July 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Andrew Raine, Kathleen Magramo, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, July 19, 2022
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7:52 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Jill Biden will host Ukrainian first lady at the White House on Tuesday

From Kate Bennett

Jill Biden will host Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House Tuesday afternoon, according to a release from the East Wing. The two women are slated to talk privately during a scheduled bilateral meeting. 

Biden and Zelenska first met in person in May when Biden made a stealth trip to Ukraine. The first ladies had been in communication prior to their meeting, which was the first time Zelenska emerged from hiding since the start of the Russian invasion in February.

During their one-hour closed meeting, Zelenska shared with Biden her concerns for the emotional health of Ukrainian children.

Zelenska is scheduled to arrive at the White House at 1:30 p.m. ET.

6:41 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Turkey's president renews threat to "freeze" Finland and Sweden's NATO bids

  From CNN's Jorge Engels in London and Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during a press conference after a cabinet meeting on July 18 in Ankara, Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during a press conference after a cabinet meeting on July 18 in Ankara, Turkey. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday renewed his threat to “freeze the process” of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland after conditionally agreeing to green light their bid following negotiations with the Nordic countries and NATO members in late June. 

“We shared our conditional approval with the member states for the start of the NATO membership process of Sweden and Finland. I would like to remind you once again that we will freeze the process if they do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions,” Erdoğan said Monday after a cabinet meeting. 

“We see that Sweden does not give a good picture in this regard,” he added, without explaining his comments. 

Turkey said in late June that it signed a trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden supporting their NATO membership bids, which require ratification from all 30 members states' parliaments and legislatures. 

Following the signing of the memorandum — which covered several outstanding issues between Turkey, Finland and Sweden — the two Nordic countries made the historic decision to formally apply for NATO membership, ending decades of neutrality.

Ankara said Helsinki and Stockholm agreed to not provide support to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, also known as YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization, according to the Turkish Presidency.

The Turkish statement said Finland and Sweden also confirmed the separatist militant Kurdistan's Workers Party, also known as PKK, which Turkey, the US and EU consider a terrorist organization, is a "proscribed terrorist organization" and commit to prevent activities "of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions." 

Istanbul also said the three countries agreed on not having national arms embargoes between them and would commit to establishing an intelligence sharing mechanism for counter-terrorism and to combat organized crime.

Erdoğan had said Sweden promised to extradite 73 people to Turkey because of the memorandum, which stipulates that Sweden and Finland will address Turkey’s pending extradition requests of terror suspects in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition.

5:46 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials say influx of new Western weapons is shifting battlefield balance

From CNN's Tim Lister

A Ukrainian commander shows off the rockets on a HIMARS vehicle on July 1.
A Ukrainian commander shows off the rockets on a HIMARS vehicle on July 1. (Anastasia Vlasova/For The Washington Post/Getty Images)

President Volodymyr Zelensky says that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are now able to inflict "significant losses" on the Russians — and other Ukrainian officials have said that the influx of Western weapons is changing the battlefield.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said that the armed forces are "able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers. It is increasingly difficult for the Russian army to hold positions on the captured territory. Step by step, we advance, disrupt the supply of the occupiers, and identify and neutralize collaborators."

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said that the "timely arrival" of longer range artillery such as the US HIMARS system was helping to change the battlefield.

"We managed to stabilize the situation. It is complex, intense, but completely controlled. An important factor contributing to our retention of defensive lines and positions is the timely arrival of M142 HIMARS, which deliver surgical strikes on enemy control posts, ammunition and fuel storage depots," Zaluzhniy said.

CNN has identified nearly twenty strikes far behind Russian lines, in Donetsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, so far this month — some of them causing large explosions and multiple detonations.

Zaluzhniy said he had thanked Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US, for the help of the US and its allies "in the struggle for freedom."

Separately, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, told Ukrainian television that "today, we really have a completely different situation than it was a month ago. Now, thanks to the fact that we receive enough weapons from our partners, we have established a certain parity in certain positions."

Danilov said Ukraine would like more weapons in future to tip the balance in its favor "so that we have as many capabilities as possible to end this war as soon as possible."

Speaking about the situation in Donbas, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Monday that "Western weapons work not at 100% but at 200% because [Russian] warehouses are blown up. Command posts are also blown up. "

Hayday said that "we can clearly understand that the Russians are really afraid of a further increase in those Western weapons."

3:46 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

US State Department is "carefully" monitoring situation after Zelensky announced plans to suspend officials

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Kylie Atwood

State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a briefing on July 18.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a briefing on July 18. (Pool)

The US State Department is “aware” of the reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he plans to suspend two of his top law enforcement officials over the weekend, citing instances of treason, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing Monday.

“We’re aware of the reports, and we’ll continue to carefully monitor the situation. We are in daily contact with our Ukrainian partners,” Price said. 

The State Department is “leaning forward in terms of the information” they are sharing with Ukrainian partners to “help them build the case for accountability against those who may have perpetrated war crimes and other atrocities,” Price added. 

Most of the information that the US is passing to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine on a “routine basis” is “open-source information,” Price added.

“We do have an intelligence sharing relationship with our Ukrainian counterparts, that is we continue to proceed ahead with that,” Price said.

2:03 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska will address US Congress on Wednesday

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska will deliver remarks before the US Congress on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office announced Monday.

All members of the House and Senate are invited to the speech, which is set for 11 a.m. ET in the Congressional Auditorium at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.

8:17 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Ukrainian and separatist forces continue to fight for control of towns in Donetsk

From CNN's Tim Lister

Both the Ukrainian military and the leadership of Russian-backed separatist-held Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) have been talking about the ongoing Russian offensive in Donetsk.

Ukrainian forces are still defending the towns of Bakhmut and Siversk, which are in the pocket of the Donetsk territory.

"The enemy continues offensive attempts in the direction of the cities of Bakhmut and Siversk" but is meeting pushback from Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian General Staff said Monday.

At the same time, Russians are intensifying hostilities towards the town of Avdiivka, trying to improve their "tactical position," but they were unsuccessful and had withdrawn, the General Staff added.

Avdiivka is immediately north of the city of Donetsk — but despite months of bombardment remains in Ukrainian hands. 

However, Eduard Basurin, a spokesperson for the DPR militia, claimed that preparations are underway "to carry out the tasks planned for the liberation of the republic's territory. The same thing is happening in Avdiivka and in the Horlivka area."

The goal of DPR forces was to surround Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut as well as ensure that territory held by the DPR is beyond the range of Ukrainian artillery, Basurin said, adding that advances by DPR forces along with Russian units and the Luhansk People's militia would "make it possible to force" Ukrainian forces to retreat deep into the Ukraine territory, thereby securing both Donetsk and Yasynуvata and Makiivka from shelling."

Here's a look at the areas under Russian control:

2:08 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Zelensky submits resolution for parliament to dismiss Ukraine's intelligence head

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Ivan Bakanov, head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency SBU, speaks to the media in Kiev on July 16, 2019.
Ivan Bakanov, head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency SBU, speaks to the media in Kiev on July 16, 2019. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP/File)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky put forward a resolution to the country’s parliament to dismiss the head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency SBU, Ivan Bakanov. 

Zelensky suspended Bakanov and the Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova on Sunday, as he announced an investigation into their departments, due to the alleged presence of Russian collaborators.

“In accordance with paragraph 14 of the first part of Article 106 of the Constitution of Ukraine, I am filing a motion to dismiss [Ivan] Bakanov from the post of Head of the Security Service of Ukraine,” the draft resolution reads.

The resolution will be discussed at the next plenary session, which is expected to take place in the next 24 hours.

1:02 p.m. ET, July 18, 2022

Ukraine prosecutor general says she will not discuss Zelensky's decision to suspend her

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova speaks to journalists in the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 5.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova speaks to journalists in the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 5. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images/File)

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said she will not discuss the decision by President Volodymyr Zelensky's to suspend her while an investigation into her office is underway.

“I have not discussed this issue with anyone. And now I'm also refraining from comments for one simple reason — it's not the right time,” she wrote on her official Facebook page on Monday.

“As soon as the stage of "settlement" of the existing situation is completed, adequately and understandably for all parties, I will give a comprehensive comment," Venediktova wrote.

Zelensky suspended Venediktova and the head of the country’s intelligence service, SBU, Ivan Bakanov, on Sunday as he announced an investigation into their departments, due to the alleged presence of Russian collaborators.

In her comment, Venediktova added she would not argue the president’s decision or opinion, but said she was proud of her work. 

“I demonstrated good work results,” she wrote. “I managed to unite the legal, professional, and criminal procedural world elite around the problems of Ukraine in the interests of Ukraine.”

“If the corresponding resolution is registered in the walls of the Ukrainian Parliament, I will not hesitate for a second and will report to the people's representatives,” she concluded.