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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4:01 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Russia says NATO has returned to its “Cold War schemes” following summit in Lithuania

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

The Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the results of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, demonstrate that the military alliance has "finally returned to the Cold War schemes.”

“The ‘collective West’ led by the United States is not ready to put up with the formation of a multipolar world and intends to defend its hegemony by all available means, including military ones,” the ministry said in a statement.

“NATO's attempts to cover up their aggressive aspirations and actions with the UN Charter do not stand up to scrutiny. The Alliance and the world organization have nothing in common,” it said.

In the same statement, the foreign ministry said Moscow will carefully analyze the results of the summit in Vilnius and respond in a timely manner “using all means and methods at our disposal.”

The ministry also vowed that Russia would continue to strengthen its military and defense system.

4:25 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

UK is not "Amazon" for weapons deliveries, British defense secretary says he told Ukraine last year

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London 

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 15.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 15. Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP/Getty Images/File

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday that Kyiv's allies "want to see gratitude” from Ukraine for their support while recalling how he told Ukrainian officials during a visit to Kyiv in June of 2022 that the UK was not “Amazon,” the global retail site, when he was given a list of weapons demands. 

 “There is a slight word of caution here which is that, whether we like it or not, people want to see gratitude," Wallace told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, according to a transcript of his remarks sent to CNN by the UK’s defense ministry.   
“I said to the Ukrainians last June, when I drove 11 hours to be given a list, I’m not Amazon,” he said.   

Wallace said ally countries are helping Ukraine, not just for their sovereignty, but also for wider freedoms. He said Ukrainian officials sometimes need to persuade officials to authorize that aid, like lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the United States, for example.

"You’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and they’re getting something for it," Wallace said. "And you will sometimes hear grumbles not from the administration in the American system, but you'll hear from lawmakers on the Hill: 'We've given $83 billion worth or whatever, you know, we're not Amazon,'" again referring to the online store.

Zelensky, in response to the defense secretary's comments, said, "We have always been very grateful to the United Kingdom, always grateful to the prime minister, or perhaps I should say prime ministers, and to the defense minister, Mr. Wallace." 

"I just don't really understand what the issue is. We are grateful, Britain is our partner. Maybe the minister wants something special?" he added. 

3:28 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

NATO assured Ukraine that the country's future is with the alliance during the final day of summit

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Security guarantees from leading nations and assurances that Ukraine’s future lies in NATO appeared to calm brewing worries that Ukrainian frustrations at not being admitted to the alliance would overshadow one of the most significant bloc summits in recent memory.

US President Joe Biden and G7 leaders unveiled a substantial show of support for Ukraine Wednesday at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, offering a joint declaration of support for Ukraine aimed at bolstering the war-torn country’s military capability.

Still no invitation for Ukraine to join alliance: Biden 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.

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

Ukraine has been a dominant item on the summit’s agenda as the US president sought to keep the group united behind President Volodymyr Zelensky in the face of Russia’s invasion. Zelensky arrived in Lithuania on Tuesday and issued a blistering statement expressing his frustration at not receiving more specific details on when and how Ukraine would join the alliance.

However, it appears he heard enough to go home happy, saying, “The results of the summit are good” during a news conference with the alliance’s chief. Among the moves NATO took was agreeing to remove one requirement for Ukrainian entrance to the group — a Membership Action Plan — given Kyiv’s close relationship with NATO nations. It did not provide a firm timeline for when the Ukrainians will become official members.

New military aid for Ukraine: The G7 issued a three-page document detailing the joint declaration agreement shortly after the leaders spoke on Wednesday.

“Today we are launching negotiations with Ukraine to formalize – through bilateral security commitments and arrangements aligned with this multilateral framework, in accordance with our respective legal and constitutional requirements – our enduring support to Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, rebuilds its economy, protects its citizens, and pursues integration into the Euro-Atlantic community,” the declaration said, adding that those discussions will begin “immediately.”

It will work on “bilateral, long-term security commitments and arrangements towards” three goals.

  • The first goal is “ensuring a sustainable force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring Russian aggression in the future,” through the provision of security assistance and modern military equipment, support for Ukraine’s industrial base development, training for forces, intelligence sharing and cooperation, and support for cyber defense, security and resilience initiatives.
  • The second goal is “strengthening Ukraine’s economic stability and resilience, including through reconstruction and recovery efforts, to create the conditions conducive to promoting Ukraine’s economic prosperity, including its energy security.”
  • The third goal is “providing technical and financial support for Ukraine’s immediate needs stemming from Russia’s war as well as to enable Ukraine to continue implementing the effective reform agenda that will support the good governance necessary to advance towards its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

The announcement will start a process of bilateral negotiations with Kyiv, National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat told reporters.

Read more about the final day of the NATO summit.

3:22 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Analysis: Biden can leave Vilnius feeling like he got almost everything he wanted from NATO summit

From CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Joe Biden got almost everything he wanted from the NATO summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shot for the stars and reached the moon – securing a permanent rearmament pipeline well into the future from G7 nations but failing to win the collective defense guarantee that membership in NATO would bring.

And Russia saw its strategic and military failure entrenched but will surely view the institutionalizing of support for Ukraine as confirming its suspicions of the West.

The summit ended on Wednesday with a joint declaration from G7 leaders for their nations to negotiate long-term bilateral security commitments for Ukraine to build up its land, sea and air defenses to deter future Russian attacks.

And while the leaders eased the pathway for Ukraine’s eventual membership, they deferred a fateful geopolitical decision, possibly for their successors, by stating that it had yet to meet economic and political conditions for joining.

The other landmark moment of the summit was Turkey’s sudden dropping of its veto on Sweden becoming the alliance’s 32nd member – which followed months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy by the Biden administration — overseas and in the US Congress.

Biden, NATO’s most important leader, went into the summit determined to maintain his balancing act of bolstering Western support for Ukraine’s existential struggle while avoiding the outbreak of a war with Russia, a nuclear superpower. He also needed to remind Americans why billions of dollars of taxpayer cash must continue to be sent to Kyiv, which is becoming a 2024 campaign issue. And before he left Lithuania, he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the summit was evidence the Western alliance would not waver.

Zelensky barnstormed into Vilnius in typical style, using moral and media pressure to pressure NATO leaders to go further on their guarantees. His tone risked offending foreign leaders who have faced questions at home over bankrolling Ukrainian resistance. Still, Zelensky’s vehemence is understandable since he doesn’t just have a restless electorate to placate.

Read more:

2:48 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

Biden says meeting with Zelensky "went very well"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden answers questions from the press prior to boarding at the Vilnius International Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden answers questions from the press prior to boarding at the Vilnius International Airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

A meeting between President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky "went very well," the US president said Wednesday.

“We spent about an hour together and I think we’re on the right track," Biden told reporters Wednesday as he departed the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. "So I’m feeling good about the trip and you know, we accomplished every goal we set out to accomplish."

He noted that “there was some cynicism about whether I could talk the Turks into Sweden,” a reference to Turkey's last-minute agreement to permit Sweden to join the military alliance. 

Biden said he is confident Turkey will continue its support of Sweden's membership as well as of US Congressional approval for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.

Biden said he does not see Kyiv joining NATO until “the war is over,” but shed some light on his conversation with the Ukrainian president.

“Look, the one thing Zelensky understands now is that whether or not he’s in NATO now is not relevant as long as he has the commitments,” he said, comparing the situation to “how we deal with Israel.

“So he’s not concerned,” Biden said.

Asked about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Biden said he is “not at liberty to give you the detail of that – we talked at length about it with all of his military people there and they’re still optimistic but they know it’s a hard slog.”

Biden said Ukraine already has “the equivalent of ATACMS,” which are long-range missiles, but needs artillery shells. He added that Ukraine was “very satisfied” with what was being provided.

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.