military service, service in national security or law enforcement agencies of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic cannot be considered a reason for denying Russian citizenship."

Simplified Russian citizenship applications were initially introduced by decree in 2019 for DPR and LPR residents. In May of this year, the decree was expanded to the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. And on Monday, the decree was expanded to all citizens of Ukraine who wish to obtain Russian citizenship.