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Latest Developments in Ukraine: July 20

A police officer, right, comforts a man as he holds the hand of a relative killed in Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, July 20, 2022.
A police officer, right, comforts a man as he holds the hand of a relative killed in Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, July 20, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT.

11:40 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the foreign ministers of Austria and the Czech Republic for their support as the Russian invasion of his country continues, The Associated Press reported.

"We are grateful for your support, for the support of your countries," he said during a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský during their visit to Kyiv.

10:30 p.m.:

8:17 p.m.: Russia will not export oil to the world market if the price is capped below the cost of production, Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak as telling Russian television, Reuters reported.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is pushing for a cap to make it harder for Moscow to fund its war in Ukraine. Officials say the goal is to set the price at a level that covers the marginal cost of production so Moscow is incentivized to continue exporting oil.

7:27 p.m.: The United States estimates that Russian casualties in Ukraine so far have reached around 15,000 killed and perhaps 45,000 wounded, CIA Director William Burns said, cautioning that Kyiv has endured significant casualties as well, Reuters reported.

"The latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community would be something in the vicinity of 15,000 (Russian forces) killed and maybe three times that wounded. So a quite significant set of losses," Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "And, the Ukrainians have suffered as well -- probably a little less than that. But, you know, significant casualties."

6:18 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “When we turn to our partners with this or that request, with this or that advice or demand, it is based on the experience of Ukraine -- on what we have already experienced. Russia is testing in Ukraine everything that can be used against other European countries.

“It started with gas wars and ended with a full-scale invasion, missile terror and burned cities of Ukraine. And so that this does not happen to anyone else, we must ensure a tangible joint victory over Russia in Ukraine. The sooner this is done, the less damage and suffering will be experienced by all European families, all European countries,” Zelenskyy said.

5:27 p.m.:

4:15 p.m.:

3:07 p.m.: Germany's State-owned rail company, Deutsche Bahn, said it was planning to transport grain by freight train from Ukraine to Germany's ports, Reuters reported.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has stalled Kyiv's exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos at Odesa.

Deutsche Bahn said it will transform its network that was set up to transport humanitarian aid to bring grain from Ukraine to the German ports of Rostock, Hamburg and Brake near Bremerhaven.

The railway operator plans to run several trains per week and a large part of the grain would be transported via Romania and Poland, the company said, adding that the company couldn't yet quantify how much grain it could transport.

2 p.m.: Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of firing two drones at a nuclear power station in the partially occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia on Monday but said the reactor was undamaged, according to Reuters.

Reuters could not independently verify the report, and Ukrainian officials had no immediate comment. The facility is the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

"Ukrainian nationalist formations used two kamikaze drones to attack facilities at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - one drone was destroyed on approach to the plant," Russia's defense ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine has previously accused Moscow of basing troops and storing military equipment on the grounds of the power station.

Earlier in the day Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed regional administration, wrote on Telegram that three Ukrainian "kamikaze drones" had struck the plant.

1:15 p.m.: A United Nations spokesman has reiterated the world body’s call for Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, spoke hours after Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow’s aims in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern Donbas region.

VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reports that Haq said: "We have from the start been clear that this military offensive needs to stop. The secretary-general has been very clear about that. The General Assembly has also spoken out as a group about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. That is the U.N. standpoint.”

11:45 a.m.: Ukraine first lady Olena Zelenska addressed U.S. Congress members Wednesday and appealed for more weapons to help her country defend itself against the ongoing Russian invasion.

Zelenska is on a visit to Washington where she already met with U.S. first lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

10:10 a.m.: Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that country’s military objectives in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern Donbas region, reports Reuters.

In an interview with state news agency RIA Novosti, Lavrov added that Russia’s objectives will expand further if Western countries continue to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons.

At the time of failed peace talks in March, Lavrov said, the focus was on the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, two breakaway, mainly Russian-speaking areas in eastern Ukraine from which Moscow has said it aims to drive out Ukrainian military forces.

"Now the geography is different, it's far from being just the DPR and LPR, it's also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and a number of other territories," Lavrov said, referring to territories well beyond the Donbas that Russian forces have wholly or partly seized.

9:08 a.m.: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the U.S. will send four more high mobility artillery rocket systems – HIMARS – to Ukraine.

Austin made the announcement Wednesday at the start of a virtual meeting with allies on Ukraine, reports Reuters. The additional systems will raise the number of HIMARS the U.S. has supplied to Ukraine to 16.

The long-range, high-accuracy rocket launchers have helped Ukraine beat back Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine. Earlier this week, Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu told generals that knocking out such weapons systems should be a top priority.

8:25 a.m.: A Ukrainian missile attack has seriously damaged a bridge that is key for supplying Russian forces in southern Ukraine, says the Associated Press.

The report quotes an official in the Russia-controlled Kherson region as saying the Antonivskyi bridge sustained 11 hits in Wednesday’s attack. Kirill Stremousov, in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency, says the Ukrainians used U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers in the attack.

The head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said passenger vehicles were allowed to continue using the bridge but truck traffic was halted to allow for quick repairs.

The 1.4-kilometer structure is the main crossing across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region.

8:05 a.m.: Ukraine’s government will seek a two-year freeze on its international debt payments so the country can focus its resources on fighting Russia, reports Reuters.

The report says lawmakers have told the finance ministry to negotiate a deferral on Ukraine's approximately $20 billion debt by mid-August.

Ukraine’s GDP is set to drop around 40 percent this year because of the Russian invasion.

7:45 a.m.: The European Union has proposed a plan for members to cut consumption of natural gas, ahead of an expected reduction of supplies from Russia.

The plan from the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, calls for the bloc’s 27 countries to cut gas usage by 15 percent for eight months beginning in August, reports the Washington Post.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether a partial major cut-off of Russian gas or a total cut-off of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at a news conference in Brussels Wednesday.

She added: “We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian gas.”

The flow of Russian gas to Europe has already slowed in recent weeks, with EU officials accusing Moscow of retaliating for Western sanctions sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

6:30 a.m.: European Union countries have only reduced their combined gas demand by 5% despite dwindling supplies from Russia and months of soaring prices, Reuters reported citing the European Commission. The commission put forward its plans to trigger deeper gas savings on Wednesday.

"EU level savings so far have been equal for 5% and this is clearly not enough. So, we have to start, coordinate, savings programs right now, if we don't want to face the worst case scenario in the middle of the winter," EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson told a news conference.

5:30 a.m.: The Russian central bank has proposed limiting access to foreign stocks for retail investors who have not passed a qualification test, Central Bank Deputy Chairman Philip Gabunia said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Gabunia also said more than 5 million people in Russia have assets on their accounts frozen as a result of sweeping Western sanctions designed to punish Russia for what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

5 a.m.: U.S. lawmakers are set to hear Wednesday from Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska as she delivers remarks on Capitol Hill.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said ahead of the address that Zelenska would be speaking on behalf of all Ukrainian mothers and women.

“And I really believe that it will be heard by those on whom decision-making in the U.S. depends,” the president said.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encouraged all members of the House and Senate to attend, saying it would be an “important and timely opportunity to hear directly from First Lady Zelenska, to learn more about the terrible toll of the Russian invasion and to express our gratitude to the people of Ukraine for their fight for Democracy.”

4 a.m.: The U.N.'s aviation agency on Tuesday for the first time blamed senior Belarus officials for a hoax last year that grounded a Ryanair flight that led to the arrest of a dissident reporter, Reuters reported.

The plane was on its way from Athens to Vilnius in May 2021 when Belarus controllers ordered it to land in Minsk, citing a bomb threat. Once it was on the ground, Belarus journalist Roman Protasevich was detained along with his then-girlfriend.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, which had previously said it did not know who was behind the hoax, condemned Minsk for "committing an act of unlawful interference" which contravened aviation rules.

3:15 a.m.: Ukraine intends to postpone repayment of its Eurobonds and payments of interest on them for 24 months from August 1, Reuters reported citing a government resolution published on Wednesday.

The government, which is trying to deal with the impact of Russia's February 24 invasion, instructed the finance ministry to hold negotiations with creditors on deferring payments by August15 and promised additional interest on postponed payments.

The government also plans to postpone payment on the GDP-linked warrants to August 2024 from May 2023, it said.

2:45 a.m.: In coming days, the United States will announce a new weapons package for Ukraine as it engages Russia in fierce battles in eastern Ukraine, John Kirby, the chief National Security Council spokesman, told a White House news briefing.

It will be the 16th such drawdown of money approved by Congress and allocated under presidential authority, he said, according to Reuters.

The package is expected to include U.S. mobile rocket launchers, known as HIMARS, and rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as artillery munitions.

The United States has provided $8 billion in security assistance since the war began, including $2.2 billion in the last month.

2 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Moscow did not see any desire from Ukraine to fulfill the terms of what he described as a preliminary peace deal agreed to in March, Reuters reported.

Putin, speaking to reporters in televised comments after a visit to Iran, said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were offering to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow's forces invaded in late February.

There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government to Putin's remarks in the early hours of Wednesday.

Putin, asked about a possible meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy, said Kyiv had not stuck to the terms of a preliminary peace deal he said had been "practically achieved" in March, without elaborating.

"The final result of course... depends on the willingness of the contracting parties to implement the agreements that were reached. Today we see the powers in Kyiv have no such desire."

Negotiations took place in March, with both sides making proposals but without a breakthrough. At the time, Zelenskiyy said only a concrete result from the talks could be trusted.

Putin met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday, deepening ties between the two countries who are both under Western sanctions.

1:20 a.m.: The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking broader authority from Congress to seize Russian oligarchs' assets to put pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, said a top prosecutor, according to Reuters.

In testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Andrew Adams, who leads the department's KleptoCapture task force, said Congress should let prosecutors seek forfeitures of assets used to evade U.S. sanctions, not just proceeds of sanctions evasions.

The task force was launched in March to enhance the United States' ability to punish wealthy Russians whom Washington accuses of enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.

Prosecutors have since won warrants to seize two yachts belonging to sanctioned Russians and planes owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, among other assets.

1:05 a.m.: Russia's offensive in Ukraine's Donbas region continues to make minimal gains as Ukrainian forces hold the line, British military intelligence said on Wednesday.

The Antonovskiy bridge over the Dnieper River that was struck by Ukrainian forces is probably still usable, Britain's defense ministry said on Twitter.

"It is highly likely that the bridge remains usable — but it is a key vulnerability for Russian Forces," the ministry added in the regular bulletin.

12:10 a.m.: Russia is preparing to annex more Ukrainian territory and is installing illegitimate proxy officials in areas it now controls in the east, the White House said on Tuesday.

Unveiling what he said was U.S. intelligence, John Kirby, the chief National Security Council spokesman, told a White House news briefing that the Russians are preparing to install proxy officials, establish the ruble as the default currency and force residents to apply for citizenship.

"We have information today, including from downgraded intelligence that we're able to share with you, about how Russia is laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory that it controls in direct violation of Ukraine's sovereignty," Kirby said, Reuters reported.

It is the same tactic used in 2014 when Russia announced its annexation of Crimea after taking control of it from Ukraine, Kirby said. The international community considers Crimea's annexation illegitimate.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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