Ukraine-Russia war LIVE: Putin says Wagner boss Prigozhin made ‘serious mistakes’ as ‘droned target Crimea’

Wagner chief Prigozhin killed

Vladimir Putin has eulogised Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as “a talented businessman” who made “serious mistakes”, and sent his condolences to the families of those who died in a plane crash near Moscow.

Breaking his silence of 24 hours on the presumed death in the crash of the mercenary group leader and former ally, the Russian president said it was necessary to await the outcome of the official investigation.

The crash, which killed 10 people, is widely claimed to be an assassination to avenge Mr Prigozhin’s mutiny in June that challenged Russia’s military leadership.

Intelligence chiefs said they suspected an explosion caused the crash. Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said reports that a surface-to-air missile took down the plane were inaccurate, but he declined to say whether the US suspected a bomb.

Earlier, masked men claiming to belong to Wagner warned the Kremlin to “get ready for us”.

Meanwhile, Russia accused Ukraine of firing a missile towards Moscow and claimed to have downed scores of drones targeting annexed Crimea.


Why have Wagner’s commanders remained silent since Prigozhin plane crash?

Silence from Wagner’s council of commanders could be “due to chaos and confusion within their ranks” or may be the result of explicit instructions from Russian authorities, a US-based think-tank has said.

While a Russian news aggregator has claimed the council met on Wednesday evening to prepare a joint statement and announce what would happen to Wagner in the near future, it has still not released any statement, the Institute for the Study of War said.

“The Wagner Council of Commanders’ silence may be due to chaos and confusion within their ranks following Prigozhin’s and Utkin’s assassination or due to explicit instructions from Russian authorities to remain silent.

Alternatively, the Kremlin may view a public statement as an attempt to reconstitute an independent Wagner force posing a threat to Russia’s defence ministry, with “Putin’s willingness to publicly assassinate the Wagner leadership” likely prompting a delay in the announcement of any successors, the ISW claimed.

“A member of the Wagner Council of Commanders personally selected by Putin to replace Prigozhin now would risk becoming the focus of the ire of Wagner rank and file upset about the assassination of Wagner’s leadership,” the think-tank added.

Andy Gregory25 August 2023 08:59


US announces sanctions and accuses Moscow of crimes against humanity over child deportations

Washington has announced sanctions against 11 Russians and two re-education facilities allegedly involved in the forced deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children, accusing Moscow of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced the measures at a UN Security Council meeting – held on Ukraine’s Independence Day to put a spotlight on the transfer or deportation of its children as young as four months old, to Russia, Belarus and Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine’s east.

“Children are literally being ripped from their homes in the year 2023,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said. “Russia and its proxies have detained children fleeing violence. They have forced children out of schools and orphanages.

“And local proxies have tricked or coerced parents into sending their children to so-called ‘summer camps’ only to be cut off from communication and refused to have their children returned to them.”

Estimates vary of the number of children taken from Ukraine, but Thomas-Greenfield said the United States knows there have been thousands since Russia’s invasion last February.

In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.

Andy Gregory25 August 2023 08:38


What next for the Wagner Group as leader presumed dead in plane crash?

The Wagner founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is presumed dead in a plane crash – a turn of events that appears to leave his Wagner Group fighters rudderless and facing a highly uncertain future.

My colleague Joe Sommerlad takes a look at what could lie next for the Wagner mercenaries:

What next for the Wagner Group in Russia?

Options for the mercenary group – in the wake of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s reported death in a plane crash – include complete dissolution, nationalisation into the conventional Russian army or finding a new leader. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to hold the key to the future

Andy Gregory25 August 2023 08:19


Biden and Zelensky discuss training of F-16 pilots, White House says

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky have discussed the start of training for Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, in a phone call to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day, the White House said.

The US and Ukrainian presidents also discussed expedited approval for other nations to transfer their F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, according to the White House.

Mr Biden is said to have reiterated Washington’s commitment to support Ukraine’s defence against Russian aggression for as long as it takes, and to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Gregory25 August 2023 08:01


Russian militants urge Wagner to switch sides in Ukraine war to ‘avenge Prigozhin’s death’

A group of Russian militants who have been volunteering on the side of Ukraine have called on Wagner mercenaries to switch sides and turn against Moscow to avenge the apparent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and their commander Dmitry Utkin.

“You are facing a serious choice now – you can stand in a stall of Russia’s defence ministry and serve as watchdogs for executors of your commanders or take revenge,” said Denis Kapustin, commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), in a video posted late on Thursday.

“To take revenge you need to switch to Ukraine’s side,” said Kapustin, a far-right Russian national whose fighters staged an armed incursion deep into Russian territory in May.

“Let’s end the bloody meat grinder of the special military operation,” he said, adding: “After that, we will march to Moscow and this time we will not stop 200 kilometers before the Moscow ring road but go to the end.”

You can read more about the group of Russian out for revenge on Vladimir Putin here:

The Russians out for revenge on Putin

The Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion were formed in Ukraine in the wake of Moscow’s invasion. Now, the militias are taking the fight to the Kremlin – and aiming to topple the president. Kim Sengupta reports

Andy Gregory25 August 2023 07:44


Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking Crimea with dozens of drones

Russia has accused Ukraine of firing a missile towards Moscow and attacking annexed Crimea with 42 drones, in what would mark one of the largest-known coordinated air attacks to date on Russian-held territory.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed to have shot down a modified S-200 missile over the Kaluga region, which borders the Moscow region, and Kaluga’s governor Vladislav Shapsha said there were no casualties.

The ministry also claimed that its air defence forces destroyed nine drones over Crimea, while 33 were suppressed by electronic means and crashed over the peninsula without reaching their targets.

Russian airports suspended flights for a few hours.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine, but has been saying in recent months that destroying Russia’s military infrastructure helps Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

The Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol in Crimea said a number of drones was destroyed over the the port city’s outskirts


Andy Gregory25 August 2023 07:28


‘Not yet definitive proof of Prigozhin’s death’ says MoD

There is not yet definitive proof that Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board the flight that crashed near Tver on Wednesday, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

“However, it is highly likely that he is indeed dead,” it added.

“The demise of Prigozhin would almost certainly have a deeply destabilising effect on the Wagner Group.

“His personal attributes of hyper-activity, exceptional audacity, a drive for results and extreme brutality permeated Wagner and are unlikely to be matched by any successor.”

Namita Singh25 August 2023 07:11


Wagner has been decapitated – the mercenaries should fear the future

Much of Wagner’s senior leadership is said to have been on the jet that crashed in Russia. Western security officials believe Yevgeny Prigozhin and his group may have been overconfident, writes Kim Sengupta – and fallen foul of Vladimir Putin’s ruthlessness.

Namita Singh25 August 2023 07:00


While world media speculates on Wagner chief’s presumed death, Russian state media shies away

While news that Russia’s Wagner mercenary chief was believed dead in a plane crash dominated world reports on Thursday, along with speculation that it was linked to his June mutiny, Russian state media painted a very different picture.

State TV channels Russia 24 and Russia 1 on Thursday largely stuck to describing the investigation into the previous day’s crash that killed 10 people. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose brief march on Moscow was seen as the biggest challenge to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 23-year-rule, was mentioned only toward the end of some reports.

Meanwhile, Russian state TV channels focused on portraying Mr Putin as calm and in control.

There was extensive coverage of Putin’s participation, via virtual link, in the summit of Brics nations in South Africa. Russia 24 covered Putin’s speech at the Brics summit in its entirety without any usual ad breaks or customary news bulletins.

In contrast, independent Russian media outside the country, such as online news outlet Meduza, gave blow-by-blow coverage of the crash.

And many Russians feverishly discussed Prigozhin’s presumed death online, including speculation prevalent in the West that Prigozhin’s death might have been an assassination to avenge his role in the aborted June mutiny.

Namita Singh25 August 2023 06:56


Biden’s shift on F-16s for Ukraine came after months of internal debate

President Joe Biden’s decision to allow allies to train Ukrainian forces on how to operate F-16 fighter jets — and eventually to provide the aircraft themselves — seemed like an abrupt change in position but was in fact one that came after months of internal debate and quiet talks with allies.

Mr Biden announced during the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, that the US would join the F-16 coalition. His green light came after president Volodymyr Zelensky spent months pressing the West to provide his forces with American-made jets as he tries to repel Russia’s now 15-month-old grinding invasion.

Long shadowing the administration’s calculation were worries that such a move could escalate tensions with Russia. US officials also argued that learning to fly and logistically support the advanced F-16 would be difficult and time consuming.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky clenches his fist as he speaks to the crowd in front of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 21 August 2023

(Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)

But over the past three months, administration officials shifted toward the view that it was time to provide Ukraine’s pilots with the training and aircraft needed for the country’s long-term security needs, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Still, the change in Mr Biden’s position seemed rather sudden.

In February, Mr Biden was insistent in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now” and that “I am ruling it out for now.” And in March, a top Pentagon policy official, Colin Kahl, told US lawmakers that even if the president approved F-16s for Ukraine, it could take as long as two years to get Ukrainian pilots trained and equipped.

But as the administration was publicly playing down the prospect of F-16s for Ukraine in the near term, an internal debate was heating up.

US president Joe Biden (L) delivers his speech as he is flanked by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky during an event with G7 leaders

(AFP via Getty Images)

Quiet White House discussions stepped up in February, around the time that Mr Biden visited Ukraine and Poland, according to the US officials.

Following the trip, discussions that included senior White House National Security Council, Pentagon and State Department officials began on the pros and cons and the details of how such a transfer might work, officials said. Administration officials also got deeper into consultations with allies.

In April, defence secretary Lloyd Austin heard from defence leaders from allied countries during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group who were looking for US permission to train the Ukrainians on F-16s, according to a Defense Department official who was not authorised to comment publicly. Mr Austin raised the matter during the NSC policy discussions and there was agreement that it was time to start training.

Namita Singh25 August 2023 06:54

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