July 12, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023
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2:25 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Russian state TV appears to confirm death of Russian general in Ukraine 

From CNN's Josh Pennington

A popular Russian state television program has appeared to confirm the death of a Russian general in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have claimed that Oleg Tsokov, the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, was among a number of Russians killed in a Ukrainian missile strike early on Tuesday. The attack was targeted on a Russian headquarters in the occupied city of Berdiansk, Ukrainian officials said.

The host of the show Olga Skabeeva said on Wednesday's show, "It's been clarified for our TV audience, although there's been no official information from the Ministry of Defense, all the press has already reported it," adding that the deputy commander was killed.

Her guest, Andrey Gurulev, himself a former deputy commander of the Southern Military District and now a member of the Russian Parliament, said Tsokov was "a man who has seen troubles that few people could even dream of."

"He was severely wounded last year and barely pulled out," the guest said, adding that Tsokov chose to go back to fight even after being injured.

Some context: The Southern Military District has been heavily involved in the invasion since it began in February 2022. The Southern is one of four land districts into which the Russian armed forces are organized.

Independent analysts and CNN’s own tally indicate that Russia has lost about 10 generals in combat since the invasion began.

CNN's Tim Lister and Josh Pennington contributed reporting to this post.

1:51 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

NATO chief says burden of Ukraine war is well-shared between North American and European allies

From CNN's Melissa Bell and Chris Liakos in Vilnius, and Lauren Kent in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during an interview on Wednesday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during an interview on Wednesday. CNN

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the burden of the Ukraine war is well-shared between North American and European allies. 

When asked about US national security adviser Jake Sullivan's recent comments suggesting that Americans deserve some gratitude for the large amount of support given to Ukraine, Stoltenberg emphasized that all NATO allies have stepped up in terms of both economic and military support. 

"European allies and Canada have really also stepped up. They are providing support of tens of billions of US dollars. [There were] big new announcements just during this summit. So they provide a lot of military support, but also they have received millions of refugees and they are providing a lot of economic and humanitarian support," Stoltenberg told CNN's Melissa Bell on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. 

"So actually, the burden-sharing between North America and Europe is not so bad, especially if you look at the big picture, including also economic support on top of the military support."

Stoltenberg also said that new figures showed the biggest increase in defense spending for decades, across both Europe and Canada, which he called "a direct result" of the war in Ukraine.

"The reality is that NATO's more united now than for many, many years because we face the threat of the consequences of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "That has united the alliance. It has made us even more determined."

The secretary seneral also acknowledged the requests for additional military support made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"I fully understand that President Zelensky is asking for as much as possible and therefore also glad that he – actually at this summit – also welcomed the decisions we made on sustaining and stepping our support," Stoltenberg said. 

In addition to new packages of military support, Stoltenberg noted that NATO allies also used the summit in Vilnius to state that "Ukraine's future is in NATO."

1:22 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Biden says the defense of freedom is the "calling of our lifetime" while rebuking Russia over invasion

US President Joe Biden said that the defense of freedom is the "calling of our lifetime" while forcefully rebuking Russia's invasion of Ukraine during his speech Wednesday in Vilnius, Lithuania.

"Sovereignty, territorial integrity. These are two pillars of peaceful relations among nations. One country cannot be allowed to seize its neighbor's territory by force. Russia could end this war tomorrow by withdrawing its forces in Ukraine. Recognizing its international borders and ceasing its attacks — inhumane attacks ... by Russia on Ukraine," Biden said. "Unfortunately, Russia has shown, thus far, no interest in the diplomatic outcome."

Biden went on to praise the commitment shown by Lithuania in supporting Ukraine.

"Throughout this horrific war, the people of Lithuania together with our Baltic brethren have been among the most fierce champions of Ukraine's right to a future of its own choosing. One that is free," he said.
1:11 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Biden: "Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken"

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Vilnius University during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Vilnius University during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday. Yves Herman/Reuters

Speaking at the end of the two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed US support for Ukraine.

"We will not waiver. I mean that. Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for liberty and freedom today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes," he said Wednesday.
"The United States has built a coalition of more than 50 nations to make sure Ukraine defends itself, both now and is able to do it in the future as well," he added.

Biden remarked that despite nearly a year and a half of war, Ukraine remains free and independent. He also emphasized that everyone wants the war to end on just terms which withhold the basic principles of the United Nations charter — sovereignty and territorial integrity.

1:07 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Biden: Putin thought NATO unity would shatter during Russia's war in Ukraine, but "he thought wrong"

NATO has remained unified throughout the war in Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was betting the conflict would break the alliance apart, US President Joe Biden said.

Biden, speaking after the NATO summit in Lithuania on Wednesday, emphasized that the alliance is “more vital to our shared future.”

He said Putin "thought our unity would shatter at the first testing. He thought democratic leaders would be weak. But he thought wrong."

The US and NATO "stepped up" together, Biden said, pointing to the beginning of the war when he said he was in constant contact with other world leaders in the alliance and the European Union. He said from then on, allied countries have continued to support Ukraine as they "defend their integrity and sovereignty."

1:03 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

NOW: Biden is speaking at the end of NATO summit

US President Joe Biden appears on stage to deliver a speech at Vilnius University during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden appears on stage to deliver a speech at Vilnius University during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday. Yves Herman/Reuters

US President Joe Biden is speaking as the two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, draws to a close after addressing the two key items on its agenda: Sweden's pending membership to NATO and support and membership path for Ukraine.

On Monday — just a day before the summit began — NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to approve Sweden's bid for membership. The parliament will vote to ratify the membership in the fall. Before Biden held his bilateral meeting with Erdogan, he thanked the Turkish president for his diplomacy on the matter.

On Ukraine's membership, there were more tensions. Zelensky had criticized the US-led alliance, saying it was "absurd" that Kyiv had not been provided with a timeline for Ukraine's invitation or membership to NATO. Subsequently, while a firm timeline is still unavailable, NATO agreed to remove one requirement for Ukrainian entrance to the group – a Membership Action Plan – given Kyiv’s close relationship with NATO nations.

Biden has acknowledged that the alliance did not invite Ukraine to membership during the summit as it works on “necessary reforms,” but, he said, “We’re not waiting on that process to be finished” to boost the country’s security.

12:12 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Russian defense ministry says Wagner has handed over tanks and other weapons

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the Wagner mercenary group has completed the handover of all its military equipment to the regular Russian armed forces.

According to the ministry's statement, Wagner has given up more than 2,000 weapons and other systems, including main battle tanks, such as the T-90, T-80 and T-72B3.

Wagner had also handed over Grad and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems.

The transfer follows the abortive mutiny launched by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin at the end of last month.

For months before the failed mutiny, Prigozhin accused the Defense Ministry of starving Wagner of equipment and ammunition.

After the failed mutiny, the Wagner fighters were given the option to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, join Prigozhin in exile in Belarus or return home.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs said the country's special forces would carry out combat training with Wagner fighters, according to state media reports.

It's unclear how many Wagner personnel have relocated to Belarus. 

11:39 a.m. ET, July 12, 2023

18 injured by aerial object falling in Zaporizhzhia city, military says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

At least 18 people have been injured in the city of Zaporizhzhia due to an "unidentified hostile aerial object," according to the regional military administration in the city.

Yurii Malashko, head of Zaporizhzhia's regional military administration, said six children are among those injured. The incident happened Wednesday afternoon. 

Anatolii Kurtiev, secretary of Zaporizhzhia City Council, said windows had been broken in six apartment buildings in a residential area of the city.

Zaporizhzhia is not far from the front lines in southern Ukraine.

4:15 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Russia is militarily and politically fragile, French president says

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference during the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference during the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is currently "fragile, militarily and politically," French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday in a speech at the NATO summit in Lithuania. 

He said there are "signs of division in Russia," seemingly referring to the recent short-lived rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner group. 

The French president pledged to "be there" for Ukraine, even if the war is a “war of attrition," adding that the support for Kyiv is sustainable. 

However, the French leader said NATO allies must do more for Ukraine, adding that the time to do so is now, during the Ukrainian counteroffensive