July 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 11:00 p.m. ET, July 19, 2023
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6:35 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Zelensky says Russia "deliberately targeted the grain deal infrastructure"

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Smoke billows at a storage facilities site hit during Russian missile and drone strikes in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19.
Smoke billows at a storage facilities site hit during Russian missile and drone strikes in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19. State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Odesa region via Facebook/Handout/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that in attacking Odesa, Russia was deliberately targeting infrastructure associated with the Black Sea grain deal following its decision to withdraw from the initiative on Monday.

“Russian terrorists deliberately targeted the grain deal infrastructure, and every Russian missile is a strike not only against Ukraine, but against everyone in the world who wants a normal and safe life,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

“The military was instructed to strengthen the protection of people and port infrastructure, and the foreign ministry was instructed to intensify contacts with partners to increase pressure on the terrorist state and continue normal exports of Ukrainian grain.”

It comes after Zelensky's chief of staff said Russia’s second night of attacks on Odesa shows Moscow needs "hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South."

Ukraine’s Air Force said that for the second night in a row, Russia targeted Odesa with a barrage of cruise missiles and Shahed attack drones.

“The Russian terror of Odesa proves once again that they need hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South,” Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.

“They want to create a refugee crisis for the West. Everything is done to weaken allies and politically interfere in the internal affairs of these countries.”

10:50 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

UK intelligence chief: Wagner leader is alive and Putin was forced to cut deal with him "to save his skin"

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. Getty Images/Wagner/Anadolu Agency/File

Russian President Vladimir Putin had no choice but to reach an agreement with Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in order to end a short-lived rebellion last month, the head of Britain's MI6 told CNN.

"He really didn't fight back against Prigozhin, he cut a deal to save his skin, using the good offices of the leader of Belarus. So even I can't see inside Putin's head," Richard Moore said.  

"If you look at Putin's behaviors on that day, Prigozhin started off I think, as a traitor at breakfast. He had been pardoned by supper and then a few days later, he was invited for tea. So, there are some things and even the chief of MI6 finds that a little bit difficult to try and interpret, in terms of who's in and who's out," he added.

Status of Prigozhin: The head of MI6 also said that Wagner chief Prigozhin is alive and at liberty since the insurrection. The Wagner leader is "floating around," Moore said.

However, Putin is clearly under internal pressure, the intelligence chief added.

"You don't have a group of mercenaries advance up the motorway towards Moscow and get to within 125 kilometers of Moscow unless you have not quite predicted that was going to happen. So I think he probably feels under some pressure."

5:53 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Odesa attack shows Russia needs "hunger and problems" in Global South countries, Zelensky's chief of staff says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

A crater made during Russian missile and drone strikes is seen in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19.
A crater made during Russian missile and drone strikes is seen in Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19. Press Service of the the Operational Command South of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Handout/Reuters

Russia’s second night of attacks on Odesa shows Moscow needs "hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff has said.

Ukraine’s Air Force said that for the second night in a row, Russia targeted Odesa with a barrage of cruise missiles and Shahed attack drones.

The attacks on the Black Sea port city come after Moscow pulled out of a key UN-brokered grain deal this week, drawing condemnation from Ukraine, the United States and their allies.

“The Russian terror of Odesa proves once again that they need hunger and problems in the countries of the Global South,” Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. “They want to create a refugee crisis for the West. Everything is done to weaken allies and politically interfere in the internal affairs of these countries.”

Yermak said that Ukraine’s allies should limit Russia’s access to components needed for weapons manufacture, and called for more long-range weapons to be sent to Ukraine.

He also called on countries in the Global South to support Ukraine’s proposals for expelling Russia from Ukraine and achieving peace.

5:54 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Britain's intelligence chief optimistic Ukraine will prevail against Russia

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh

British intelligence chief Richard Moore speaks in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 19.
British intelligence chief Richard Moore speaks in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 19. CNN

Britain's intelligence chief has said he is "optimistic" Ukraine will prevail in its war against Russia, whose forces have lost momentum on the battlefield.

Richard Moore said Ukraine has "recovered more territory in a month than the Russians managed to achieve in a year" and that "there appears to be little prospect of the Russian forces regaining momentum."

It will be up to Kyiv to "define" the end of the war, as "most conflicts end in some kind of negotiation," he added during a speech in Prague Wednesday. 

Moore's words come as Ukraine continues its spring counteroffensive against Russian troops. Since the counteroffensive began in June, the fighting has proved tougher than some anticipated, with progress being measured in hundreds of meters as opposed to tens of kilometers.

Ukraine had hoped to use the push to expel a significant amount of Russian forces from Ukrainian soil and turn the tide of the war.

4:30 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

EU lawmakers call for Lukashenko prosecution over role in Ukraine war

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting with high-ranking military officers in Minsk, Belarus, on June 27.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting with high-ranking military officers in Minsk, Belarus, on June 27. . Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus/Handout/Reuters

The Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider an arrest warrant for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko over the country's role in the Ukraine war.

In a new report, the committee also called on the Belarusian regime to release all political prisoners, and expressed concern over the country’s subordination to Moscow, the committee said Tuesday in a news release.

"Belarus is responsible for damage caused to and crimes committed in Ukraine, including through the regime’s role in the illegal transfers of children," the EU lawmakers said.

The report also "calls on the EU institutions and member states to take all necessary steps at international level to enable the criminal prosecution of those Belarusian political and military leaders responsible for crimes against humanity and genocide."

The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

3:57 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Russian attack was "one of the most horrible nights" of the war, Odesa mayor says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

A resident walks with a dog next to an apartment building damaged during Russian strikes near Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19.
A resident walks with a dog next to an apartment building damaged during Russian strikes near Odesa, Ukraine, on July 19. Stringer/Reuters

Russia's aerial assault on Odesa overnight into Wednesday was "one of the most horrible nights" of the war, the southern Ukrainian city's mayor said.

“We do not recall such a scale of attack since the beginning of a full-scale invasion,” Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said on Facebook.

There were no casualties, but the city was rocked by explosions and several people were injured by a downed Russian missile, officials said.

“We are getting stronger from our righteous fury! We are grateful to the air defense system. It was a fierce air battle,” Trukhanov said.

CNN journalists in Odesa heard an intense bombardment around 2 a.m. local time.

Ukraine’s Air Force said that for the second night in a row, Russia targeted Odesa with a barrage of cruise missiles and Shahed attack drones.

The attacks on the Black Sea port city come after Moscow pulled out of a key UN-brokered grain deal this week, drawing condemnation from Ukraine, the United States and their allies.

In a Telegram post, Oleh Kiper, head of the Odesa regional military administration said fires broke out after Russian strikes hit a grain and oil terminal and other industrial facilities.

Several civilians, including a 9-year-old boy, were injured after air defenses shot down a cruise missile, he said.

2:42 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Russian aerial barrage targets Odesa for second straight night, Ukraine says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

An apartment building damaged during Russian missile and drone strikes is seen near Odesa, Ukraine on July 19.
An apartment building damaged during Russian missile and drone strikes is seen near Odesa, Ukraine on July 19. Stringer/Reuters

Russian forces launched more than 60 airstrikes at Ukraine overnight, with the "main focus" of their attack targeting the southern Odesa region, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement Wednesday.

The Russian barrage included Kalibr, Kh-22 and Oniks cruise missiles, and Iran-made Shahed-136/131 UAVs, the Air Force said.

Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 14 cruise missiles and 23 drones, it added.

Some context: It marks the second consecutive night of Russian airstrikes on Odesa. Russian forces targeted the port city Tuesday in what Moscow said was retaliation for Kyiv's attack on the Crimean bridge linking the annexed peninsula to Russia.

2:10 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

Fire at Crimea military base forces thousands to evacuate, Russia-backed official says

From CNN's Aruzhan Zeinulla, Olga Voitovych, Josh Pennington and Durate Mendonca

More than 2,000 people were evacuated in Crimea Wednesday after a fire broke out at a military training ground, the peninsula's Moscow-backed governor said Wednesday.

In a Telegram post, Crimea Gov. Sergey Askenov said residents of four villages in Kirovske district would be temporarily evacuated. The blaze also caused traffic disruptions, he said.

It is unclear what caused the fire.

The incident comes two days after Ukraine attacked the strategic and symbolic Crimean bridge linking the annexed peninsula to Russia.

10:53 a.m. ET, July 19, 2023

It's early morning in Odesa. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

Russia attacked Odesa early Wednesday for a second straight night. A CNN team in the southern city witnessed a sustained barrage from the air defense near the direction of the port.

It comes after Russian forces launched airstrikes on Odesa Tuesday in what Moscow said was retaliation for Kyiv's attack on the Crimean bridge linking the annexed peninsula to Russia.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow would be prepared to return to the critical Black Sea grain deal if its demands are met by international partners.

Here's what else you should know:

  • Black Sea grain deal: A senior European Union official said the EU is “extremely concerned” about Russia's withdrawal and will expand its solidarity lanes to aid Kyiv in exporting Ukraine's grain. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that Russia’s decision was a “stab on the back at global food security prices.” French President Emmanuel Macron said Russian leader Vladimir Putin made a “huge mistake” with his decision to “weaponize” food and Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told CNN the move was "very deplorable." Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said the withdrawal will "inevitably" result in more crises around the world.
  • Support for Ukraine: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which met virtually Tuesday, discussed Kyiv’s “urgent need for ammunition.” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the meeting demonstrated the allies’ "unwavering support for Ukraine."
  • On the ground: Two civilians were killed and seven people were injured by Ukrainian shelling in separatist-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, a Russia-backed official said. Meanwhile, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the Ukrainian counteroffensive is “far from a failure” despite moving slower than anticipated. And Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says the military was creating conditions to continue advancing along the southern front.
  • Russian special forces: Putin transferred the Grom special forces unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the jurisdiction of the Russian National Guard (or Rosgvardiya), which will allow it to be deployed to the front lines in Ukraine, said Alexander Khinshtein, a member of the Russian Parliament from Putin’s United Russia party. The move comes just weeks after Putin met with the leadership and personnel of the Ministry of Defense, the Russian National Guard, the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, following an attempted coup by the Wagner private military group.
  • Ukrainian strike impact: Ferry crossings across the Kerch Strait, which separates annexed Crimea from Russia, have been suspended, the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia in the Republic of Crimea announced on Tuesday. The announcement follows an apparent strike Monday by Ukrainian forces on the bridge, which damaged the road.