Russia's war in Ukraine

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Sana Noor Haq and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 6:55 p.m. ET, July 15, 2022
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8:16 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

In Vinnytsia, relatives of the missing submit DNA samples to help identify the dead

From CNN's Petro Zadorozhnyy in Lviv and Jo Shelley in London

Rescuers work next to a damaged building the day after a Russian missile strike in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on 15 July.
Rescuers work next to a damaged building the day after a Russian missile strike in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on 15 July. (Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The relatives of people missing after Thursday’s missile strikes on the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia have submitted DNA samples to help officials identify the dead, according to a Ukrainian police chief.

"Fourteen relatives of missing persons have submitted their biological samples," Ihor Klymenko, chief of Ukraine’s National Police, said in a statement on Facebook.

"Our specialists have already conducted more than 200 comparisons of selected DNA profiles. Twelve of the 19 identified persons were recognized with the help of this rapid DNA identification technology," Klymenko added.

Eight people are still missing, Klymenko’s statement said.

Klymenko also gave details of the three children who died in the attacks — a 4-year-old girl, whose mother is in hospital, and two boys, aged 7 and 8.

"One of the boys was being examined at the medical center at the time of the attack. He died together with his mother. Another was waiting for his uncle in a parked car and got into a fire trap. A relative of this boy was thrown away by the blast wave, now he is hospitalized," Klymenko said.

Some background: The Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday that the missile attack in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine targeted a military facility at a time when a meeting of the Ukrainian Air Force command was taking place.

At least 23 people were killed in the attack according to Ukraine's State Emergency Service, including three children. On Thursday, the Vinnytsia head of police, Igor Klymenko, said that “three Russian missiles were aimed at a building with office premises."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the missile attack as “terrorism” and a “deliberate murder of civilians to spread fear.”

In the wake of the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the international community to officially recognize Russia as a terrorist state, saying "Russia has shown its attitude to international law, to Europe, and to the entire civilized world."

CNN's Anna Chernova and Chris Liakos contributed reporting to this post.

8:12 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

British man dies in Russian-backed separatist region of Ukraine, official says

From CNN's Jo Shelley

A British man has died in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), according to a local official.  

A statement on the website of the DNR’s ombudsman Daria Morozova claimed that a British citizen whose name she gave as "Paul Johnson Anthony Dominic Urey" had been detained in April and “charged with mercenarism."

Urey had been “diagnosed with a number of chronic diseases,” the statement added.

“On our part, despite the severity of the alleged crime, Paul Urey was provided with appropriate medical assistance,” the statement said. “However, given the diagnoses and stress, he passed away on July 10." 

“We are urgently seeking clarification from the Russian government on media reports that a British aid worker has died in Ukraine," a spokesperson from UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said.

The DNR is a pro-Russian separatist-held region in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

7:42 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Injured Vinnytsia mother still doesn't know her child has died, Ukrainian presidential adviser says

From CNN's Scott McLean and Sarah Dean in Vinnytsia

A woman who was severely injured by Thursday's Russian missile strikes on the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia still doesn't know that her child died in the attack, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the office of the President of Ukraine.

Doctors are unable to tell the mother, Irina, that her 4-year-old daughter Liza has died because of her challenging medical situation and how the news could affect her recovery, Tymoshenko told CNN during a visit to the hospital where Irina is being treated. 

"She is with a mask, that is why we don't speak to her. We come for a few seconds, and came out from there," he added.

At least 23 people died in the strikes, including three children, and many more are still unaccounted for, according to Ukrainian authorities. 

"It's really terrible, it's many people," Tymoshenko said Friday. "It's really horrible. I don't know how to explain. Because there is no war, no war objects, there were civilian objects. And in one moment, rockets come to them."

The attack was carried out with Russian "Kalibr" cruise missiles launched from submarines stationed in the Black Sea, Tymoshenko said on Thursday. 

Prosecutors on Thursday collected Liza's pink stroller from the sidewalk, where the mother and daughter stood at the moment the strikes hit.

7:31 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

It's 2:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

The city of Mykolaiv in Ukraine was hit by an onslaught of strikes overnight causing "powerful explosions," as fighting intensifies and Ukrainian forces try to penetrate Russian occupation in southern areas of the country.

Brittney Griner arrived at the Khimki court of the Moscow region Friday for a fourth hearing in her trial, where lawyers defending the WNBA star told judges she was prescribed medical cannabis for "severe chronic pain."

Here are the latest developments:

Missile strikes bombard Mykolaiv: Details of this morning’s ten missile strikes in Mykolaiv emerged at an on-camera press briefing by Vitalii Kim, head of the city's regional military administration. Kim said five S-300 missiles hit the National University of Shipbuilding and four hit the National University of Mykolaiv (formerly the Pedagogical Institute) in central Mykolaiv. Rescue teams are working at the sites of the strikes, where the city's mayor, Oleksandr Syenkevych, said there are two people injured "as of now."

New details emerge in Brittney Griner trial: During Griner's hearing Friday, her defense team submitted to the Russian court a letter from a US medical center issuing a permit in the state of Arizona for the use of medical cannabis for Griner to treat her chronic pain, caused by sports injuries. Griner’s court hearing was subsequently postponed until Tuesday, July 26 after her defense team said they needed time to prepare their client for the next steps of the trial. “Yesterday was quite an emotional day for her ... And now she just wants to take a rest,” one of Griner’s lawyers, Alexander Boykov, told reporters outside the court.

Zelensky calls for Russia to be recognized as "terrorist state": Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the international community to officially recognize Russia as a terrorist state after missiles struck the city of Vinnytsia Thursday. He said that among 23 people killed were three children under the age of 10. "Russia has shown its attitude to international law, to Europe, and to the entire civilized world," he said. "It is absolutely necessary to implement as soon as possible such restrictions against Russian energy exports, which will not allow terrorists to cover their costs at the expense of the international community."

Ukrainian forces regain control in parts of Kherson: More than 40 settlements in the largely Russian-occupied Kherson region have been liberated, according to Dmytro Butriy, the acting head of the region's military administration. A Ukrainian offensive in Kherson began in May and has since recovered a number of villages, but no towns of any size. Butriy said the settlements were still suffering as they were under constant Russian bombardment. "We urge people to evacuate to protect themselves and their families. Russian occupiers are not human," he added.

Putin ratifies economic measures to bolster military: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Thursday allowing the government to introduce special economic measures to support the Russian armed forces during "counter-terrorism and other operations" outside the country. As the special measures get adopted, companies will not be able to refuse government contracts and employees will have to work at night and on holidays. The government also received the right to temporarily reactivate mobilization capacities and facilities and the right to unbook the material assets of the state reserve.

7:19 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Russian MOD claims Vinnytsia missile attack targeted Ukrainian military meeting

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Chris Liakos

Firefighters remove rubble out of a damaged building following a Russian airstrike in the city of Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on July 14.
Firefighters remove rubble out of a damaged building following a Russian airstrike in the city of Vinnytsia, Ukraine, on July 14. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday that the missile attack in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine targeted a military facility at a time when a meeting of the Ukrainian Air Force command was taking place.

“On July 14, Kalibr high-precision sea-based missiles hit the Garrison House of Officers in Vinnytsia,” the Russian MOD said on Telegram.

“A meeting of the Ukrainian Air Force command was being held at the facility with representatives of foreign arms suppliers discussing sending another batch of aircraft and destruction means, as well as organizing the repair of Ukrainian aircraft. The attack resulted in the elimination of the meeting participants,” it added.

At least 23 people were killed in the attack according to Ukraine's State Emergency Service, including three children. On Thursday, the Vinnytsia head of police, Igor Klymenko, said that “three Russian missiles were aimed at a building with office premises."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the missile attack as “terrorism” and a “deliberate murder of civilians to spread fear.”

In his nightly address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the international community to officially recognize Russia as a terrorist state, saying "Russia has shown its attitude to international law, to Europe, and to the entire civilized world."

6:52 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Mykolaiv university “impossible to restore” before new academic year following missile strikes

More details about this morning’s missile strikes in Mykolaiv have emerged at an on-camera press briefing by Vitalii Kim, head of the city's regional military administration.

Kim said five S-300 missiles hit the National University of Shipbuilding and four hit the National University of Mykolaiv (formerly the Pedagogical Institute) in central Mykolaiv. 

Two floors of the National University were destroyed, he said, calling it "impossible to restore the premises before the beginning of the academic year.”

Two houses and eleven apartments had also been damaged, he added.

5:55 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Brittney Griner hearing postponed until July 26

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Chris Liakos

US WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner talks to her lawyers from inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Khimki Court in the town of Khimki, Russia, on July 15.
US WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner talks to her lawyers from inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Khimki Court in the town of Khimki, Russia, on July 15. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

WNBA star Brittney Griner’s court hearing has been postponed until Tuesday, July 26 after her defense team said they needed time to prepare their client for the next steps of the trial.

“Yesterday was quite an emotional day for her. She saw her general manager, her friend and teammate Evgeniya Belyakova for the first time in many months. And now she just wants to take a rest,” one of Griner’s lawyers, Alexander Boykov, told reporters outside the court after the hearing ended Friday.

“We’re now on a break of the trial so we could prepare for the next stage," Griner's second lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, said.

When asked about how Griner feels, Blagovolina replied: “She’s tired.”

“It was quite hard for her (to see her teammates in court) yesterday. But it went well,” Blagovolina added.

A former teammate along with the director of UMMC Ekaterinburg Maxim Ryabkov, the team for which Griner played in Russia during the WNBA offseason, testified at the hearing Thursday. They later told reporters they came to support Griner and “be there for her.”

Some background: Griner arrived at the Khimki court of the Moscow region Friday for a fourth hearing in her trial, after pleading guilty to drug charges.

Lawyers defending Griner submitted to the Russian court a letter from a US medical center issuing a permit in the state of Arizona for the use of medical cannabis for Griner to treat her chronic pain caused by sports injuries.

Blagovolina submitted the letter as evidence along with medical test results from 2018, and a medical report by an American doctor from 2020 confirming Griner had “a chronic debilitating disease caused by severe chronic pain.”

According to Blagovolina, the doctor advised his patient Brittney Griner to use medical cannabis due to the diagnosed “chronic and debilitating medical condition” that “caused chronic and acute pain.”

5:24 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Brittney Griner was prescribed medical cannabis for ‘severe chronic pain,' lawyers tell court

From CNN's Anna Chernova

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, on the day of a court hearing in Khimki, Russia, on July 15.
U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, on the day of a court hearing in Khimki, Russia, on July 15. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

Lawyers defending WNBA star Brittney Griner told judges at the Khimki court of the Moscow region Friday that Griner was prescribed medical cannabis for "severe chronic pain."

Griner’s defense team submitted to the Russian court a letter from a US medical center issuing a permit in the state of Arizona for the use of medical cannabis for Griner to treat her chronic pain, caused by sports injuries.

“On May 18, 2020, Brittney Griner underwent a clinical examination…The patient complained of acute chronic pain due to multiple ankle injuries, as well as injuries and pain sustained during her sports career. The patient complained of pain in the middle back, lower back, knees, and ankle pain,” Griner's lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, said as she read out the letter in court.

Blagovolina submitted the letter as evidence along with medical test results from 2018, and a medical report by an American doctor from 2020 confirming Griner had “a chronic debilitating disease caused by severe chronic pain.”

The doctor advised his patient, Brittney Griner, the use of medical cannabis due to the diagnosed “chronic and debilitating medical condition” that “caused chronic and acute pain," according to Blagovolina.

Some background: Griner arrived at the Khimki court Friday for a fourth hearing in her trial, after pleading guilty to drug charges.

Her hearing Thursday ended without a verdict.

The two-time US Olympics basketball gold medalist was arrested February 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities said she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance.

Thursday’s hearing came as many in the WNBA, along with other athletes, coaches and politicians, have called for Griner’s release over fears she is being used as a political pawn amid the war in Ukraine.

“We just want to make sure her name is out there, that people know her story,” Sue Bird, who played with Griner on Team USA, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday. “We want to support the administration. We want to make sure they’re doing everything they can. So some might call it a little bit of pressure, (but) we’re calling it support, and we just want to make sure her name is out there.”

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin and Amir Vera contributed reporting to this post.

9:46 a.m. ET, July 15, 2022

Therapists at border crossing help children feel safe after fleeing their homes in Ukraine

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Ana Sarbu at the Moldova-Ukraine border

Diana Negru, a psychologist who works at the UNICEF Blue Dot refugee assistance center in Palanca.
Diana Negru, a psychologist who works at the UNICEF Blue Dot refugee assistance center in Palanca. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

The walls of the playroom at the Palanca border crossing between Moldova and Ukraine are covered in children’s drawings. Among the sea of hearts and Ukrainian flags, one picture stands out: an elephant floating above a Russian tank. 

Drown with a pink sharpie, the artwork is signed “Vanya, 12.”

“He drew himself as an elephant and said that if he was an elephant, he’d be able to destroy the tank by stepping on it,” said Diana Negru, a psychologist who works at the UNICEF Blue Dot refugee assistance center in Palanca.

Vanya, his mother and two siblings escaped from Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine that has seen heavy fighting since the beginning of the war and is now under Russian control. 

When Negru met the family, they were en route to Germany. Vanya’s father stayed behind to fight. 

A Russian tank destroyed half of his family’s house and Vanya saw everything. He saw his grandmother die,” Negru told CNN. 

Like many children who come through her door, Vanya needed urgent care. He couldn’t breathe, his eyes were moving around and he was very emotional, Negru said. 

“Some children are traumatized, they react to any noise. If the door closes, they become scared and aggressive, so we need to calm them down, try to focus their eyes, use breathing techniques to help them,” Negru explained. 

The team of psychologists, social workers and therapists have limited time with each family. The Blue Dot provides refugees with information and helps them with their onward journeys, but it’s not an accommodation facility. 

A drawing made by a 12-year old boy from Kherson.
A drawing made by a 12-year old boy from Kherson. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

At the time of CNN’s visit on Wednesday, a few families were waiting in the center for buses to take them to Germany. A little girl was in the playroom, stacking bricks on a toy truck, attended by a therapist.

A bus with 70 refugees from southern Ukraine was on its way to the border and the workers manning the help point were rushing to prepare meals and make sure the center was ready.

Sometimes, several buses arrive all at once, with hundreds of people needing help at the same time. 

“It's not a full therapy, we may only have 20 minutes with the child, so the aim is to stabilize them and calm them down,” Negru said.

“We just show them they are now at a place where it’s safe.”