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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7:15 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Russian forces prepare to renew offensive in Donbas, as Ukraine attacks in the south

From CNN's Tim Lister, Julia Presniakova and Julia Kesaieva

The Ukrainian military has reported widespread fighting in both the northern and southern theaters of combat over the past 24 hours, with Ukrainian forces going on the offensive in the south and Russian artillery active in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russian forces tried to advance in Kharkiv region -- some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the city -- but were rebuffed.

However, they continued to shell districts close to Kharkiv city and other parts of the region, according to Ukraine's military.

Two men were killed in shelling of the town of Zolochiv near the Russian border, according to the regional military administration.

"In the Kharkiv region, seven people died and 34 were injured as a result of shelling by the occupiers," the administration said.

The General Staff said there had been no change in the front lines north of the city of Sloviansk. "All the actions of the enemy in the direction of these settlements were unsuccessful," it said.

But Russian shelling of the city from a distance continues, and one person was injured overnight when a residential building was struck, according to local authorities.

The General Staff said Russian forces were also trying to improve their tactical positions further south in the Donetsk region, with missile and rocket attacks in several areas. 

The Russian goal is to close in on those parts of the region still held by Ukrainian forces, around 45% of the region, from three directions.

But since the fall of Lysychansk in neighboring Luhansk, the front lines in Donetsk have changed little. 

In the south: Meanwhile, in southern Ukraine, Russian forces are largely on the defensive as Ukrainian forces try to make advances into Kherson region.

The General Staff said Tuesday that "the enemy is concentrating its efforts on holding the occupied positions and preventing the offensive of units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine."

The fighting in Kherson is partly responsible for widespread fires. The regional military administration reported that "at the beginning of July, the emergency workers recorded 75 fires on almost 300,000 hectares."

The Ukrainian military's Operational Command South said three Russian ammunition warehouses had been struck in parts of Mykolaiv under Russian control, and Ukrainian helicopters had attacked Russian positions in neighboring Kherson.

Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of Kherson civil military administration, said Tuesday that "our armed forces began to attack positions near Pravdyne, Oleksandrivka, and Snigurivka [in Kherson and Mykolaiv regions] with helicopters."

"We have already launched attacks along almost the entire front line," Khlan said.

Russian forces are now reinforcing their checkpoints "because the partisan movement is intensifying in the Kherson region.....the fortification with concrete hints that the occupiers are preparing for street battles," he added.

CNN is unable to verify Khlan's claims, but there has been an uptick in Ukrainian offensive actions in Kherson and Mykolaiv recently.

7:04 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Russians block exits from occupied Melitopol amid rising number of Ukrainian missile strikes

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva

Russian servicemen keep watch in the main square of Melitopol, Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, on June 14.
Russian servicemen keep watch in the main square of Melitopol, Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, on June 14. (Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Russia has blocked the exits from the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol for the second day in a row, according to city mayor Ivan Fedorov.

Russian forces were "so afraid of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that they have covered themselves with thousands of civilians as human shields," said Fedorov, who is not in Melitopol.

The whole city is held hostage," he added.

Fedorov said the Russians had closed the checkpoint at Vasylivka -- the main crossing point for civilian traffic trying to reach other parts of Ukraine.

On Monday, Fedorov said the Russians had blocked off the western part of Melitopol, stranding "tens of thousands of the citizens of the residential neighborhood."

Like parts of neighboring Kherson region, Melitopol has seen strikes by Ukrainian forces far behind the front lines in recent days.

The Russian-appointed head of the regional administration in Melitopol, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, said Tuesday on his Telegram channel that the Ukrainian government had "turned into ISIS: they blow up bridges, carry out attacks on public figures," an apparent reference to the reported assassination attempt against a pro-Russian local official, Andriy Siguta, whose car was blown up.

"This will not change anything," Balitskiy said. "The people of Zaporozhzhia region have already made their choice....The liberated part of Zaporizhzhia region will become a part of [the Russian Federation] through a referendum."

Fedorov has claimed that there were high casualties in a Ukrainian strike on a Russian garrison in Melitopol on Saturday night, saying the occupying forces "do not know where to put the bodies of the killed Russian soldiers."

"Doctors of forensic medical examination do not want to collaborate and do not issue death certificates because they do not want to cooperate with the Russians," Fedorov said.

Last week, Fedorov said there had been more than 30 strikes on a single military base outside the city.

CNN cannot confirm the extent of damage or casualties caused by the Ukrainian strikes against Russian forces in the area. 

6:10 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Putin to meet Iranian and Turkish leaders in Tehran next week

From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Tehran to hold talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 19, according to the Kremlin. 

“President Putin's trip to Tehran is being prepared. There will be a meeting of the heads of guarantor states of the Astana process, a process to promote Syrian regulation,” Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call Tuesday.

“Putin, [Raisi] and Erdogan will hold a meeting,” Peskov said, adding that, in addition to the trilateral meeting, there will also be a bilateral meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

The Chief of the Economic Commission of Iran’s Parliament, Mohammadreza Pour-Ebrahimi, told Iranian state news agency IRNA on Tuesday that Putin would visit Tehran next week to discuss expansion of economic ties between Iran and Russia.

Pour-Ebrahimi told IRNA that after the recent trip by Iran’s President to Russia, "a positive atmosphere has been created" regarding Iran-Russia economic cooperation.

2:36 a.m. ET, July 13, 2022

Russian officials say 7 people missing, huge destruction in Nova Kakhovka after Ukrainian strike

From CNN's Tim Lister, Josh Pennington and Julia Kesaieva

Seven people are missing following huge explosions overnight in the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka, according to authorities there.

The town, in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, was rocked by explosions Monday night — possibly the largest in a Russian-occupied part of Ukraine since the invasion began in late February.  At least six people were killed, Russian state news agency TASS reported earlier on Tuesday.

TASS quoted the head of the town's civil-military administration, Vladimir Leontiev, as saying the strike "led to an explosion in warehouses with mineral fertilizers. There are victims, the market, hospital and houses are damaged."

"The infrastructure of the city was very seriously damaged. More than 70 civilians were injured," Leontev said on state run channel Russia-24.
"We still have to figure out how large the scale of the disaster is caused by the HIMARS [US long-range artillery] delivered to Ukraine."
"Seven people are missing, they are most likely [lost] under the rubble. We don't have accurate information at the moment. I think that the number will increase later because the extent of the destruction is simply enormous," Leontev said

Leontev claimed the attack was "launched from afar on the civilian population. This is no military target. It's warehouses, stores, pharmacies, gas stations."

"Windows flew out within a radius of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles)," Leontev said. Early Tuesday, TASS said fires continued to burn in the warehouses.

Another official in the Russian-backed administration, Ekaterina Gubareva, said Ukraine fired using American High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

Ukraine's counteroffensive: Ukraine has begun targeting Russian command posts and ammunition dumps far behind the front lines in both Kherson and Donbas, using newly supplied Western weaponry that has a much greater range than its previous artillery systems.

The Ukrainian military has given few details about the strike.

"According to the results of firing missions by our missile and artillery units, the enemy lost 52 personnel, a 'Msta-B' howitzer, a mortar, seven units of armored and automotive vehicles, as well as a warehouse with ammunition in Nova Kakhovka, Kherson region," the Operational Command South said on Monday.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the name of the Russian state-run channel. It is Russia-24.

5:36 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Death toll from Russian strike on residential building in Donetsk rises to 34

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Firefighters remove a body as search and rescue operations continue after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk, Ukraine, on July 11.
Firefighters remove a body as search and rescue operations continue after Russian airstrikes hit residential areas in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk, Ukraine, on July 11. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The death toll has risen to more than 30 following a Russian strike on an apartment block in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine over the weekend, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.

The residential building in the town of Chasiv Yar was hit on Saturday evening as Russia once again ramped up its assault on cities and towns in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to take control over the entire Donbas area.

At least 34 people died and at least nine were injured in the attack, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region military administration, said on his official Telegram channel on Tuesday. One of those who died was a child, he added.

The rescue operation is ongoing and the Emergency Services have cleared about 70% of the rubble, Kyrylenko said. 

Some context: Chasiv Yar and other towns in Donetsk have been under heavy fire in recent days as Russian forces try to grind down Ukrainian resistance in the area and move further west towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

3:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

At least 6 killed in Kherson explosions, Russian state media reports

From CNN's Josh Pennington

An explosion in Russian-occupied Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, on Monday.
An explosion in Russian-occupied Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, on Monday. (Eyepress/Reuters)

At least six people were killed following a series of explosions on Monday in Nova Kakhovka in the Russian-occupied Kherson region of Ukraine, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Tuesday.

TASS, which cited the head of the military-civilian administration of Kakhovka district, Vladimir Leontiev, said the attack was carried out by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

According to Leontiev, six were killed, adding there were “dozens of wounded” with shrapnel wounds and cuts.

He also said many people were still trapped under rubble or in their homes, with those injured being sent to hospital.

Some context: Large explosions rocked Nova Kakhovka on Monday for the the second time in four days. The town is the site of a key hydroelectric dam and a link in the water supply to Crimea. Video posted on social media showed loud explosions and a huge ball of fire lighting up the night sky.

3:20 a.m. ET, July 12, 2022

Brazil's President Bolsonaro says deal to buy Russian diesel is "almost certain"

From CNN's Camilo Rocha in Sao Paulo and Kareem El Damanhoury in Atlanta

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro outside the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Monday.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro outside the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Monday. (Eraldo Peres/AP)

Brazil is planning on buying cheaper Russian diesel, according to President Jair Bolsonaro in a speech to his supporters in Brasilia on Monday.

"Now, it is almost certain there will be an agreement for us to buy diesel from Russia at a much cheaper price,” Bolsonaro told a crowd gathered in front of the presidential residency.

He added that the first shipments should be arriving in Brazil over the next two months and that the deal would bring prices down, state-run Agencia Brasil reported.

Over the past year, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Brazil, demanding the impeachment of Bolsonaro for what they called his mishandling of the pandemic, but also due to surging inflation and high fuel prices in the country.

Less than a month ago, the CEO of the state-owned oil company Petrobras Jose Mauro Coelho, who took office in April, stepped down, according to state-run news agency, Agencia Brasil. The move came after Bolsonaro’s government announced in May that they would change the company’s president.

Petrobras was “buying [diesel] much more expensively,” Bolsonaro told his supporters on Monday as he announced the deal with Russia.

Shipments of Russian fertilizers have also been arriving in Brazil despite Western sanctions on Moscow, the Brazilian agriculture ministry confirmed to CNN in June.

Brazilians will head to the polls in October to vote in the country’s presidential election, in which Bolsonaro is expected to face a tough race against former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

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.