Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
The US believes Russian officials have begun training on drones in Iran over the last several weeks, the latest sign that Russia intends to purchase the systems as the war in Ukraine continues.
“During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” a US official told CNN. The official said the intelligence about the training has recently been unclassified.
CNN first reported last month that a Russian delegation had visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice since June to examine weapons-capable drones, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and satellite imagery obtained exclusively by CNN.
Iran began showcasing the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones, also known as UAVs or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, to Russia at Kashan Airfield south of Tehran in June, US officials told CNN. Both types of drones are capable of carrying precision-guided missiles. Sullivan said in July that the US believes Iran intends to sell Russia hundreds of the drones that Russia can use in its war in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military has primarily been deploying Turkish-built Bayraktar UAVs to destroy Russian command posts, tanks and surface-to-air missile systems, while the Russians have been using homemade Orlan-10 drones for reconnaissance and electronic warfare.
But the Russians have been struggling to replenish their supply, leading them to turn to Iran for the equipment, the US believes. US officials have also argued that the growing relationship between Iran and Russia exemplifies why the US needs to maintain its presence and influence in the Middle East.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has pleaded with the US to provide more powerful armed drones like the Gray Eagle, but the US has been reluctant to provide them for fear that Russia could view it as overly escalatory.
CNN has reached out to the Russian embassy in Washington, DC, for comment. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov previously said Russia had "no comments on the matter" when asked about the drones by journalists last month.
Russia’s war against Ukraine began with Crimea and “must end with Crimea” and the liberation of the peninsula, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday.
“This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — its liberation,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.
“Today it is impossible to say when this will happen. But we are constantly adding the necessary components to the formula for the liberation of Crimea,” he added.
“(…) Crimea is Ukrainian, and we will never give it up,” he said.
Zelensky also said the Russian occupation of Crimea constitutes a “threat” to the entire continent and global stability.
“The presence of Russian occupiers in Crimea is a threat to the entire Europe and to global stability. (…) There will be no stable and lasting peace in many countries on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea as long as Russia is able to use our peninsula as its military base,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president went on to recall the historical significance of the peninsula for Ukrainians, saying: “Our state is home to peoples whose national cultures and aspirations were formed in Crimea. Therefore, when we work for the liberation of the peninsula, we are fighting for the restoration of the territorial integrity of our state, and for the return of home to the indigenous peoples of Ukraine.”
On Tuesday, a series of explosions were reported in the area of a Russian air base in Crimea. There has been no word from the Ukrainian side about any attack in the area. Ukraine is not known to have struck the territory of Crimea since the Russian invasion began.
Russia invaded and subsequently annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
US President Joe Biden celebrated the United States' decision to ratify Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO on Tuesday, saying their addition to the alliance would make it “stronger than ever.”
“Sweden and Finland have strong democratic institutions, strong militaries, and strong and transparent economies,” the President said from the East Room of the White House. “They'll meet every NATO requirement – we're confident of that – and will make … our alliance stronger and will make America and the American people safer in the process.”
The United States is “committed to the transatlantic partnership,” Biden said, especially in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In a moment when Putin's Russia has shattered peace and security in Europe, when autocrats are challenging the very foundations of a rule-based order, the strength of the Transatlantic Alliance, and America's commitment to NATO is more important than has ever been,” Biden said.
When the invasion started, “Putin thought he could break this apart” and “weaken our resolve,” Biden said.
“When Finland and Sweden bring the number of allies to 32, we’ll be stronger than ever. Stronger than ever,” Biden said.
The US State Department intends to provide $89 million in support of demining efforts in Ukraine as the nation faces “one of the largest landmine and unexploded ordnance challenges in decades” due to the war, a State Department official said Tuesday.
The assistance will go toward funding 100 demining teams who will work “in areas where there's the greatest amount of contamination” over the next year, the official said in a call with reporters.
The United States will provide training and equipment to the demining teams, the official said. They declined to say specifically where the training will take place but said “it's going to be an area that makes it as easy as possible for Ukrainian government employees, Ukrainian government deminers to receive that training as efficiently as possible and return to where they're needed most as quickly as possible.”
The $89 million will not go directly to the government of Ukraine, but rather to non-governmental organizations and contractors who work with the government teams.
“We are aware that Russia is using a bunch of different types of cluster munitions,” the official said, noting the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s claim that “Russia's forces deliberately hid explosives in toys and shiny objects to attract children's attention.”
“This horrific use of improvised explosive devices by Russia's forces is reminiscent of ISIS tactics back in Syria,” they said.
The official also referenced the Ukrainian government’s estimate that 160,000 square kilometers of territory “may be contaminated by land mines and unexploded ordnance,” noting “that's an area roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut, combined.”
However, the official noted the exact scope of mine contamination is difficult to determine as the war with Russia is ongoing.”
“I think it's safe to say that this is a challenge that Ukraine will face for decades,” they said.
Asked about the fact that the Biden administration has sent Claymore mines to Ukraine, the official said the ones provided by the US are configured to have a person who needs to pull the trigger, and as such the US does not consider them to be anti-personnel mines.
“They're provided so that there's a soldier making the decision on whether it's deployed,” they said. “It's not just simply left out there for a child to stumble upon.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Tuesday said their countries' aid to the Ukrainian military is "making a significant difference" in the war against Russia.
“They agreed that UK and French efforts to train and equip Ukrainian troops were making a significant difference in the war,” according to a readout provided by Downing Street.
The statement added that the two leaders also agreed that “western war fatigue cannot be allowed to set in."
Both sides reiterated the determination to support Ukraine for “as long as necessary,” according to a statement from Élysée Palace.
The readouts said that the pair also discussed other issues including the food crisis "caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine."
One person has died following explosions in the area of a Russian military airbase in Crimea on Tuesday, according to Sergey Aksenov, the head of the so-called Republic of Crimea.
“The situation is localized and is under control. I repeat once again: there is no general evacuation in the district. Only residents of houses located very close to the military airfield will be resettled,” Aksenov said on Telegram.
About 30 people were evacuated from their homes, said Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of the Crimean region. A cordon perimeter has been set up around the perimeter of the airfield, Kryuchkov said on his Telegram channel.
Earlier on Tuesday, Minister of Health of the Republic of Crimea Kоnstantin Skorupsky said five people were injured following the explosions.
The number of injured has increased to nine people, according to the Ministry of Health of Crimea.
In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said seven people injured received treatment at Saki Regional Hospital. Among them were two children. Six of the seven who were treated at the hospital received outpatient medical treatment while one person received in-patient treatment.
Two additional injured people were treated at Simferopol City Clinical Emergency Hospital No. 6 with mild injuries and were sent home following treatment.
The statement added one person is known to have been killed “on the spot” following the explosion.
Citing the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian state media RIA Novosti earlier reported the blasts had been caused by detonated aviation ammunition “on the territory of the airfield 'Saki' near the settlement of Novofedorivka.”
Aksenov said he is at the scene in the village of Novofedorivka in the Saki district and “there is a dispersion of fragments.”
Emergency crews are working the site, he added. “Measures were taken to set up a cordon perimeter in a 5-kilometer zone: fences, traffic police crews and foot patrols in order to prevent injuries to local residents.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said it cannot determine the cause of the explosions.
“The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot determine the cause of the fire, but once again reminds of the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places,” the ministry statement said. "The fact of a fire can be used by a terrorist country in an information war.”
The US State Department has sanctioned two high-ranking Belarusian officials “for involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters,” and will move to impose visa restrictions “on 100 regime officials and their affiliates for their involvement in undermining or injuring democratic institutions or impeding the transition to democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.
The measures were announced on the second anniversary of the election in Belarus – a fraudulent election and one in which longtime strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory. It sparked massive protests throughout the country.
“The Belarusian people have demonstrated remarkable resilience in sustaining the pro-democracy movement for two years at great personal sacrifice. These calls for democracy are voiced by Belarusians exiled abroad, over 1,200 political prisoners unjustly detained inside the country, and countless ordinary Belarusian citizens,” Blinken said in a statement.
“Their peaceful calls for democracy have been met with unprecedented brute force and a consolidated crackdown by the Lukashenka regime,” he said.
The two individuals sanctioned Tuesday — Mikalai Karpiankou, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Commander of the Internal Troops, and Dzmitriy Balaba, the Commander of the Special Task Police Force (OMON) of the Minsk City Executive Committee of Internal Affairs — “played a significant role in the repression surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election,” Blinken said.
“Today’s action expands existing restrictions on Karpiankou and Balaba to include visa restrictions against their immediate family members, including Karpiankou’s wife Irina and adult son Igor, and Balaba’s wife Tatyana and adult sons Artem and Maksim, making them ineligible for entry into the United States,” he said.
According to Blinken, the new tranche of those facing visa restrictions includes “those holding high-ranking positions in the Administration of the President, Ministry of Interior, State Security Committee (KGB), the Central Election Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office, Central Office of the Investigative Committee, Ministry of Transport and Communication, Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK), the National State TV and Radio Company ‘Belteleradio,’ the Second National Television Station, and the Air Force and Air Defense Forces,” as well as “members of Parliament, district judges, security officials, members of executive committees, and state university administrators.”
“Individuals subject to the proclamation have been implicated in torture; violent arrests of peaceful protesters; raids of homes and offices of journalists, members of the opposition, and activists; coerced confessions; electoral fraud; politically motivated sentences of political prisoners; expulsion of students for participation in peaceful protests; passage of legislation impacting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms; and acts of transnational repression,” Blinken said.
There has been a series of explosions in the area of a Russian air base in Crimea.
Social media images and video showed a large plume of smoke rising from the vicinity of the air base at Novofedorivka, on Crimea's west coast.
Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of the Crimean region, confirmed several explosions had occurred near the village of Novofedorivka.
"So far, I can only confirm the fact of several explosions in the Novofedorivka area. I ask everyone to wait for official messages and not to produce versions," Kryuchkov said on his Telegram channel.
The series of explosions was caused by detonated aviation ammunition, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.
“Around 3.20 pm, several aviation munitions detonated on the territory of the airfield 'Saki' near the settlement of Novofedorovka, on a bunded storage site,” a Russia defense ministry statement said, according to RIA Novosti.
State media reported there were no injuries due to the explosions, and aviation equipment at the airfield was not damaged, citing the defense ministry.
Separately, Sergey Aksenov, the head of the so-called Republic of Crimea, said he visited the scene and that "the circumstances are being clarified."
Ambulance crews and an air ambulance were sent to the site of the explosions, according to the Ministry of Health of the region.
There has been no word from the Ukrainian side about any attack in the area. Ukraine is not known to have struck the territory of Crimea since the Russian invasion began.