Ukraine live briefing: Russia expands territorial ambitions as U.S. weighs sending fighter jets to Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers travel on an armored vehicle on a road in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on July 20. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia has expanded its "special military operation" from eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk provinces to include the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and other captured territories. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
Ukrainian soldiers travel on an armored vehicle on a road in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on July 20. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia has expanded its "special military operation" from eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk provinces to include the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and other captured territories. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)
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Moscow has expanded its territorial ambitions in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign minister said Wednesday, in one of the most explicit signals yet that the Kremlin will attempt to seize land beyond the country’s eastern Donbas region. The proclamation followed a warning from the White House that Russia plans to annex swaths of Ukraine’s east and south.

As Moscow broadened its war aims, U.S. officials weighed providing Ukraine with new fighter jets and the training necessary to operate them, a step that would deepen Western involvement in the war and fulfill persistent requests from Kyiv for more weapons.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Ukraine’s first lady asks Congress for more arms to counter Russia

Key developments

  • E.U. countries on Wednesday approved their seventh round of sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, according to two E.U. diplomats. The latest measures ban gold imports, list new individuals and entities, and seek to improve implementation of existing sanctions. But these sanctions do not take aim at natural gas imports from Russia, a major source of revenue for the Kremlin.
  • Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska addressed Congress on Wednesday, making a rare personal appeal to the United States to provide Ukraine with air defense systems. “I am asking for weapons — weapons that will not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land but to protect one’s home,” Zelenska said. Congress approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May, which included $20 billion in military aid.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state media that Moscow’s territorial goals extend beyond the eastern Donbas region. He said Russia will push its geographical objectives in the war farther if the West continues to supply long-range weapons to Kyiv.
  • But even as Russia telegraphed its growing territorial ambitions in Ukraine, the top-ranking U.S. military officer said the Donbas region is “not lost yet.” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed the assessment in a news briefing Wednesday, responding to a reporter’s question about the fate of Ukraine’s easternmost region, where Russia has so far concentrated much of its combat effort.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was some progress on grain exports after meeting in Tehran with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but he did not elaborate. U.N.-backed talks have sought to lift Russian blockades of Black Sea ports to get Ukrainian grain flowing again and ease a global food crisis.

Battlefield updates

  • Even as Russia telegraphed its designs on a broader stretch of Ukrainian territory, a U.S. assessment estimated its troops have made minimal gains in recent weeks of fighting. Milley, at the Pentagon briefing Wednesday, said Russian forces have taken six to 10 miles of new territory during that span. “Advances are measured in literally hundreds of meters,” he said.
  • CIA Director William J. Burns estimated that roughly 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during the war in Ukraine and that as many as 45,000 have been wounded. Burns’s estimate, given at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, is the latest American intelligence on Russian losses, a subject the Kremlin has avoided. Burns added that “Ukrainians have suffered as well — probably a little less than that, but, you know, significant casualties.”
  • The U.S. Air Force chief of staff acknowledged Wednesday that officials are considering sending new fighter jets to Ukraine. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. did not say what type of aircraft would be transferred, but said talks are ongoing about how to reinforce Ukraine’s outgunned fleet. Options include American-made fighters and those manufactured in Europe, he said.
  • The United States is expected to send four more high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, in a virtual meeting with Ukraine allies. “We will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition and the sheer firepower to defend itself,” he added.
  • Using a HIMARS system delivered earlier, Ukrainian forces fired rockets that damaged the Antonovsky bridge in the southern Kherson region, according to Russian media outlets. The bridge is one of two crossing points that Russian forces use to resupply or withdraw from territory they hold west of the Dnieper River, according to the British Defense Ministry.
  • Kyiv fears that Russian forces could get further entrenched if the war drags on into winter, making counterattacks more difficult. “After winter, when the Russians will have more time to dig in, it will certainly be more difficult,” said the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.

E.U. urges gas rationing ahead of ‘likely’ cutoff by Russia

Energy crisis

  • Russia is “likely” to cut off gas supplies affecting Europe, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned. “We have to be proactive. We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian gas. And this is a likely scenario,” she said at a news conference in Brussels as she outlined a proposal for countries to cut gas consumption by 15 percent.
  • “Russia is blackmailing us,” Von der Leyen said. “Russia is using energy as a weapon.” Russia has already stopped sending gas to the Baltic states and Poland, Bulgaria and Finland, and reduced flows elsewhere, The Washington Post’s Quentin Ariès, Ellen Francis and Emily Rauhala report.
  • Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom has told European customers that it is no longer responsible for any gas shortfalls because of “extraordinary circumstances.”
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again criticized the European Union’s energy policy that he said has made the bloc “hostage to gas supplies from Russia.” In his nightly address, Zelensky encouraged E.U. leaders to impose sanctions on Russian gas, which they have so far avoided banning due to concerns of an energy shortage. “Russia must feel a much higher price for the war so that it forces it to seek peace,” Zelensky said.

From our correspondents

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