July 13, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:18 a.m. ET, July 14, 2023
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4:25 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

US defense chief defends decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington D.C., on April 7, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington D.C., on April 7, 2022. Win McNamee/Getty Images

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday defended Washington's controversial decision to support Ukraine with cluster munitions despite the risk to civilians.

“First of all, I think we should remember that they are fighting hard to defend their sovereign territory,” Austin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “You know, they're not asking for the munitions to go invade ... another country, as the Russians did, they’ve been using cluster munitions from the very beginning.”

Cluster munitions scatter “bomblets” across large areas that can fail to explode on impact and can pose a long-term risk to anyone who encounters them, similar to landmines. More than 100 countries have outlawed the weapons under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but the US, Ukraine and Russia are not signatories to the ban.

Both the Ukrainians and the Russians have used cluster bombs since Moscow’s forces invaded in February 2022.

The Ukrainians have committed to making sure these munitions are used only in the “appropriate places,” and not in populated areas, Austin said.

“They will record the places that they use them and they will prioritize demining efforts,” he said. “And we will help them do that, in those places where they gave us the conditions.”

Asked by Blitzer how long the US would need to provide cluster bombs to Kyiv, Austin said he wants to make sure “Ukraine can remain successful in their fight,” so he would not “speculate how long that’s going to take.”

"We're going stay focused on making sure that they have what they need to continue to provide the support for their maneuver," Austin said.

4:13 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

"Great things accomplished" at NATO summit, US defense chief says

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan look on during a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11, 2023.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan look on during a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11, 2023. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Sweden's clearance to become NATO's 32nd member was among “a lot of great things accomplished” at this week's alliance summit in Lithuania, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.

“At the beginning, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin thought that he could fracture NATO and divide us — NATO has actually gotten bigger,” Austin said, noting Finland’s recent accession to the alliance and Turkey ending its opposition to Sweden's bid to join.

Putin “brought NATO closer to his doorstep” with his actions in Ukraine, Austin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when asked about how the Russian leader is reacting to the alliance’s expansion.

“I’m sure Putin is very concerned,” Austin said.

“Countries like Finland and Sweden bring a lot to the alliance so we are happy to have them on board,” he added, saying “they will bring value to the alliance right away.” 

All NATO members must agree to let a new member join the alliance, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dropped his opposition to Sweden's bid, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.

Austin also told CNN there was "broad support" for member countries to commit 2% of their gross domestic product to defense spending and for providing Ukraine with the investment it needs to defend itself.

4:04 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

Ukraine's Air Force says it shot down Russian drones and missiles overnight

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A view of an explosion of a drone in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023.
A view of an explosion of a drone in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Ukraine's air defenses shot down a barrage of weapons launched by Russia overnight, including missiles and 20 Iran-made drones, the Ukrainian Air Force said Thursday.

In a statement on Telegram, the Air Force said attack drones fired by Russian forces were destroyed mostly in the Kyiv region. Russia also fired two cruise missiles from the Black Sea and one ballistic missile from Crimea, it said.

“Anti-aircraft missile units, fighter aircraft, mobile firing groups of the Air Force and air defense of other components of the Ukrainian Defense Forces were involved in repelling the enemy attack,” the statement added.

Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian officials said one person died and two others were injured in Kyiv after air defenses intercepted Russian drones, marking the third successive night of airstrikes on the capital.

Smoke rises in the sky over the city after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023.
Smoke rises in the sky over the city after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

2:31 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

Russian navy ship docks in Cuba as tough times bring the old friends together

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana, Cuba

The Russian navy's training class ship Perekop is seen in Havana, Cuba on July 11, 2023.
The Russian navy's training class ship Perekop is seen in Havana, Cuba on July 11, 2023. Reynel Diaz/CNN

As a series of welcoming cannon blasts rang out from a nearby colonial fort, the Russian navy’s training class ship Perekop sailed into Havana on Tuesday.

While in Cuba for a four-day visit, the Perekop’s sailors will “carry out a wide range of activities,” according to Cuba’s state-run Prensa Latina news service, and members of the Cuban public will be given the opportunity to tour the ship.

It is the first official visit by a Russian naval vessel to Cuba in years — and another sign of the reforging of the relationship between the two Cold War-era allies after the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly brought down the Cuban economy with it.

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to its widespread ostracization, the Cuban government increasingly has defended Moscow.

“We are condemning, we are rejecting, the expansion of NATO towards Russia’s borders,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel told Russian-controlled network, RT, in a rare interview in May.

He also blasted US economic sanctions on Russia, while heralding Russian “projects of cooperation and collaboration” under development in Cuba.

Read more here.

2:25 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

Biden to discuss security cooperation with Nordic leaders in Finland

From CNN's Betsy Klein in Helsinki, Finland

US President Joe Biden waves upon arrival in Helsinki, Finland, on July 12, 2023.
US President Joe Biden waves upon arrival in Helsinki, Finland, on July 12, 2023. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Joe Biden is in Helsinki, Finland, for a summit with Nordic leaders Thursday, offering an opportunity for the countries to bolster security cooperation amid threats from Russia and China.

Biden will meet with the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark, marking the third such summit and the first of the Biden administration. It comes on the heels of a major win for Biden in Vilnius, Lithuania, after Turkey dropped its objections to Sweden’s accession to NATO earlier this week, but also provides the leaders a forum to discuss a range of other pressing issues.

The leaders come into the Thursday meeting with momentum after Finland joined NATO and Sweden is set to join the alliance, providing a boost and strong display of unity amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. The historic announcement represented a stunning about-face from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who stood in the path of Sweden joining NATO for more than a year over a multitude of concerns.

The Biden administration led a full-court press in the days leading up to the Vilnius summit, capping months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy to get Turkey to move ahead with Sweden’s accession.

Among the other issues up for discussion: Arctic security. There is a presence from both China and Russia in the Arctic, an area that’s becoming more accessible due to climate change.

Amid more than 500 days of war in Ukraine, Russia has continued to expand its military bases in the Arctic region, satellite images obtained by CNN months ago showing continued progress fortifying and expanding radar bases and runways in the area.

Read the full story here.

11:59 p.m. ET, July 12, 2023

A Russian general says he was fired after accusing the defense minister of treachery. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

A high-profile Russian general in command of forces in occupied southern Ukraine said he was dismissed from his post after accusing the defense minister of betraying Russian soldiers by not providing sufficient support.

Gen. Ivan Popov was the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army, which has been involved in heavy fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region. He is one of the most senior officers involved in the Russian campaign in Ukraine.

The dismissal of such a senior officer amid an open dispute over the conduct of the Russian campaign is unprecedented, according to analysts. 

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • Kyiv attacks: One person was killed and two others were injured in the Ukrainian capital early Thursday after air defenses intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles, local officials said. It marks the third successive night of Russian airstrikes on the Kyiv region.
  • On the ground: Ukrainian forces are making further advances in the Bakhmut area and rebuffed Russian assaults elsewhere in the Donetsk region, according to officials. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukraine's forces successfully held back the Russian offensive in the Kupyansk, Lyman, Avdiivka and Marinka directions — all areas of the front lines where the Russians have made repeated attempts to break through Ukrainian defenses.
  • General killed: A popular Russian state television program appeared to confirm the death of a Russian general in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials had claimed that Oleg Tsokov, the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, was among a number of Russians killed in a Ukrainian missile strike Tuesday. The attack was targeted on a Russian headquarters in the occupied city of Berdyansk, Ukrainian officials said. Independent analysts and CNN’s own tally indicate that Russia has lost about 10 generals in combat since the invasion began.
  • NATO summit takeaways: US President Joe Biden and G7 leaders unveiled a substantial show of support for Ukraine at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, offering a joint declaration of support for Kyiv aimed at bolstering the war-torn country’s military capability. However, there was still no invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance. In his nightly address after the summit, President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed optimism about Ukraine’s path to becoming a member of NATO.
  • Moscow's take: The Russian foreign ministry, for its part, said the NATO summit demonstrated that the alliance has "finally returned to the Cold War schemes." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would "be glad to act as a mediator" between Russia and Ukraine if the two countries agreed to such a proposition. 
  • Military assistance: Estonia's prime minister defended her support for the US' decision to provide Ukraine with controversial cluster bombs. And UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 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 2022 that the UK was not “Amazon” when he was given a list of weapons demands. Meanwhile, former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the US not to grow weary of Ukraine’s grinding battle against Russia.
2:25 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

1 person dead and 2 injured as Ukraine intercepts Russian UAVs over Kyiv region, local officials say

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

An interior view shows an apartment inside a residential building damaged during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023.
An interior view shows an apartment inside a residential building damaged during a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 13, 2023. Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

One person was killed in Kyiv after Ukrainian air defenses intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the region early Thursday morning, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. 

According to Klitschko, the body of a man was found while responders were extinguishing an apartment building fire in Kyiv’s Podil district.

Air defense systems intercepted Russian airstrikes launched early on Thursday morning, the Kyiv Regional Military Administration said on Telegram.

“Air defense is operating in the region, on the outskirts of Kyiv city. Stay in shelters until the air raid is over!" said Serhii Popko, the head of the Kyiv city military administration.

Klitschko reported damage in several parts of the capital and said two injured people in the Darnytsia district have been hospitalized.

It marks the third successive night of Russian airstrikes on the Kyiv region.

4:12 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

"We have removed any doubts" that Ukraine will join NATO, Zelensky says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expressing optimism about Ukraine’s path to becoming a member of NATO.

“It is very important that during these two days of the summit we have removed any doubts and ambiguities about whether Ukraine will be in NATO. It will be! For the first time, not only do all allies agree on this, but a significant majority in the alliance is vigorously pushing for it,” he said in his nightly address on Wednesday following the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

At the summit, US President Joe Biden and G7 leaders unveiled a joint declaration of support for Ukraine aimed at bolstering the war-torn country’s military capability.

“These are concrete security guarantees that are confirmed by the top seven democracies in the world. Never before have we had such a security foundation,” Zelensky said.  

In his address, he also thanked the countries that are set to begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 combat aircraft.

2:28 a.m. ET, July 13, 2023

Senior Russian general says he was fired after accusing defense minister of treachery

From CNN's Tim Lister and Uliana Pavlova

Senior Russian general, Ivan Popov, says he was dismissed after criticizing lack of support for troops.
Senior Russian general, Ivan Popov, says he was dismissed after criticizing lack of support for troops. Teoyaomiquu/Twitter

A senior Russian general in command of forces in occupied southern Ukraine says he was suddenly dismissed from his post after accusing Moscow’s Defense Ministry leadership of betraying his troops by not providing sufficient support.

Gen. Ivan Popov was the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army, which has been engaged in heavy fighting in the Zaporizhzhia region. He is one of the most senior officers to have taken part in the bloody Russian campaign in Ukraine.

Popov said he had raised questions about “the lack of counter-battery combat, the absence of artillery reconnaissance stations and the mass deaths and injuries of our brothers from enemy artillery,” in a voice note published on Telegram late Wednesday.

The recording was posted on the messaging app by Andrey Gurulev, a member of the Russian Parliament and former deputy commander of the Southern Military District.

“I also raised a number of other problems and expressed it all at the highest level frankly and extremely harshly,” Popov said in the audio message. “I had no right to lie, therefore, I outlined all the problematic issues that exist today in the army in terms of combat work and support.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “signed the order and got rid of me,” the general also said in the recording, as he accused the top Kremlin official of treason.

“As many commanders of divisional regiments said today, the servicemen of the armed forces of Ukraine could not break through our army from the front, (but) our senior commander hit us from the rear, treacherously and vilely decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment,” Popov said.

The 58th Combined Arms Army has been headquartered in the occupied city of Berdyansk, and both Ukrainian and Russian sources have said its base there was hit by a missile attack early Tuesday that killed another Russian general.

Read the full story here.