As the conflict enters its 504th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.
- NATO leaders began their two-day summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius but, in a serious disappointment for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, failed to give Ukraine a timeline or formal invitation to join the security alliance. “Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” the leaders of the 31 member states said in a declaration. “We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met,” they added without specifying the conditions.
- The NATO declaration also included a clear statement of support for Ukraine – “We reaffirm our unwavering solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the heroic defence of their nation, their land, and our shared values” – as well as strong language towards Moscow: “The Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
- Zelenskyy earlier told people gathered in a packed city square in the Lithuanian capital that joining NATO would make Ukraine safer and NATO stronger. He criticised NATO leaders for their inaction. “It’s unprecedented and absurd when a timeframe is not set, neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership,” he wrote on Twitter.
- Asked about Zelenskyy’s criticism, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted that there had “never been a stronger message from NATO at any time, both when it comes to the political message of the path forward for membership and the concrete support from NATO allies.” Stoltenberg also announced a multiyear assistance programme for Ukraine and said the NATO-Ukraine Council would hold its inaugural meeting on Wednesday with Zelenskyy’s participation. This is a “strong” package to create “a clear path” towards Ukraine’s membership in NATO, he said.
- United States President Joe Biden is expected to meet Zelenskyy for a one-to-one meeting in Vilnius on Wednesday.
- Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid was now “only a technical question”, after Turkey agreed to allow the Nordic country to join the alliance.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sweden’s accession to NATO would have clear negative implications for Russia’s security and that Moscow would respond with similar measures to those it took after Finland joined the alliance.
- Peskov also accused NATO of treating Russia “as an enemy, as an adversary”, and said Moscow would closely follow any decisions taken at the two-day summit “to ensure our own security”.
- Russia targeted Kyiv with Iranian-made Shahed drones in overnight air raids. Ukraine said it shot them all down before they could reach their targets. “The enemy attacked Kyiv from the air for the second time this month,” Serhiy Popko, a military general, said in a post on the Telegram channel.
- Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said at least five people, including an eight-year-old girl, were injured in an attack on a railway station in the Kherson region.
- Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s soldiers advanced 1.5km (0.9 miles) near the town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine. Shoigu told state television that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian offensive in the area and then “launched a counterattack”.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed on the importance of extending the Black Sea grain export deal, which is due to expire in a few days’ time. Sunak’s office said the two men “agreed on the importance of ensuring an extension” during a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
- The US announced sanctions on Aleksandar Vulin, the pro-Russian head of the Serbian Security and Information Agency, accusing him of using his position to help Moscow with “malign” activities and having links to an arms dealer and a drug-trafficking ring. Vulin is a close ally of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
- French President Emmanuel Macron said France would supply Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles to help its counteroffensive against Russia and give it the capacity to “strike deeply”. Macron did not elaborate on the type of weapons but French government officials told reporters the president was referring to SCALP missiles, which can travel 250km (155 miles).
- Denmark’s acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said that a coalition of 11 nations will begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets in Denmark in August. A training centre will also be set up in Romania, officials said.
- Russia’s Shoigu said Moscow would use “similar” means of attack if the US supplied cluster bombs to Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Shoigu was quoted as saying that Russia had not yet used its own cluster munitions. But NATO, Ukraine and rights groups have documented Russian use of cluster munitions. Kyiv has also used them.
- Germany finalised a 700-million-euro ($770m) military aid package for Ukraine. The package will include two Patriot launchers, 40 additional Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 25 additional 1 A5 main battle tanks as well as five Bergepanzer 2 tanks, the defence ministry said. The package also includes more ammunition.