July 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 3:05 a.m. ET, July 27, 2022
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11:40 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

Russia space agency to withdraw from International Space Station project after 2024, official tells Putin

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Kristin Fisher

In this frame grab from video provided by Roscosmos, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveyev are seen during a welcome ceremony after arriving at the International Space Station, on March 18, the first new faces in space since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The crew emerged from the Soyuz capsule wearing yellow flight suits with blue stripes, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
In this frame grab from video provided by Roscosmos, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveyev are seen during a welcome ceremony after arriving at the International Space Station, on March 18, the first new faces in space since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The crew emerged from the Soyuz capsule wearing yellow flight suits with blue stripes, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. (Roscosmos/AP)

Russia will withdraw from the International Space Station project “after 2024” after fulfilling its obligations, according to the Kremlin readout of a meeting between the newly appointed head of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“You know that we are working within the framework of international cooperation at the International Space Station. Undoubtedly, we will fulfil all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov told Putin in the Kremlin-issued readout.

“I think that by this time, we will begin to form the Russian orbital station,” Borisov said. 

Russia’s withdrawal would be a major blow to the ISS, a model of international cooperation for decades. The announcement comes as the war in Ukraine has deeply strained its relations with US and Europe.

Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station for NASA, said that NASA hadn't received any official word from Russia about the decision to quit the ISS.

"The Russians, just like us, are thinking ahead to what's next for them. As we are planning transition after 2030 to commercially operated space stations in low-Earth orbit, they have a similar plan. And so they're thinking about that transition as well. We haven't received any official word from the partner as to the news today, so we'll be talking more about their plan going forward, " Gatens said.

This is not the first time that Russia has threatened to abandon the ISS amid crippling US and European sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Borisov's predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, repeatedly threatened to do so before he was ousted earlier this month.

But this most recent threat has more teeth, and the apparent approval of Putin himself. According to the transcript of a meeting posted to the Kremlin's website, Putin said "good" after Borisov told him that Roscosmos will begin to build its own space station after 2024.

Russia's withdrawal would be a major blow to the ISS, a model of international cooperation for decades.

The news comes less than two weeks after NASA and Roscosmos announced a crew-exchange deal or "seat swap" that had been under negotiations for more than four years. Starting in September, two Russian cosmonauts will launch on US spacecrafts from Florida while two American astronauts will ride Russian rockets into space. It's unclear if Russia's decision to pull out of the ISS after 2024 will impact the crew-exchange agreement.

The ISS, which is a collaboration among the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, is divided into two sections — the Russian Orbital Segment and the US Orbital Segment. The Biden administration announced in December that it was committed to extending the ISS from 2024 to 2030. But Russia — NASA's number-one partner at the ISS — never signed onto it.

"The Russian segment can't function without the electricity on the American side, and the American side can't function without the propulsion systems that are on the Russian side," former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman told CNN in February. "So you can't do an amicable divorce. You can't do a conscious uncoupling."

Since then, NASA has been exploring ways of moving the space station without the assistance of the Russian segment. In June, a Cygnus cargo spacecraft demonstrated its ability to raise the station's orbit. But whether the ISS would be able to survive without the Russians is still an open question.

NASA said in February it intends to keep operating the International Space Station — which was launched in 2000 — until the end of 2030, after which the ISS would be deorbited and crashed into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. Commercially operated space platforms would replace the ISS as a venue for collaboration and scientific research, NASA said.

Hear the director general of the European Space Agency here:

10:38 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

EU energy chief says gas deal exemptions reflect "more flexibility" for different member states

From CNN’s Alex Hardie and Chris Liakos in London

European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson speaks as she arrives for an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels, Belgium, on July 26.
European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson speaks as she arrives for an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels, Belgium, on July 26. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

The European Union’s Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson has said that “even if all the exemptions are used in full,” the deal reached by EU ministers on Tuesday to reduce natural gas demand by 15% would “help us [EU] safely through an average winter.”

Speaking after a meeting of the EU energy ministers in Brussels, Simson said that the agreement was “a blueprint to act together in a coordinated way if the situation worsens.”

Addressing the exemptions to the deal, Simson said that the European Council “has introduced more flexibility to reflect the specific situations of the member states.”

“The discussion showed that while solidarity is necessary, it works best when we recognize that the circumstances of the member states vary widely. Some are not integrated into the EU gas network or don't use gas at all,” she said.

Simson said that countries like Ireland, Malta and the Baltic states “have strongly underlined their intention to reduce demand.”  

The EU earlier Tuesday agreed to a voluntary target to reduce gas usage by 15% between August and March 2023. 

The EU Commission first unveiled the 15% target in its "Save Gas for a Safe Winter" plan last week, which included a proposal for a new law that, if passed, would give it the power to force states to meet mandatory reduction targets in exceptional circumstances.

But objections from some countries over the past few days pushed the bloc to make key concessions, taking into account their varying levels of dependency on gas and levels of storage.

The EU will now exempt countries that are not interconnected to other members’ gas networks from the 15% mandatory demand reduction target, as “they would not be able to free up significant volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states,” the EU Council said in a press release.

Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela told reporters at the same press conference that “we will share the pain.”

“Today, we are sending a strong signal not only to Vladimir Putin, who once again failed to divide the European Union, but most importantly to our citizens,” he said. 

“We will not allow Russia to threaten our security by deliberately disrupting gas deliveries and using gas as a political weapon,” Síkela added.

9:57 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

UK targets Russian officials over ties to the invasion of Ukraine in a new round of sanctions

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman

The UK government has sanctioned additional people and entities in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the British Foreign Office said Tuesday.

Among the sanctioned are Vitaly Khotsenko and Vladislav Kuznetsov, the Russian-imposed Prime Minister and First Deputy Chair of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, according to the Foreign Office statement.

“Khotsenko and Kuznetsov have been sent to implement Russia’s policies across the invaded region, supporting Putin’s plans to illegally annex more of Ukraine and use sham referendums to falsely legitimize their occupation,” the statement said. They have been hit with a travel ban and asset freeze.

Russia’s Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko and Deputy Minister of Justice Oleg Sviridenko have also been sanctioned, the Foreign Office said.

“The pair are suppressing their own people by targeting those speaking out against the war,” the statement said.

The UK also targeted 29 Russian regional governors with sanctions.

“The governors have been directed by the Kremlin to transfer funds to the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’, facilitating the Russian occupation in attempting to wrest territory from Ukraine,” the Foreign Office said.

Additionally, the UK sanctioned six Syrian individuals and companies for their links to Russia’s war in Ukraine, including for assisting in the recruitment of Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Russian troops.

Two nephews of “major Russian oligarch” Alisher Usmanov were hit with asset freezes over their “association with Putin”, the statement said. One of the two, Sarvar Ismailov, was previously a director at the English soccer club, Everton.

Usmanov, who is already subject to UK sanctions, also has close ties to the Kremlin, according to the Foreign Office.

The Foreign Office also added five Syrian individuals and entities to the sanctions list over their links to the governing regime in Syria, including Issam Shammout, the owner of Cham Wings, a Syrian airline that was released from EU sanctions in mid-July.

To date, the UK has sanctioned “more than 1,100 individuals and more than 100 entities” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Foreign Office said. 

8:28 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

Europe dials down its plans to ration gas this winter

From CNN's Anna Cooban

The European Union has agreed to ration its natural gas this winter to prevent a severe supply shock. But the bloc has watered down its ambitions by offering countries some significant leeway.

On Tuesday, EU energy ministers agreed to a voluntary target to reduce gas usage by 15% between August and March 2023. That reduction is measured against each country's average gas consumption during the same months over the previous five years.

The EU Commission first unveiled the 15% target in its "Save Gas for a Safe Winter" plan last week, which included a proposal for a new law that, if passed, would give it the power to force states to meet mandatory reduction targets in exceptional circumstances.

But objections from some countries over the past few days have pushed the bloc to make key concessions, taking into account their varying levels of dependency on gas and levels of storage.

Read the full story here:

8:27 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

Odesa wakes to sirens and more strikes

From CNN's Angus Watson, Ivan Watson and Dan Hodge in Odesa

A firefighter works at site of a residential area damaged by a Russia missile strike in the settlement of Zatoka, Odesa region, Ukraine, on July 26.
A firefighter works at site of a residential area damaged by a Russia missile strike in the settlement of Zatoka, Odesa region, Ukraine, on July 26. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters)

An air raid siren sounds over Odesa an hour before daybreak Tuesday, cutting through a clear night.

Heavily armed soldiers patrol the moonlit streets of the historic center, blocks from Ukraine’s most crucial port.

Like all Ukrainian cities a curfew keeps Odesa still through the night, but the city’s air defense system has allowed a quality of life here in contrast to the all-out war just a short drive east.

Coffee shops and lunch spots continue their summer trade, despite a lack of tourists in what was one of the Soviet Union’s most popular holiday towns. 

Days earlier, at a skate park in view of the port, children ride scooters and skateboards.

Seven-year-old Max fled to Moldova with his mother at the beginning of the war. He’s returned to spend time with his father Roman Gainutdikov, a merchant seaman put out of work by the war.

"Of course people want to live normally," says Gainutdikov. "But in the worst case it will be the same story as Mykolaiv."

Each night, Mykolaiv is pummeled by Russian missiles and rockets. The city is emptying out, with many fleeing to the relative safety of Odesa three hours down the road. 

Now, Odesa is being hit too.

Fires have been put out at the port where two cruise missiles on Saturday hit what the Ukrainians say was a pumping station.

Global condemnation continues over the strikes that hit infrastructure needed for Ukraine’s effort to export its grain harvest to a hungry world. Russia says it hit a military target there. 

Tuesday’s air raid siren was no false alarm either. Just south of the city, fires burned in the coastal village of Zatoka — an "ordinary" place, according to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who posted videos of the fiery aftermath of the strike. 

People here in Odesa expect more air raid sirens and know worse days could come. 

8:06 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

Joint Coordination Center for Ukrainian grain exports will begin overseeing system on Wednesday

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy, Anna Chernova and Yusuf Gezer

The Joint Coordination Center for Ukrainian grain exports is set to begin its work on Wednesday, according to the Turkish Ministry of Defense.

The defense ministry announced the opening in a press release Tuesday, saying the opening will take place at the National Defense University in Istanbul with the Turkish Minister for Defense Hulusi Akar scheduled to be in attendance. 

The center will oversee the system of maritime caravans transporting vital grain exports out of Ukraine. It was devised as part of the grain deal signed by Ukraine and Russia last Friday under the auspices of Turkey and the United Nations. 

A Russian delegation of experts headed by Rear Admiral Eduard Luik will arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

Their main task will be to "promptly resolve all the necessary issues for the Initiative to enter the stage of practical implementation," according to the statement.

12:53 p.m. ET, July 26, 2022

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Russian forces have struck multiple targets in the east and south of Ukraine with missiles and artillery, while European Union officials have accused Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom of "politically motivated" reductions in gas flows to member countries.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Russian forces bombarding "entire territory": Many settlements close to the front lines in the Donetsk region have come under fire in the past 24 hours as Russian forces try to break down Ukrainian defenses, according to the head of the region's military administration. "There is not a single settlement in Donetsk region that has not been shelled," Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Ukrainian television. "The entire territory is under fire."
  • Russia makes small advances in Donetsk region: The Ukrainian General Staff has conceded that Russian forces have been able to make small advances in the Donetsk region. "In the area of ​​the Vuhlehirska TPP, individual units of the enemy have partial success," reads an update.
  • Strikes on Mykolaiv and Odesa: Russian forces attacked the southern city of Mykolaiv with missiles and rockets early on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said. The city, which is close to the front lines in neighboring Kherson, has been struck almost every night for the past month. In addition, another Russian missile strike hit the coastal village of Zatoka in the Odesa region, where Russian forces have previously targeted a bridge with missiles.

  • Southern safe route blocked: A Russian checkpoint in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region has become the only relatively safe route for Ukrainians attempting to leave southern occupied areas for Ukrainian-held territory. But recent videos from around the checkpoint show hundreds of vehicles lined up, unable to cross, and a local official said more than than 5,000 people are stuck.
  • Grain exports to resume: The first shipment of Ukrainian grain under the Black Sea deal brokered by the United Nations is expected to move within a few days, a spokesperson for the UN secretary general said Monday. Parties to the agreement have reaffirmed their commitment as of Sunday, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, despite Russian strikes in the Ukrainian port of Odesa just a day after the accord was signed.
  • EU agrees to reduce demand for gas: EU ministers have reached a "political agreement" to cut the use of natural gas after Gazprom announced a further decrease in deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Earlier, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson called the cut in gas flow a "politically motivated step."
6:54 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

EU ministers reach "political agreement" on gas demand reduction 

From CNN’s Alex Hardie, Joseph Ataman and Niamh Kennedy

European Commissioner for European Green Deal Frans Timmermans, left, speaks with from left, Luxembourg's Energy Minister Claude Turmes, Ireland's Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and Denmark's Minister for Climate Dan Jorgensen during an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels, Belgium, on July 26.
European Commissioner for European Green Deal Frans Timmermans, left, speaks with from left, Luxembourg's Energy Minister Claude Turmes, Ireland's Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and Denmark's Minister for Climate Dan Jorgensen during an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels, Belgium, on July 26. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

EU ministers have reached a "political agreement" on gas demand reduction, according to the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Czech Presidency announced the agreement in a tweet on Tuesday, saying "this was not a Mission Impossible."

EU energy ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss energy supply amid a reduction in flows of Russian gas.

Some background: Last week, the European Commission laid out its "Save Gas for a Safe Winter" plan which asked the 27 member states to reduce their gas demand by 15% between August and March next year. This reduction is based on countries' average gas consumption during the same months over the past five years.

6:40 a.m. ET, July 26, 2022

EU won't be divided by gas scarcity, German foreign minister says

 From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin 

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock, left, and her Czech counterpart Jan Lipavsky speak during a press conference, on July 26, in Prague, Czech Republic.
German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock, left, and her Czech counterpart Jan Lipavsky speak during a press conference, on July 26, in Prague, Czech Republic. (Sulova Katerina/CTK/AP)

Europe will not be divided by the Russian-imposed gas scarcity they face, Germany's foreign minister said Tuesday.

Joining her Czech counterpart, Jan Lipavsky, in Prague for a joint press conference, Annalena Baerbock said: "We are underlining with this that we will not let ourselves be divided, where we as EU states could also act against each other because gas is so scarce, but that we are standing together and that is the most important signal to the Russian President."

"In the long term, the path is clear: Europe will gain sovereignty through the expansion of renewable energies," she said.

She added that, with every wind turbine and solar plant Europe erects, they will gain "freedom" and "become stronger together."

"This also means that we need to rapidly expand the infrastructure in Europe with which we transport energy," she said.

The challenge for all European countries is to maintain the security of supply, said Baerbock, noting that gas, not electricity, is the main source of heat supply in Germany.