July 16, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Thom Poole, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, July 17, 2023
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2:56 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Fighting positions changing for both sides along the eastern front, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Mari Kostenko and Radina Gigova

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares to fire a mortar near Bakhmut on July 13.
A Ukrainian serviceman prepares to fire a mortar near Bakhmut on July 13. Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Positions on both sides are "changing dynamically" along the eastern front as fighting there has "somewhat escalated," a Ukrainian official said.

"There are fierce battles, and the positions of the parties are changing dynamically several times a day," Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Sunday. 

Russia has been "actively advancing" near the city of Kupyansk in the country's northeastern Kharkiv region for two days in a row, Maliar said. "We are on the defense," she added.

Further south along the eastern front, Maliar said Ukrainian forces are gradually moving forward around Bakhmut and that there are "daily advances on the southern flank" of the long-contested city.

On Bakhmut's northern flank, Ukrainian forces are trying to hold their positions, while Russian forces continue to attack, Maliar said.

"In Bakhmut itself, we are shelling the enemy, and the enemy is shelling us," she added. 

And south of Bakhmut, Russian forces are also on the offensive in areas surrounding the towns of Avdiivka and Marinka, Maliar said.

"Our defenders continue to effectively hold them back. Hot battles continue with no change in positions," she said.

It is not possible for CNN to immediately verify claims of territorial gains or losses by either side. 

Here are the areas each side controls in southern and eastern Ukraine:

1:26 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Ukrainian children wounded by explosive device they found outside, official says

From CNN Mariya Knight and Maria Kostenko

Two children — boys, ages 8 and 10 — were badly wounded by an explosion as they played in a village in the southern Kherson region, according to Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the region's military administration.

The boys were among four people wounded and one person killed in Kherson over the past 24 hours, Prokudin said in a Telegram message Sunday.

The children had been playing in the street in the village of Tryfonivka, northeast of Kherson city, when they found an "unknown object on the street," according to the official.

"The device detonated while they were playing," Prokudin wrote. "The children sustained craniocerebral injuries and concussions. The younger one also received shrapnel wounds to his torso and arms, and a burn to his leg."

In his message, Prokudin pleaded with Ukrainian parents to talk to their children about staying safe and not playing with unfamiliar objects.

Russian attacks: Moscow's forces fired 10 shells at the city of Kherson and shelled the surrounding region 69 times over the past 24 hours, leaving one person dead, Prokudin said.  

The Kherson region military administration reported that two people were wounded by shelling in the village of Rozlyv, just west of the city, but did not release further details.

Prokudin said the shelling damaged civilian infrastructure in multiple parts of the region. 

1:00 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

The Black Sea grain deal is just over 24 hours from expiring if Russia refuses to renew

From CNN's Radina Gigova

A harvester works on a wheat field in Prymorske, Ukraine, on July 5.
A harvester works on a wheat field in Prymorske, Ukraine, on July 5. Amadeusz Swierk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A crucial deal that allows the export of grain from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea is set to expire Monday unless Russia agrees to an extension.

The grain deal will end at midnight July 17 into July 18 Istanbul time (5 p.m. ET on Monday), according to Ismini Palla, the chief UN media and communications officer for the Black Sea Grain deal.

The last ship to travel under the deal left the port of Odesa early on Sunday, Palla said.

The deal was first brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022, after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and blockaded ports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a phone conversation Saturday that the deal has not met its objectives.

Though Russia has renewed the deal three times, it has repeatedly complained about international sanctions that hinder its own shipments of fertilizers and grain.

In some previous negotiations on the deal, Putin has maintained a hard line until shortly before a deadline and then ultimately agreed to remain in the pact.

11:37 a.m. ET, July 16, 2023

US is not delaying F-16 training for Ukrainian fighter pilots, national security adviser says

From CNN's Jasmine Wright and Morgan Rimmer

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Sunday that the US will allow European countries to start training Ukrainian fighter pilots to use F-16 fighter jets, after reports that Europe was awaiting formal approval. 

“Yes, we will,” Sullivan told CNN's Jake Tapper when asked. “The president has given a green light and we will allow, permit, support, facilitate and in fact provide the necessary tools for Ukrainians to begin being trained on F-16s, as soon as the Europeans are prepared.” 

Sullivan noted that European leaders have said they need several weeks to prepare training abilities and that the US would meet whatever timeline they set out.

“The United States will not be the hold up in ensuring that this F-16 training can get underway,” he said.

Remember: Ukraine's quest for the superior US-made fighter jets received a huge boost when the Biden administration said in May that it would back a training program for pilots and would not disallow allies from supplying Kyiv with the planes. But the US has not said that it will supply Kyiv with F-16s directly.

What US lawmakers are saying: Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat and former Navy pilot who sits on the Armed Services Committee, defended the timeline for directly supplying the fighting aircraft to Ukraine.

Responding to perceived criticism that the administration is slow-walking the decision to send F-16s, Kelly said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that it will take time and resources to train Ukrainian pilots on how to fly the aircraft in the first place.

“This is going to take some time. I don't think it's been slow-walked, but the process is a lot longer,” Kelly said, adding that during a visit to Ukraine in April, President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team still weren't certain what specific combat missions they wanted to use the jets for.

By contrast, Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican and former Marine who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, criticized the Biden administration's approach.

While he praised Biden for his actions at the recent summit for the NATO military alliance, he criticized the administration for “slow-rolling” weapons systems to Ukraine, specifically citing the F-16s.

“As I predicted, they're eventually going to do it, but it's too darn long. That's exactly what happened,” said Sullivan.

11:03 a.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Russian strikes leave at least 7 people wounded in southern Ukraine, regional official says

From Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Russia pounded the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia and surrounding areas with 52 strikes over the course of about 24 hours this weekend, according to a Ukrainian leader in the region.

The rocket attacks left three adult women and four adult men wounded in Sepnohirsk, a village south of Zaporizhzhia city, Yurii Malashko, the head of the regional military administration, said in a Telegram post Sunday.

The Russian barrage also targeted the city itself and at least nine surrounding settlements, Malashko said.

A member of the Zaporizhzhia City Council said the attacks damaged infrastructure and left parts of the city without power.

3:09 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

US running low on stockpile ammunition as it gives military aid to Ukraine, national security advisor says

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 7.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 7. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File

The United States is running low on ammunition in its own stockpile as the country works to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, according to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

President Joe Biden's administration, upon taking office, “found that overall stocks of 155 munition, which is the NATO standard ammunition used for artillery rounds, was relatively low,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN.

Sullivan said the administration also learned that it would take years, not months, to restock the supplies to acceptable levels — a daunting task for a nation supplementing the war in Ukraine.

“President Biden ordered his Pentagon to work rapidly to scale up the ability of the United States to produce all the ammunition we could ever need for any conflict at any time,” Sullivan said. “Month on month, we are increasing our capacity to supply ammunition.”

Earlier this year, CNN reported that Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it, and that the Pentagon has taken a central role in trying to ramp up production.

On cluster munitions: The national security adviser was not able to say whether Ukraine was currently using the controversial cluster munitions Biden recently sent to Ukraine, but said, “if they have not been deployed yet, they will be in the coming hours or days.”

Sullivan confirmed that the munitions had arrived in the country, as CNN has previously reported.

“They have now very rapidly been shipped into the fight and are in the hands of Ukrainian defenders on the front lines,” he added. 

4:28 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Ukrainian counteroffensive has been unsuccessful so far, Putin says

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Ukranian counteroffensive has been "unsuccessful," during an on-camera interview with pro-Kremlin journalist Pavel Zarubin published Sunday. 

“All attempts by the enemy to break through our defenses, including with the use of strategic reserves, they were unsuccessful during the entire offensive. The enemy is not successful,” Putin said. “Our troops have behaved heroically. Unexpectedly for the enemy, in some areas (Russian troops) themselves go on the offensive, take the most advantageous positions,” he said.

Putin added that Russia has an opportunity to study the military equipment of enemy troops and see what can be used by Moscow,

"There is such an expression as reverse engineering," he said. "If there is an opportunity to look inside and see if there is something that can be applied to us — well, why not?"

Kyiv says there is slow progress in counteroffensive: Senior Ukrainian officials and generals alike continue to describe tough fighting and limited progress on the battlefield as they look to drive Russian forces out of the country and turn the tide of the war.

Just days after Ukraine’s key partners met at the NATO summit in Lithuania, pledging even deeper security ties — albeit without specifying any timetable for Ukraine's potential membership in the alliance — Kyiv insists it does not feel under pressure to deliver quick results. 

Speaking to journalists Friday in Kyiv following his attendance at the NATO summit, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, admitted the counteroffensive — seen as being underway since the start of June — was “hard work.”

“It’s not going that fast; it is slow,” he said, adding that it is important Ukrainians are told the truth about developments on the ground.

CNN's Andrew Carey and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv contributed to this report.

12:54 p.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Putin warns he will use more cluster munitions if Ukraine deploys them

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow, Russia, on July 13.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow, Russia, on July 13. Contributor/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he will use more cluster munitions if Ukraine also deploys the controversial weapons, adding that Russia has sufficient reserves.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have already deployed cluster munitions during the war, but the bombs have come into sharp focus after the US decided to provide Ukraine with the weapons for the first time in a recent aid package.

In his remarks, Putin argued that previously the US administration itself had considered using cluster munitions a crime. Therefore, Ukraine's use of the weapons should be treated as such, he told pro-Kremlin journalist Pavel Zarubin. 

The deadly weapons are banned by more than 100 countries due to their potential risk to civilians, although not by the US, Russia or Ukraine. 

Putin claimed "Russia has a sufficient supply of various types of cluster munitions," but has held off from fully employing it.

"But of course, if they are used against us, we reserve the right to mirror actions," he added.

Remember: The weapons are so controversial because they scatter smaller "bomblets" across a wide area, and if those smaller units do not explode upon impact, they can pose a long-term threat to anyone who comes through the area, including civilians.

Key context: While Putin highlighted what he views as US hypocrisy on the use of cluster munitions, Washington has sought to draw a distinction between Russia's use of the weapons and how Ukraine will employ the US-provided bombs.

To start, US officials argue, Kyiv will use the weapons on its own territory and to defend against an "aggressive war" launched by Russia.

The Pentagon says Ukraine will also use much more care to employ the weapons only against military targets, and then make every effort to sweep for unexploded bomblets, whereas it has accused Russia of "indiscriminately killing civilians" with the weapons.

Finally, the US says its version of the weapon has a much lower rate of failure than Moscow's cluster weapons, so the risk of unexploded bomblets is lower.

Russia has rejected and disputed these characterizations.

9:05 a.m. ET, July 16, 2023

Russian authorities in Sevastopol say they repelled a "massive" Ukrainian drone attack

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea reported on Sunday that their air defense forces and electronic warfare units had fended off a Ukrainian drone attack overnight on the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.

The Russian-backed governor of the city, Mikhail Razvozhaev said on Telegram several drones were shot down and called the attack "massive and prolonged."

He said "no structures either in the city or in the water area were damaged" and the city was now "quiet and everything is calm."

Some background: The Ukrainian military has been carrying out attacks in Crimea for months, with two likely goals: harass the Russian Black Sea fleet and disrupt vital Russian supply lines.

Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea reported in May that their air defense forces fended off at least three Ukrainian drone attacks in Sevastopol.

In April, a suspected drone strike sparked a huge fire at a fuel storage facility, also in Sevastopol.

Without claiming responsibility for that attack, Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence called the fire “God’s punishment,” particularly for the civilians killed in the Ukrainian city of Uman, where a Russian strike left at least 23 people dead.

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and its recapture remains a goal for Ukraine.