Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for mediating talks on the export of grain from Ukraine, saying there was some progress. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Putin that Tehran and Moscow need to stay vigilant against “Western deception”, calling for long-term cooperation between them, state TV reported on Tuesday. Read FRANCE 24’s blog below to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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11:05pm: Ukraine’s first lady to address US Congress Wednesday
U.S. President Joe Biden, with flowers in hand, and first lady Jill Biden welcomed Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, to the White House on Tuesday for a visit ahead of her address to Congress on Wednesday.
Zelenska, the wife of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, embraced Jill Biden and received the flowers from the president, who met her vehicle outside.
Afterwards, the two women and delegations from both countries sat down for a meeting in the White House Blue Room.
10:10pm: Putin’s Iran trip shows how isolated Russia has become, says White House
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Iran this week shows how Russia has become isolated in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, John Kirby, the White House’s chief National Security Council spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday.
The United States last week said it has information that shows Iran is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, including some that are weapons capable, and that Tehran is preparing to train Russian forces to use them. Iran’s foreign minister denied that.
Kirby said on Tuesday that there is no indication yet that Iran has given drones to Russia.
10:02pm: Putin praises ‘useful’ summit with presidents of Iran, Turkey
Russian leader Vladimir Putin Tuesday praised his talks with the presidents of Iran and Turkey, speaking after a three-way summit on the Syrian conflict overshadowed by Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Putin said the summit in Tehran had been “truly useful and rather substantial”, describing the atmosphere as “businesslike and constructive”.
He said the three leaders adopted a joint declaration, pledging to strengthen cooperation in the interests of the “normalisation” of the situation in Syria.
The Kremlin chief also praised his bilateral meetings with Iran’s ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Putin said he and Erdogan discussed the export of Ukrainian and Russian grain as well as food security, but he provided no further details.
9:39pm: White House: Russia laying groundwork for annexing Ukrainian territory
Russia is laying the groundwork for the annexation of Ukrainian territory and is installing illegitimate proxy officials in territories under its control, the White House said on Tuesday.
The United States is preparing to unveil another weapons package for Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invasion, John Kirby, the chief National Security Council spokesman, told reporters at a White House briefing.
9:00pm: Zelenska accepts award for Ukrainian people before White House visit
Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, accepted a human rights award on Tuesday on behalf of the people of Ukraine in recognition of their fight against Russia’s invasion.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation recognised the Ukrainian people with its Dissident Human Rights Award. Zelenska, who is visiting Washington this week, accepted the award in person.
“It is an honour to be here and accept this award in the name of every Ukrainian man and woman fighting Russian aggression today,” she said, speaking through a translator.
8:07pm: Russia pounds Ukraine as Putin holds talks in Tehran
Russian missiles struck cities and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine, hitting homes, a school and a community center on Tuesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Iran to discuss a UN-backed proposal to unblock exports of Ukrainian grain.
In Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province considered a likely Russian occupation target, one person was killed and 10 wounded in an airstrike that hit a five-story apartment building, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Reporting from Sloviansk, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg quoted soldiers in the city centre who described the situation in the region as “tense but stable”.
7:35pm: Putin says progress in Ukraine grain talks thanks to Erdogan
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for mediating talks on the export of grain from Ukraine, saying there was some progress.
“I want to thank you for your mediation efforts,” Putin told Erdogan during a meeting in Tehran in comments released by the Kremlin.
“With your mediation, we have moved forward,” Putin said. “Not all issues have yet been resolved, but the fact that there is movement is already good.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hampered shipments from one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grain.
6:03pm: Retired Western military leaders to help supply protective gear to Ukraine
A panel of retired military leaders from the United States, Canada and the Netherlands will advise a pro-Ukraine campaign on the procurement of protective gear for Ukrainian defence forces, a Canada-based nonprofit group said on Tuesday.
The panel of four includes former commander of US forces in Afghanistan David Petraeus, former NATO commander Wesley Clark as well as former Dutch defence chief Dick Lodewijk Berlijn, according to the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC).
The panel, expected to grow in size, is chaired by retired Canadian chief of defence staff Rick Hillier.
It would focus on helping supply Ukraine’s territorial defence forces with gear such as helmets, body armour, ballistic goggles and medical kits, the UWC said in a statement.
“If we can help get them (Ukrainian defence forces) the equipment from the West … we can help them win this war,” Hillier said at a news conference.
4:55pm: Ukraine signs association pact with US-aligned energy watchdog
Ukraine joined the US-aligned International Energy Agency as an association country on Tuesday, the watchdog said, binding Kyiv closer to the mostly Western countries which oppose Russia’s invasion.
The Paris-based IEA consists of 31 big energy-consuming member countries, but not Russia, and has a second tier of 11 so-called association states such as China, India and Indonesia.
“In these particularly challenging times following Russia’s unprovoked invasion, we are further strengthening the relationship to support Ukraine’s significant reconstruction needs and help it build a new energy future,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at a signing ceremony in Warsaw, Poland.
“Ukraine has an important energy security role in Europe and beyond,” he added.
Ukraine has remained a major transit route for Russian gas to Europe even during Moscow’s invasion.
1:38pm: Blinken meets Ukraine’s first lady, pledges US support
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the “immense humanitarian costs” of the Russian invasion with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, according to a statement released on Twitter.
“The United States remains committed to helping the people of Ukraine defend themselves from Russia, secure justice, and rebuild their country,” said Blinken.
Met today with Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska to discuss the immense humanitarian costs of President Putin’s war. The United States remains committed to helping the people of Ukraine defend themselves from Russia, secure justice, and rebuild their country. pic.twitter.com/r4XuTKHPP7
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 19, 2022
12:52pm: Ukraine parliament votes to sack prosecutor general, security chief
Ukraine’s parliament has backed a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky to fire the prosecutor general and security chief, deputies said, in the largest political shake-up since the Russian invasion.
“Parliament voted to dismiss Iryna Venediktova as prosecutor general,” said lawmaker David Arakhamia on social media during a parliamentary session. Two other deputies said on social media that lawmakers had also voted to remove Ivan Bakanov as security chief.
6:24am: Kyiv prepares southern counteroffensive
Kyiv hopes the war is at a turning point, with Moscow having exhausted its offensive capabilities in seizing a few small cities in the east, while Ukraine now fields long-range Western weapons that can strike behind Russian lines.
Kyiv cites a string of successful strikes on 30 Russian logistics and ammunition hubs, which it says are crippling Russia’s artillery-dominated forces that need to transport thousands of shells to the front each day.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, credited US-supplied advanced long-range rocket systems known as HIMARS with helping to “stabilize the situation” through “major strikes at enemy command points, ammunition and fuel storage warehouses.”
Russia said on Monday that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered the military to concentrate on destroying Ukraine’s Western-supplied rockets and artillery.
In the south, Ukraine is preparing a counterattack to recapture the biggest swath of territory taken since the invasion. Ukraine reported destroying Russian missile systems, communications, radar, ammunition depots and armoured vehicles in strikes in the southern Kherson region.
6:12am: Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska on high-profile US trip
Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday as she began a series of high-profile appearances in Washington that will include a session with US counterpart Jill Biden.
Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags flew alongside American ones on Pennsylvania Avenue as Zelenska headed for her first announced event in the United States, the meeting with Blinken.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the secretary of state assured Zelenska of the United States’ commitment to Ukraine. Blinken also commended her for her work with civilians dealing with trauma and other damage from the war.
The first lady also met Monday with Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development. Power’s agency has given billions of dollars to support Ukraine’s government and to humanitarian needs, and is working to ease a global food shortage aggravated by Russia’s war.
The State Department announced and then canceled a planned brief appearance by Blinken and Zelenska before photographers there. The low-key arrival reflects that Zelenska is not traveling as an official representative of the government of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky.
5:23am: Ukrainian couples on edge as men head to front lines
Soon after Russia invaded, Ukraine banned most men ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country. That has left many couples facing difficult choices: some have been split across continents as women and children seek refuge abroad, while others have stuck together near the front lines as bombs rain down.
FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, Ludovic de Foucaud and Denys Denysov report from Kramatorsk:
4:32am: Yellen says US will impose harsh consequences on countries abusing global economic order
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the United States will impose harsh consequences on those countries that abuse or break international economic order.
“Economic integration has been weaponized by Russia,” she said, calling for all responsible countries to unite in opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
She said she was heartened by conversations with Korean counterparts on a proposed cap on Russian oil price while visiting South Korea, the final leg of her 11-day visit to the Indo-Pacific region.
3:15am: Russia continues to pummel cities across Ukraine
Russian forces kept up their bombardment of cities across Ukraine, with intense shelling of Sumy in the north, cluster bombs targeting Mykolaiv and a missile strike in Odesa in the south, authorities said on Tuesday.
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv at the outset of the invasion on February 24, Russia has shifted to a campaign of devastating bombardments to cement and extend its control of Ukraine’s south and east.
In Odesa, a Russian missile strike injured at least four people, burned houses to the ground and set other homes on fire, Oleksii Matsulevych, a spokesman for the regional administration, said on his Telegram channel.
Russian forces targeted Mykolaiv with cluster shells Monday, injuring at least two people and damaging windows and roofs of private houses, the Ukrainian city’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said in a social media post.
More than 150 mines and shells had been fired on the Sumy region, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the head of the Sumy regional military administration, said on Telegram.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)