A Ukrainian serviceman stands on a tank loaded at a military truck, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Donbas region, Ukraine July 12, 2022.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands on a tank loaded at a military truck, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Donbas region, Ukraine July 12, 2022. Reuters / GLEB GARANICH

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday, stressing closer ties in the face of Western pressure over the war in Ukraine, where Russian forces struck more targets across the country.

During his Iran visit Putin will also meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal that would resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports - now blockaded by Russia - as well as peace in Syria. It was Putin's first face-to-face meeting with a NATO leader since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

In Moscow, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said that any peace in Ukraine would be the way Moscow wanted it.

"Russia will achieve all its goals. There will be peace - on our terms," said Medvedev, who is now deputy head of the Kremlin's Security Council.

The Kremlin has said there is no time limit to a conflict it calls a "special military operation" to ensure its own security. Ukraine and the West condemn it as an unprovoked aggressive war meant to grab territory and erase the identity of a nation that was under Moscow's thumb in the former Soviet Union until 1991.

More than two weeks have passed since Russia's last major territorial gain - capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk. Ukraine's General Army Staff said on Tuesday that Moscow's forces were busy shoring up their positions in recently seized territory and mounting limited but unsuccessful ground assaults in numerous different locations.

Britain's ministry of defence, which supports Kyiv, said on Thursday it believed Russian forces were unable to advance swiftly due to personnel shortages.

Russia is facing a resources dilemma, it said, having to decide how much military hardware and personnel to commit to achieving its stated objective of seizing full control of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region and how much to deploy to southern Ukraine to contend with a Ukrainian counter-attack.

But in a now familiar pattern, Russian missiles on Tuesday slammed into targets across Ukraine. At least one person was killed in a missile strike on the centre of the eastern city of Kramatorsk, the regional governor said.

Buildings in a town in the Kharkiv region were also hit, with footage showing piles of rubble being cleared by excavators.


Putin's trip to Tehran was a pointed message to the West about Russian plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India to help offset Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

"The contact with Khamenei is very important," Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow. "On most issues, our positions are close or identical."

Putin's bilateral talks with Erdogan will focus on a plan to get Ukrainian grain exports moving again, unblocking supplies that are vital to feed millions of people in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are expected to sign a deal later this week aimed at resuming the shipping of grain from Ukraine across the Black Sea.


Footage from Ukraine's Odesa region showed badly damaged buildings smouldering from Russian barrages.

Oleksii Matsulevych, a spokesman for the regional administration, said on Telegram the Russian strike had injured at least four people, burned houses to the ground, and set other homes on fire.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office, wrote on Twitter that the houses had been struck by seven Russian Kalibr cruise missiles.

"A terrorist state is longing to defeat those (who are) fearless with fear," he said. "We will neither break nor give up."

Russia's defence ministry said its forces had destroyed ammunition depots in the area that were storing weapons supplied to Kyiv by the United States and European countries.

Reuters could not immediately verify that assertion.

Russia says it does not deliberately target civilians or civilian infrastructure and only uses precision weapons to degrade Ukraine's military.

Kyiv says the ruins of numerous residential buildings hit by Russian forces across Ukraine belie Moscow's narrative.

After failing to capture the capital Kyiv at the start of the war, Russia switched tactics and began to rely on devastating long-range artillery and air strikes to try to cement and extend its control of Ukraine's south and east.

Kyiv is hoping the war is at a turning point and that Moscow has exhausted its offensive capabilities after 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 the south, Ukraine has said it is preparing a counter-attack to recapture the biggest swath of territory taken since the invasion.