Ukraine from June 26 to July 21: Belarus forces


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A key bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea has been damaged again, with Moscow blaming Ukraine. The attack could be part of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive to reclaim occupied territory.

Meanwhile, Russia has terminated a July 2022 deal for the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

Read our in-depth coverage. For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Note: Nikkei Asia decided in March 2022 to suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code. Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Here are the latest developments:

Friday, July 21 (Tokyo time)

1:57 a.m. Russia is not preparing to attack civilian ships in the Black Sea, contrary to American claims, says Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in comments posted on social media by his embassy.

1:34 a.m. The U.S. announces sanctions on a total of 120-plus individuals and entities, including 14 vessels, to “constrain Russia’s military capabilities, its access to battlefield supplies, and its economic bottom line.” The Russian Embassy in Washington does not immediately respond to Reuters for comment.

Thursday, July 20

11:00 p.m. Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari endorses calls by Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that the Black Sea grain initiative be restored. Kuleba, who is visiting Islamabad, says Russia has undermined world food security. Bhutto Zardari says he plans to raise the issue with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“It is not only in our interest but in the world’s interest that this grain initiative is restored,” Bhutto Zardari says.

9:54 p.m. Starting Friday, Kyiv time, all vessels in Black Sea waters en route to Russian ports and Russian-occupied Ukrainian seaports “may be considered for risk assessment” as carrying military cargo, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense says.

7:00 p.m. A building at the Chinese consulate in Odesa was damaged in a Russian missile and drone attack on the southern Ukrainian port city, regional governor Oleh Kiper said on Thursday. The damage appeared to be minor. Kiper posted a photograph online showing the building with broken windows. Russia, which is an ally of China, attacked the port cities of Odesa and Mykolaiv overnight for the third successive night.

3:45 p.m. Russia is responsible for a major global food supply crisis, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Thursday, days after the Kremlin announced it would suspend an agreement for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea. “What we already know is that this is going to create a big and huge food crisis in the world,” Borrell told journalists before heading into a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Borrell also accused Russia of deliberately attacking grain storage facilities in the southern port city of Odesa, which he said would further deepen the food crisis.

3:40 p.m. Belarus’ Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the country’s military was continuing exercises with fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group mercenary force at a military base near the city of Brest, on the border with Poland.

2:00 p.m. China’s imports of crude oil from Russia hit an all-time high in June, Chinese government data released on Thursday shows, with refiners continuing to gulp oil from the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline even as discounts against international benchmarks narrow. Arrivals from Russia totaled 10.5 million metric tonnes in June, or 2.56 million barrels per day. Shipments were up 44.1% from 1.77 million bpd in the same month last year, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. Russian arrivals for the first half totaled 52.61 million metric tonnes, up 21.6% from the year-earlier period.

8:00 a.m. The White House warned on Wednesday that Russia may expand its targeting of Ukrainian grain facilities to include attacks against civilian shipping in the Black Sea. Adam Hodge, White House National Security Council spokesperson, said U.S. officials have information indicating Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. “We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks,” he said.

A cargo ship waits to pass through the Bosphorus Strait in October 2022: The U.S. warned on July 19 that Russia may expand its attacks in the Black Sea, to include civilian shipping.

  © Reuters

12:27 a.m. Russia’s Defense Ministry says it would consider all ships traveling to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea as potential carriers of military cargoes from midnight on Thursday morning Moscow time, following the end of the Black Sea grain deal, reports Reuters.

In a statement posted on the Telegram messenger app, the ministry said that it was declaring southeastern and northwestern parts of the Black Sea’s international waters as unsafe for navigation, and that the flag states of ships traveling to Ukrainian ports would be considered parties to the conflict on the Ukrainian side.

Wednesday, July 19

11:57 p.m. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, is seen in a video welcoming his fighters to Belarus, telling them they would take no further part in the Ukraine war for now but ordering them to gather their strength for Africa, reports Reuters.

The footage, reposted by his press service on Telegram, is the first video evidence of Prigozhin’s whereabouts since the night of Wagner’s failed mutiny on June 23-24.

9:40 p.m. Ukraine is setting up a temporary shipping route to maintain grain shipments after Russia quit a deal allowing Ukrainian exports via a U.N.-backed safe sea corridor, Kyiv tells the U.N.’s shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization, in a letter reported on by Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the 14th BRICS Summit via video link in June 2022. He will not be attending the upcoming BRICS Summit in August.

  © Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters

8:35 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend next month’s summit of the BRICS group of emerging economies in South Africa “by mutual agreement,” South Africa’s presidency says. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend instead, alongside the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

South Africa faced a dilemma in hosting the summit because, as a member of the International Criminal Court, it theoretically would be required to arrest Putin if he were to attend. Putin is accused of the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had asked permission from the ICC not to arrest Putin, saying that to do so would amount to a declaration of war. The Kremlin says it did not tell South Africa that such an arrest would mean “war.”

3:00 p.m. A fire that broke out at the military training grounds in the Kirovske district on the Crimean Peninsula has forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people and the closure of the nearby highway, the Moscow-backed governor of Crimea said on Wednesday. “It is planned to temporarily evacuate residents of four settlements — this is more than 2,000 people,” Russian-installed Gov. Sergei Aksyonov of Crimea said on the Telegram messaging app. No reason was given for the fire.

9:00 a.m. Russia launched air attacks on Odesa for the second night in a row, but the key port will not be intimidated and will continue to export grain, Ukrainian officials said early on Wednesday. The Odesa region’s governor, Oleh Kiper, said on social media that air defense systems were engaged in repelling the Russian air attack and urged residents of the region to stay in shelters. The attacks on Odesa — one of Ukraine’s main ports for exporting grain — followed a pledge of retaliation by Russia after a blast on a bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula on Monday that Moscow blamed on Ukraine.

1:34 a.m. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will continue to explore all possible avenues” to ensure that Ukrainian and Russian grain and Russian fertilizer get to the global market, Guterres spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says. “A number of ideas” are being floated, Dujarric says in his daily press briefing. Asked to expand, he says to ask the Ukrainians and the Turks.

In this image from a video released by the Russian National Antiterrorism Committee, employees work on the damaged parts of an automobile link on the bridge connecting the Russian mainland and Crimean Peninsula over the Kerch Strait.

  © AP

Tuesday, July 18

8:30 a.m. Ukraine’s air defense systems were engaged in repelling a Russian air attack on the southern port of Odesa, Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Odesa military administration, says on the Telegram messaging app.

8:20 a.m. Large contingents of Russian forces are on the offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kupiansk sector and engaged in heavy fighting, Ukrainian officials say, adding that the Russians were now trying to break through Ukrainian defense lines in the area. Ukraine’s military launched a counteroffensive in the east and south several weeks ago. But, according to Reuters, officials have pointed to an intensification of Russian activity near Kupiansk and nearby Lyman, towns in the northeast retaken by Ukraine late last year.

7:40 a.m. Britain rejects accusations by Russia that British intelligence services might have been involved in an attack on Russia’s bridge to Crimea. “This is baseless speculation from Russia and we will not dignify it by commenting further,” a spokesperson for Britain’s foreign ministry said in emailed comments.

7:35 a.m. The British government says it has introduced new sanctions, including against Russian Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov, related to what it describes as Moscow’s forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Earlier this month, Russia said it had brought some 700,000 children from the conflict zones in Ukraine into Russian territory for their own protection. Ukraine has managed to return some of them but says many are considered illegally deported, without permission from their parents or Ukrainian authorities.

Commercial ships including vessels that are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul in October 2022.

  © Reuters

6:00 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that he and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have agreed during a phone conversation to work toward renewing Black Sea grain shipments. “We agreed with Mr. Guterres to work together, and with the relevant countries, to renew food security and food shipments by way of the Black Sea,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram.

5:07 a.m. The U.S. will keep working with other countries to find ways for Russian and Ukrainian grain to reach the world now that Moscow has suspended participation in the Black Sea grain deal, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters.

Kirby says Russia’s “irresponsible, dangerous decision” will “exacerbate food scarcity and harm millions of vulnerable people around the world.” He says he has seen nothing to establish the Crimea bridge strike as the reason behind the decision.

Asked about “just taking the grain out by sea with some kind of escort” and “daring the Russians to stop it,” Kirby says that “an effective military blockade in the Black Sea” is not an option being actively pursued.

2:45 a.m. The head of the World Trade Organization calls the end of the Black Sea grain deal “a matter of grave concern” and says she shares United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ “deep regret and disappointment.”

“People in poor countries struggling with food and energy price inflation stand to be hit hardest by the termination of the initiative: prices for future delivery of wheat and corn are already rising,” WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says in a written statement. “Therefore, I urge all parties to make every effort to come back to the negotiating table.”

1:59 a.m. Two-way traffic on one side of the road part of the bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea will be restored by Sept. 15, and restored on the other side by Nov. 1, under tentative plans outlined by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin.

Monday, July 17

11:42 p.m. With Russia’s decision to terminate the Black Sea grain deal, the country’s memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to facilitate exports of Russian grain and fertilizer is also terminated. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says.

“Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere,” Guterres tells reporters.

11:04 p.m. Russia’s withdrawal from a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain means that “the guarantees for the safety of navigation issued by the Russian side will be revoked,” Russia tells the U.N.’s shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization, in a letter reported on by Reuters.

10:59 p.m. Russia halts participation in the year-old United Nations-brokered deal that lets Ukraine export grain through the Black Sea, just hours after a blast knocked out the road part of a Russian bridge to Crimea in what Moscow calls a strike by Ukrainian sea drones, Reuters reports.

6:19 p.m. Russia has officially notified Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations that it is against extending the Black Sea grain export deal, the RIA news agency reports, citing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The deal, brokered by the U.N. and Turkey last July, aimed to alleviate a global food crisis by allowing Ukrainian grain blocked by the war to be safely exported. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the decision not to renew was not because of the bridge attack, but because agreed-to obligations to Russia have not been met — and that Russia will return to the deal once they are. Read more.

A view through a train window shows damage on the Crimea Bridge, in this still image from video taken on July 17.

  © Reuters

5:25 p.m. Blasts have been reported on a key road and rail bridge linking Russia to Crimea, with Russia blaming an attack by Ukraine. A Russian couple reportedly died, and their 14-year-old daughter has reportedly been injured.

5:15 a.m. Russia has taken “temporary” control of foreign-owned stakes of 100% or so in Danone Russia and in Danish beer group Carlsberg’s Baltika Breweries.

Danone Russia’s ultimate parent, Paris-based food company Danone, says it is “investigating the situation” and “preparing to take all necessary measures to protect its rights as shareholder of Danone Russia, and the continuity of the operations of the business in the interest of all stakeholders, in particular its employees.” A process launched in October 2022 to transfer control of Danone’s mainline Russian business — essential dairy and plant-based products — “was progressing according to the expected schedule,” Danone says.

Carlsberg says it “has not received any official information” from the Russian authorities on the new move and will “assess the legal and operational consequences of this development and take all necessary actions in response.” An agreement was signed this June to sell the Russian business, but “the prospects for this sales process are now highly uncertain,” Carlsberg says.

Russia similarly seized foreign-owned majority stakes in local units of German power company Uniper and Finnish power company Fortum in April — steps that Tass reported at the time as coming “in response to some states’ unfriendly actions towards Russia.”

Sunday, July 16

5:00 p.m. Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster munitions and reserves the right to “reciprocal action” if Ukraine uses its own, Russian President Vladimir Putin tells a state television reporter.

Putin claims not to have used the weapons in the war so far. But The Associated Press reports that their use by both Russia and Ukraine has been widely documented and that cluster rounds have been found in the aftermath of Russian strikes.

Ukrainian and American military officials said last week that U.S.-provided cluster munitions had arrived in Ukraine.

Saturday, July 15

11:22 p.m. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says on a surprise visit to Ukraine that his country will increase aid this year. Read more.

2:00 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he offered the Wagner private military the option of continuing to serve as a single unit under its same commander after the company’s short-lived rebellion, while some of the mercenaries were shown Friday in Belarus, possibly heralding the group’s relocation there. Putin’s comments appear to reflect his efforts to secure the loyalty of Wagner mercenaries, some of Russia’s most capable forces in Ukraine. In remarks published Friday in the business daily Kommersant, Putin for the first time described a Kremlin event attended by 35 Wagner commanders, including Prigozhin, on June 29, five days after the rebellion. He said he praised their efforts in Ukraine, deplored their involvement in the mutiny — which he previously denounced as an act of treason — and offered them alternatives for future service.

Friday, July 14

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian troops near Bakhmut, Ukraine: Russian Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov told a lawmaker that he was fired for complaining about conditions at the front.

  © Reuters

12:36 a.m. Russia detained “several” of its own high-ranking military officers for questioning soon after Wagner mercenaries began their aborted march on Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, head of aerospace forces, is being interrogated in Moscow, the sources say, and has not been charged with a crime. He knew about plans for the insurrection but was not involved in the June 24 mutiny, according to one. The Financial Times reported his detention in late June.

“The Kremlin’s effort to weed out officers suspected of disloyalty is broader than publicly known, according to the people, who said at least 13 senior officers were detained for questioning, with some later released, and around 15 suspended from duty or fired,” the Journal reports. The head of the legislature’s Defense Committee has described Surovikin as resting and “not available right now,” according to the U.S. newspaper.

Russia has since March detained Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, an American born to Soviet emigres, on espionage allegations that the newspaper and the U.S. have strongly denied.

Thursday, July 13

10:12 p.m. Ukraine will receive more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in military aid from international partners, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweets. “Long-range SCALP missiles, Leopard tanks, additional Patriots, F-16 pilot training are just some of the things that can be announced publicly,” he writes, detailing packages from Germany and six other countries and calling recent meetings in NATO summit venue Vilnius “very productive.”

3:00 p.m. A Russian general says he has been dismissed as a commander after telling the military leadership about the dire situation at the front in Ukraine, where he said Russian soldiers had been stabbed in the back by the failings of the top military brass. Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, who commanded the 58th Combined Arms Army, said in a voice message published by Russian lawmaker Andrei Gurulyov that he had been dismissed.

“There was a tough situation with the senior bosses in which it was necessary either to keep quiet and be a coward or to say it the way it is,” Popov said. “I had no right to lie in the name of you, in the name of my fallen comrades in arms, so I outlined all the problems which exist.”

President Joe Biden greets U.S. Ambassador to Finland Douglas Hickey as he arrives on Air Force One at Helsinki-Vantaan International Airport in Helsinki on July 12. 

  © AP

8:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden closes out a week focused on rallying NATO behind Ukraine with a daylong visit to new member and Russian neighbor Finland, after knocking Russian President Vladimir Putin over his “craven lust for land and power.” Biden will participate in a U.S.-Nordic summit with the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway in Helsinki and hold a joint news conference with Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto before heading back to Washington. Finland’s decision to join NATO broke with seven decades of military nonalignment and roughly doubled the length of the border NATO shares with Russia.

Wednesday, July 12

7:05 p.m. The Kremlin said that a visit by President Vladimir Putin to China was on the agenda, adding that now was a good time to build on the already strong relationship between the two countries. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular news briefing that the date of Putin’s trip would be announced when it had been finalized. “Now is an absolutely opportune moment to maintain high dynamics in the development of bilateral Russian-Chinese relation,” he said. “The exact dates will be agreed and you will be informed. Dialogue continues at various levels.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a reception at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21. (Sputnik/Pavel Byrkin/Kremlin via Reuters)

12:15 p.m. The armed confrontation in Ukraine will continue until the West gives up plans to dominate and defeat Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Indonesia’s Kompas newspaper published on Wednesday.

“Why doesn’t the armed confrontation in Ukraine come to an end? The answer is very simple — it will continue until the West gives up its plans to preserve its domination and overcome its obsessive desire to inflict on Russia a strategic defeat at the hands of its Kyiv puppets,” according to a transcript of the interview published on Russia’s foreign ministry website. Lavrov is due to attend the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum in Jakarta this week, as is U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

8:30 a.m. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said late on Tuesday that the increase in military assistance to Ukraine by the NATO alliance brings World War III closer. Commenting on the first day of the summit of the U.S.-led alliance in Lithuania, where a number of countries pledged more weaponry and financial support, Medvedev said the aid would not deter Russia from achieving its goals in Ukraine. “The completely crazy West could not come up with anything else. … In fact, it’s a dead end. World War III is getting closer,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

8:10 a.m. Russia launched a wave of drone attacks on Kyiv and its region for a second night in a row, with air defense systems engaged in repelling the strike, a Ukraine military official says. “The air raid alert is on! Air defense systems engaged in the region on approach to Kyiv,” Serhiy Popko, head of the military administration for the Ukrainian capital said on the Telegram messaging app. The Kyiv military administration urged on its Telegram channel that people stay in shelters until the raids are over.

Tuesday, July 11

9:30 p.m. France will join Britain in supplying Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles that can travel 250 kilometers, a move that lets Ukrainian forces hit Russian troops and supplies deep behind front lines.

A French diplomatic source indicates that Paris will send about 50 SCALP missiles produced by European manufacturer MBDA. President Emmanuel Macron says the delivery will adhere to France’s policy of assisting Ukraine to defend its territory, implying that Paris had received assurances from Kyiv that the missiles would not be fired into Russia.

9:13 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issues an angry statement saying it would be “absurd” if NATO did not offer Ukraine a timeline for membership at the alliance’s summit in Lithuania this week.

“It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance,” Zelenskyy writes on Twitter.

Divisions among NATO’s 31 members make it unlikely that the group will offer a date for Ukraine’s accession. Read more.

12:30 p.m. Russia launched an overnight airstrike on Kyiv in the early hours of Tuesday, Ukraine’s military says, hours before the start of the NATO summit in Lithuania. “The enemy attacked Kyiv from the air for the second time this month, Serhiy Popko, a head of Kyiv’s military administration, said in a post on its Telegram channel.

7:00 a.m. NATO members are seeking to overcome divisions over how to put Ukraine on a path to membership on the eve of Tuesday’s start to a summit in Lithuania, apparently removing one hurdle to Kyiv joining the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had put forward a package that included the removal of the requirement for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) — a list of political, economic and military goals that other eastern European nations had to meet before joining the alliance.

6:00 a.m. Turkey has agreed to support Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, clearing a major obstacle to the Scandinavian country’s bid to join the defense alliance. Read more.

4:10 a.m. A Russian attack on a humanitarian aid distribution point in southeastern Ukraine killed seven people, emergency services say, and two people were killed by Russian shelling in the east.

4:00 a.m. A deputy chief of the city’s department for mobilization work, who also commanded a Black Sea Fleet submarine, has been killed in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, the Tass news agency reports, citing law enforcement bodies. It says Stanislav Rzhitsky was killed by a gunman. A criminal case into the killing has been opened.

This Wagner mercenary column drives along the M-4 highway, which links Moscow with Russia’s southern cities, as smoke from a burning fuel tank at an oil depot rises in the background, near Voronezh, on June 24.

  © Reuters

3:10 a.m. As rebellious Wagner forces drove north toward Moscow on June 24, a contingent of military vehicles diverted east on a highway in the direction of a fortified Russian army base that holds nuclear weapons, Reuters reports based on videos posted online and interviews with local residents. Once the Wagner fighters reach more rural regions, the surveillance trail goes cold. This happens about 100 km from the nuclear base, Voronezh-45. Reuters could not confirm what happened next, and Western officials have repeatedly said that Russia’s nuclear stockpile was never in danger during the uprising, which ended quickly and mysteriously later that day.

2:35 a.m. Two top American newspapers take opposing stances on U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. The New York Times editorial board, which had endorsed Biden for president in 2020, says in a new editorial that “this is not a weapon that a nation with the power and influence of the United States should be spreading.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which had criticized him as a presidential candidate in 2020, says in a new editorial’s headlines that “Biden Is Right on Cluster Bombs for Ukraine” and that “Officials in Kyiv are best suited to weigh the risks to their own civilians.” Neither new editorial mentions Russia’s detention since March of Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, an American born to Soviet emigres, on espionage allegations that the newspaper and the U.S. have strongly denied.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have both used cluster munitions that have caused the deaths of, and serious injury to, civilians, according to Human Rights Watch. Ukraine, Russia and the U.S. are not among the 100-plus states that are party to the binding 2008 treaty banning the weapons. The U.K. and other Western allies of Washington have expressed concern or opposition regarding the use of cluster munitions.

2:09 a.m. Roughly 47,000 Russian men under age 50 had died in the war as of late May, independent Russia-focused news outlets Mediazona and Meduza jointly calculate from excess-mortality estimates.

“The last time the Ministry of Defence disclosed any casualty figures was in September 2022, when [Minister] Sergei Shoygu announced that a total of 5,937 soldiers were killed in action,” Mediazona says. “This figure is in stark dissonance with reality, as by that juncture, our own list of names, compiled through publicly available data, already surpassed the official count.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov declines to comment on the new unofficial number, saying that “we’ve stopped monitoring Meduza” and that only the ministry has the prerogative to supply such figures.

Monday, July 10

7:51 p.m. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin with Wagner mercenary group founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and his commanders to discuss the armed mutiny Wagner attempted to mount against the army’s top generals, Putin’s spokesman said on Monday.

The meeting, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, was held on June 29, five days after the aborted mutiny, which is widely regarded to have posed the most serious challenge to Putin since he came to power on the last day of 1999. Peskov told reporters that Putin had invited 35 people to the meeting, including Prigozhin and Wagner unit commanders, and that the meeting had lasted three hours.

“The only thing we can say is that the president gave his assessment of the company’s [Wagner’s] actions at the front during the Special Military Operation [in Ukraine] and also gave his assessment of the events of 24 June [the day of the mutiny],” Peskov told reporters.

4:17 p.m. Four people were killed in a Russian attack on a humanitarian aid distribution point in the southeastern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian officials said. The general prosecutor’s office said it had opened a criminal case into war crimes after the attack on the town of Orikhiv, which it said was carried out on Sunday afternoon. Yuriy Malashko, the regional governor, said a guided aviation bomb was used in the attack on a school building being used as an aid distribution point.

Sunday, July 9

10:34 p.m. Russian air defense systems shoot down four missiles, one over the Crimean Peninsula and three over Russia’s Rostov and Bryansk regions that border Ukraine, Russian officials say. No damage or casualties are reported in Russia-annexed Crimea, the Moscow-installed governor, Sergei Aksyonov, writes on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow regularly accuses Ukraine of attacks against targets inside Russia. Kyiv has denied this, saying it is fighting a defensive war on its own territory.

7:33 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda visit a church in western Ukraine to mark the anniversary of massacres of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II, killings that have been a source of tension between the allies.

Warsaw has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv since Russia’s invasion. But the Volhynia massacre, in which historians say tens of thousands of Poles perished, hangs over bilateral ties ahead of the July 11 anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of a series of killings that took place from 1943 to 1945.

Polish historians say up to 12,000 Ukrainians also were killed in Polish retaliatory operations.

3:45 p.m. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says NATO leaders should discuss Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant when they meet Tuesday and Wednesday for a summit in Lithuania. The U.S.-led trans-Atlantic alliance intends to tackle topics ranging from Ukraine’s membership bid and Sweden’s accession to boosting ammunition stockpiles and reviewing the first defense plans in decades.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of planning to attack the plant, located on Russian-held territory in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.

“After all, the vast majority of the [NATO] alliance members will be in the direct impact zone,” Zakharova says on the Telegram messaging app, referring to any potential incident at the plant.

2:15 a.m. The Olympic Council of Asia votes to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games in China. The council will allow as many as 500 athletes from the two countries to compete under a neutral flag, but they will not be permitted to win medals at the Sept. 28-Oct. 8 Games. Registering an international result, however, could help pave their way to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

12:30 a.m. The Kremlin says Turkey violated agreements by releasing detained Ukrainian commanders that for weeks defended a steel works in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Russia’s RIA news agency quotes a Kremlin spokesperson as saying that under the terms of a prisoner exchange, the fighters were to remain in Turkey until the end of the war.

The statement comes just hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine from Turkey, bringing with him the five commanders, saying he was “bringing our heroes home.”

Saturday, July 8

11:30 p.m. Spain and Canada say they oppose the use of cluster bombs that Washington has promised to give Ukraine for its counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces.

“Spain, based on the firm commitment it has with Ukraine, also has a firm commitment that certain weapons and bombs cannot be delivered under any circumstances,” Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles says. “No to cluster bombs and yes to the legitimate defense of Ukraine, which we understand should not be carried out with cluster bombs,” she says at a political rally.

Separately, the Canadian government says, “We do not support the use of cluster munitions and are committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians — particularly children.”

Meanwhile, Kyiv vows to not use the munitions on Russian soil. “Our position is simple — we need to liberate our temporarily occupied territories and save the lives of our people,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov writes on Twitter. “Ukraine will use these munitions only for the de-occupation of our internationally recognized territories. These munitions will not be used on the officially recognized territory of Russia.”

6:07 a.m. The Biden administration announces $800 million worth of military aid for Ukraine, most notably including cluster munitions for the first time. This marks the 42nd time since August 2021 that the U.S. provides equipment from Department of Defense inventories via presidential drawdown authority.

The U.S. has committed more than $42 billion in Biden-era security assistance to Ukraine, including more than $41.3 billion since Russia launched the invasion in February 2022, according to the Defense Department. The department recently revised up its overvaluation error for past aid to $6.2 billion over two fiscal years from $3 billion, meaning that even more resources were available for presidential drawdown packages than previously thought.

3:51 a.m. The U.S. says it will send Ukraine widely banned cluster munitions as part of a security assistance package, a move Ukraine says will have an “extraordinary psycho-emotional impact” on occupying Russian forces.

Cluster munitions are prohibited by more than 100 countries. They typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, and those that fail to explode pose a danger for decades after a conflict ends.

An emptied cluster munitions container. Cluster munitions are banned in over 100 nations.

  © Reuters

“We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance,” Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security adviser, tells reporters. “This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could. But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery.”

Friday, July 7

11:45 a.m. Ukraine has submitted its request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to the trade pact’s depositary country New Zealand, says Japan’s economy minister, Shigeyuki Goto. Japan, as a CPTPP member, “must carefully assess whether Ukraine fully meets the high level of the agreement” in terms of market access and rules, Goto adds.

The CPTPP includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, with the United Kingdom becoming the 12th member state.

12:44 a.m. Sweden has failed to persuade Turkey to lift its block on Stockholm’s path to NATO membership, and the issue will now go to a meeting of their leaders next week on the eve of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Reuters reports.

Swedish membership is “within reach,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says after talks with the two countries’ foreign ministers at the security alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom holds a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on July 6.

  © Reuters

Turkey says Sweden harbors members of militant groups, mainly supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, who he accuses of organizing demonstrations and financing terrorists. Sweden says it has met the demands agreed on in negotiations with Turkey, including introducing a new bill to outlaw belonging to a terrorist organization.

“We are hoping and looking for a positive decision next week,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom tells reporters in Brussels. “The process is continuing and we of course are working very intensively” in the coming days in order to join NATO, he says.

Thursday, July 6

11:10 p.m. A Russian missile slams into a residential building in Lviv in western Ukraine, killing five people in a city that is far from the front lines and home to thousands displaced by war.

The roof and top floor of the building were destroyed in what Lviv’s mayor called the biggest attack of the war on civilian infrastructure in a city 70 kilometers from the border with NATO and European Union member state Poland. “There definitely will be a response to the enemy. It will be a noticeable one,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in an online post accompanying a video of the damage in Lviv.

10:00 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that his country and Bulgaria had agreed on more active cooperation in the defense sector, and that he had invited Sofia to take part in Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“We discussed the military aid which Bulgaria gives to our country,” Zelenskyy told a press conference in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, where he met Bulgarian leaders. “We count on the continuation of the cooperation which has already saved many lives.”

9:55 p.m. The U.S. is expected to announce that it will provide cluster munitions to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion, The New York Times reports. The newspaper cited an unidentified senior Biden administration official and offered no further details.

6:20 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that he was in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, for talks with the country’s president and prime minister on issues including security and next week’s NATO summit.

6:10 p.m. Russian state TV on Wednesday night launched a fierce attack on Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of an aborted armed mercenary mutiny last month, and said an investigation was still being pursued. In the program “60 Minutes,” broadcast on Wednesday on Rossiya-1 television, footage was shown that had purportedly been shot during law enforcement raids on Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg office and one of his “palaces.” The host, lawmaker Yevgeny Popov, called Prigozhin a “traitor” and the footage was presented by an invited guest — journalist Eduard Petrov — as proof of Prigozhin’s criminal past and his hypocrisy in alleging corruption in the armed forces.

4:40 p.m. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who last month brokered a deal to end an armed mutiny in Russia, said on Thursday that Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus. “As for Prigozhin, he’s in St. Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus,” he said, referring to Russia’s second-largest city.

2:40 p.m. The Russian ruble tumbled to a more than 15-month low past 92 against the dollar on Thursday, hampered by strong demand for foreign currency and taking its losses since an armed mutiny in late June to more than 8%. Capital controls have helped insulate the ruble against geopolitics in the more than 16 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, but mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted march toward Moscow on June 24 has reverberated through markets and raised questions about President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. At 0630 GMT, the ruble was 1.8% weaker against the dollar at 92.66, its weakest since March 28, 2022.

5:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Sweden’s prime minister to the White House on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as the United States ramps up pressure for the Nordic nation’s entry into NATO ahead of the alliance’s summit next week. Biden said it was very important for Sweden to join, something that’s been held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary. “You are a valued, valued friend,” the president said to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson during brief public remarks in the Oval Office. Kristersson responded by saying that “we highly appreciate your strong support” for joining NATO.

Wednesday, July 5

Russia’s budget’s oil and gas revenues fell by 47% to 3.38 trillion rubles ($37.4 billion) in the first half of the year from the same period in 2022, the Finance Ministry reported July 5.

  © Reuters

10:00 p.m. The Russian budget’s oil and gas revenues fell by 47% to 3.38 trillion rubles ($37.4 billion) in the first half of the year from the same period in 2022, Finance Ministry data shows, as tax returns fell because of lower prices and sales volumes. Proceeds from oil and gas sales are crucial for Russia’s commodity-oriented economy and for the financing of the battles in Ukraine. The oil and gas revenues declined by 26.4% in the month of June, year on year, to 528.6 billion rubles — less steep than the 36% fall seen in May.

8:00 a.m. Russian air defenses on Tuesday foiled a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow that prompted authorities to briefly close one of the city’s international airports, officials say. The drone attack, which follows previous similar raids on the Russian capital, was the first known assault on the city since an abortive mutiny launched 11 days ago by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Russian Defense Ministry said that four of the five drones were downed by air defenses on the outskirts of Moscow and the fifth was jammed electronically and forced down.

A Russian service member stands guard at a checkpoint near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

  © Reuters

5:09 a.m. Russia and Ukraine trade accusations of the other plotting an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, seized by Russian troops in the days following the invasion.

“Under cover of darkness overnight on 5th July, the Ukrainian military will try to attack the Zaporizhzhia station using long-range precision equipment and kamikaze attack drones,” Russian news agencies quote Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, which operates Russia’s nuclear network, as telling Russian television. He offered no evidence in support of his allegation.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces quote “operational data” as saying that “explosive devices” had been placed on the roof of the station’s third and fourth reactors on Tuesday, with an attack possible “in the near future.”

“If detonated, they would not damage the reactors but would create an image of shelling from the Ukrainian side,” the statement on Telegram says. The military also provided no evidence for its assertions.

The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has tried for over a year to reach a deal that would demilitarize the plant and reduce the risks of a nuclear accident.

2:30 a.m. Russia reiterates a demand for its state agricultural bank to be reconnected to the global SWIFT payments system to avert the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal, and says it would not accept a reported compromise proposal, Reuters reports.

With 13 days remaining until the expiry of the deal, which has allowed Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports despite Russia’s invasion, Moscow said there had been no progress on any of its key demands, including the banking issue.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that the European Union was considering a proposal to let Russia’s Rosselkhozbank set up a subsidiary that could connect to SWIFT.

1:43 a.m. At least 38 people, including 12 children, were wounded in a Russian missile strike that targeted a military funeral in Pervomaiskyi, in the northeastern Kharkiv region of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

Firefighters work at the site of a Russian military strike in the town of Pervomaiskyi, Ukraine, on July 4.

  © Reuters

Tuesday, July 4

4:14 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz call for the extension of a deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertilizers from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, reports Reuters, citing an official. The two men made the appeal during a phone call.

3:49 a.m. A Russian drone attack kills at least two people and injures 19 in the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy. An official building and two residential buildings were damaged in an attack carried out with four drones, reports Reuters, citing a post by the Sumy regional administration on Telegram.

“Unfortunately, our country does not yet have a sufficient number of high-quality air defense systems to protect our entire territory and shoot down all enemy targets,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Monday, July 3

6:00 p.m. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and now deputy head of the Security Council, has warned that Moscow’s confrontation with the West will last decades and that its conflict with Ukraine could become permanent. In an article for the government’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, he said tensions between Russia and the West were “much worse” than during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The only way to de-escalate tensions between Russia and the West was to enter into tough negotiations, he said. “The confrontation will last for decades.”

12:20 p.m. The Wagner Group’s departure from Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine does not impact Russia’s combat potential, the state-owned TASS agency cites Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, who chairs Russia’s lower house of parliament’s defense committee, as saying. According to Reuters, the influential lawmaker told TASS that the Russian regular army has been able to repulse Ukraine’s new offensive without Wagner fighters. “No new wave of mobilization will be required,” Kartapolov said.

Destroyed buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine are shown in this still image from a video released on June 15.

  © Reuters

11:20 a.m. Russia has brought some 700,000 children from the conflict zones in Ukraine into Russian territory, Grigory Karasin, head of the international committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, says. “In recent years, 700,000 children have found refuge with us, fleeing the bombing and shelling from the conflict areas in Ukraine,” Karasin wrote on his Telegram messaging channel. Ukraine, however, says many children have been illegally deported and the United States says thousands of children have been forcibly removed from their homes.

6:22 a.m. Many fighters from the Wagner mercenary group have agreed to fight for Russia, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, writes on Telegram.

After Wagner backed down from its mutiny in late June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Wagner fighters could continue to work in Russia by signing a contract with the Defense Ministry, go back to their families or go to Belarus.

3:31 a.m. Ukrainian forces are resisting a Russian onslaught in eastern areas of the front and face difficulties in the northeast, but are making progress near the shattered city of Bakhmut and in the south, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says. Russian forces are advancing near two cities in the Donetsk region, Maliar writes on Telegram, but she reports “partial success” south of Bakhmut.

“Our troops are facing intense enemy resistance, remote mining and the redeployment of enemy reserves, but are tirelessly creating the conditions for the fastest possible advance,” she says.

Russian accounts of the front line say Moscow’s forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near villages ringing Bakhmut and in areas farther south. Reuters could not confirm any of the battlefield accounts.

Saturday, July 1

12:30 p.m. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin’s staunchest ally in its war in Ukraine, said on Friday he was certain Russian tactical nuclear weapons deployed in his country would never be used. Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have acknowledged that some tactical weapons have arrived in Belarus. In an address marking his ex-Soviet state’s national day, Lukashenko said the stationing of the weapons in Belarus was “my firmest initiative.”

“As we move along, we become more and more convinced that they [the weapons] must be stationed here, in Belarus, in a reliable place,” he said. “I am certain that we will never have to use them while they are here. And no enemy will ever set foot on our land.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia June 9: Lukashenko, on June 30, said nuclear weapons in Belarus would not be used.

  © Reuters

Friday, June 30

11:30 p.m. Russia will increase salaries for military servicemen by 10.5% from Oct. 1, reports Reuters, citing a government decree published on the official web portal.

11:20 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation around Ukraine and how Moscow had resolved an armed mercenary mutiny in a telephone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Kremlin says.

Modi had expressed support for the Russian leadership’s decisive actions in handling the mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group last Saturday, according to the Kremlin.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected the European Commission’s plans to grant more money to Ukraine during a summit in Brussels on June 29.

  © Reuters

4:00 p.m. Hungary rejects the European Commission’s plans to grant more money to Ukraine and is not willing to contribute additional money to finance the EU’s increased debt service costs, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday. Orban, speaking on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels, said it was a “ridiculous” request from the Commission that Hungary should contribute more money when Budapest — along with Poland — has not received funds from the EU’s Recovery Fund amid a rule-of-law dispute. “One thing is clear, we Hungarians … will not give more money to Ukraine until they say where the previous around 70 billion euros worth of funds had gone,” Orban said.

1:00 p.m. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took center stage at a European Union summit, underscoring the importance the 27 EU leaders attach to protecting their eastern flank from Russian aggression and beefing up Ukraine’s defense capabilities. In a statement issued early Friday after the meeting ended, the leaders reaffirmed their willingness “to provide sustainable military support to Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Stoltenmerg said, “The mutiny we saw at the weekend demonstrates that there are cracks and divisions within the Russian system. At the same time, it is important to underline that these are internal Russian matters.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin awards General Sergei Surovikin, a senior commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, with the Order of St. George, Third Class, at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, Russia in December 2022. (Sputnik via Reuters)

7:00 a.m. The Kremlin has declined to give any details about the fate of Russian General Sergei Surovikin, whose status and location have not been made public since an abortive armed mutiny by mercenaries on Saturday. Nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian press for his aggressive tactics in Syria’s war, Surovikin — who is a deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine — has been absent from view since Saturday, when he appeared in a video appealing to mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to call off his mutiny. Surovikin looked exhausted in that video and it was unclear if he was speaking under duress. There have since been unconfirmed reports that he is being questioned by the security services. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday referred questions about Surovikin to the Defense Ministry, which has so far made no statement about him.

4:31 a.m. The International Monetary Fund’s executive board completes its first review of Ukraine’s $15.6 billion loan program, allowing Kyiv to immediately withdraw $890 million for budget support as it mounts a major offensive against Russia’s invasion, reports Reuters.

3:00 a.m. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg visits Kyiv to draw attention to environmental damage caused by war in Ukraine and criticized the world’s response to the June 6 collapse of the vast hydroelectric Kakhovka dam, according to Reuters.

“I do not think that the world reaction to this ecocide was enough,” said Thunberg, who was in Kyiv for the inaugural meeting of a new environmental group that also includes senior European political figures.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Kyiv on June 29. (Handout photo from the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

  © Reuters

12:48 a.m. Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, makes a surprise visit to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

12:21 a.m. Ukraine has held nuclear disaster response drills in the vicinity of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Reuters reports, citing regional officials.

Thursday, June 29

3:00 p.m. Rescuers have pulled another body from the ruins of a restaurant in eastern Ukraine’s city of Kramatorsk, taking to 12 the death toll following a Russian missile strike, Ukraine’s emergency services said on Thursday. Three children were among the dead, and 60 more people were wounded, the authorities said.

9:00 a.m. Russian authorities have declared a news outlet critical of the Kremlin an “undesirable” organization, effectively banning it from operating in Russia as part of a continued crackdown on dissent. Novaya Gazeta Europe was founded by former journalists of the prominent independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which was stripped of its media license last year. It operates from outside Russia. Prosecutor General’s office accused the outlet of “creating and disseminating materials to the detriment of the interests” of Russia — namely, “false information about alleged widespread violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens in Russia, accusations against our country of unleashing an aggressive war on Ukraine, of committing war crimes against civilian population, and of repressions.”

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, left, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Stockholm in March: NATO wants Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden joining the alliance.

  © Reuters

5:00 a.m. NATO allies have accelerated efforts to convince Turkey to lift its opposition to Sweden joining NATO, but whether they will have success before leaders hold a summit in Lithuania next month is unclear, a Western official says. Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, ditching long-held policies of military nonalignment after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Applications for membership must be approved by all NATO members, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to clear Sweden’s bid. For the United States and the rest of the alliance, welcoming Sweden when the bloc meets in Vilnius for a summit on July 10-11 has been a top priority.

Wednesday, June 28

1:30 p.m. The death toll has risen to eight from Russia’s attack on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine’s emergency services says, adding that 56 people were injured. Two Russian missiles struck Kramatorsk on Tuesday, hitting a crowded restaurant in the city center. Three people were pulled from the rubble, the emergency services added. “Rescuers are working through the rubble of the destroyed building and searching for people who are probably still under it,” officials of the emergency services said on the Telegram messaging app.

U.S.-supplied shells lie on the ground to fire at Russian positions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in June 2022. The Biden administration says it is sending up to $500 million in additional military aid to Ukraine.

  © AP

7:00 a.m. The Biden administration says it is sending up to $500 million in military aid to Ukraine, including more than 50 heavily armored vehicles and an infusion of missiles for air defense systems, as Ukrainian and Western leaders try to sort out the impact of the brief weekend insurrection in Russia. The aid is aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which has been moving slowly in its early stages. It is the 41st time since August 2021 that the U.S. has provided military weapons and equipment through presidential drawdown authority.

5:31 a.m. The U.S. Treasury Department announces sanctions against four companies and one person linked to the Wagner mercenary group and founder-owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, already under sanctions.

The companies in the Central African Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Russia “engaged in illicit gold dealings to fund the Wagner Group to sustain and expand its armed forces, including in Ukraine and Africa,” Treasury says. Wagner executive Andrey Ivanov is a Russian who “has been central to activities of Wagner Group units in Mali.”

3:50 a.m. Russia sent two frigates to sail through waters near Taiwan on Tuesday in a rare move that could further heighten tensions in the region.

The Russian intrusion came at a sensitive time, when China has been raising its own pressure on Taiwan. Read more.

3:09 a.m. The finances of Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s business group will be investigated, Russian President Vladimir Putin says.

The government “fully financed” Wagner itself to the tune of 86.3 billion rubles ($1 billion) between May 2022 and May 2023 for fighters’ salaries and incentive rewards, plus 110.2 billion rubles in insurance payouts, Putin tells Ministry of Defense military personnel in a meeting. Prigozhin also made money from providing food and canteen service to the Russian army. Putin says he hopes that no one “stole anything” — or that not much was stolen.

Tuesday, June 27

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head the Wagner military company, is seen in an image from a video message recorded in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don on June 24. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

11:50 p.m. Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has arrived in Belarus, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says.

“Yes, indeed, he is in Belarus today,” Lukashenko is quoted as saying by the official Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA).

Lukashenko also reveals some details of how he says he helped end Prigozhin’s uprising over the weekend before Wagner troops reached Moscow.

He says he told Russian President Vladimir Putin not to rush to “eliminate” the mutineers. “I suggested that I talk to Prigozhin, his commanders,” BelTA quotes the Belarusian leader as saying. “Putin replied: ‘Listen, it’s useless. He doesn’t even pick up the phone, he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.'”

Prigozhin ultimately agreed to stand down and depart for Belarus, with Russia dropping the armed-mutiny criminal case against him. Putin has thanked Lukashenko for his help. But Lukashenko vehemently denies acting as a “mediator.”

7:00 p.m. The European Commission is discussing ways to use frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine and hopes to put forward a proposal soon, the body’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, tells Nikkei.

“I am of the strong opinion that Russia must pay for the cost of the massive destructions it has provoked in Ukraine,” von der Leyen says in an email interview.

The interview came before an extraordinary turn of events at the weekend, when the leader of the mercenary Wagner Group employed by President Vladimir Putin to attack Ukraine staged a mutiny and threatened to march to Moscow before dramatically changing his mind. Read more.

3:00 p.m. Chinese Premier Li Qiang calls for the world to uphold “stability” with the goal of protecting economic growth, following a rebellion in Russia and as the world’s second-largest economy faces a growing array of challenges.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum in the city of Tianjin, the second-ranked figure in the Chinese government says global stability and development have been disrupted by “unfortunate events,” without mentioning any specific countries.

“In recent years, [we] have witnessed repeated rhetoric by some to stoke ideological confrontation, hatred and prejudice,” Li tells conference delegates, including the leaders of New Zealand and Vietnam. “This rhetoric keeps coming up, and as a result, we’re seeing acts of encirclement, suppression and even regional wars and conflicts.” Read more.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a televised address in Moscow on June 26. (Photo by Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via Reuters)

8:50 a.m. President Vladimir Putin pays tribute to pilots who were killed during the failed weekend mutiny, confirming earlier reports by military bloggers that several planes were shot down by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner militia. Wagner fighters on Saturday took control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and drove an armed convoy within 200 kilometers of Moscow before aborting their insurrection. “The courage and self-sacrifice of the fallen heroes-pilots saved Russia from tragic devastating consequences,” Putin said in his first public address about the mutiny since the weekend events.

5:00 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin thanks members of private military group Wagner for making the “only right decision” to avert bloodshed but says the ringleaders of the uprising have betrayed the nation.

Speaking on state television for the first time since Wagner troops stood down on Saturday, Putin makes no direct reference to mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, reported to have accepted a deal to go to Belarus.

Putin says the uprising would have eventually been crushed, and says that those who wish to can go to Belarus. The Russian leader also thanks Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for brokering a peaceful resolution.

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves the headquarters of the Southern Military District amid the group’s pullout from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on June 24.

  © Reuters

4:50 a.m. The U.S. and its allies were not involved in the weekend uprising against Russia’s military command by mercenaries, President Joe Biden says. In his first public comments on the mutiny, Biden said he and key allies have agreed not to give Russian President Vladimir Putin any excuse to blame the development on the West or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “We made clear that we were not involved. We had nothing to do with it,” Biden said at the White House. “This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.”

1:10 a.m. In his first message since halting his uprising in Russia, the head of the Wagner private military group says he had no intention of overthrowing Russia’s government over the weekend.

“We didn’t have the goal of toppling the existing regime, which is lawfully elected, as we have said many times,” Yevgeny Prigozhin says in a voice recording posted on Telegram.

Messages from Prigozhin had stopped after he announced Saturday night that his forces were turning around on their way to Moscow, after having advanced to around 200 kilometers from the Russian capital. It was not known where his latest message was recorded.

Prigozhin ended his show of force, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called a stab in the back, after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko stepped in to mediate. Much about what happens next, including Prigozhin’s whereabouts, remains unclear.

12:50 a.m. Kazakhstan is reaching out to hundreds of U.S. and European companies exiting Russia with an offer to host their operations, amid the ongoing economic fallout of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ve sent invitations to 401 companies whose relocation to Kazakhstan we are interested in,” Almas Aidarov, Kazakhstan’s deputy foreign minister, told the country’s Senate in late May.

Kazakhstan has been seeking to attract businesses exiting Russia since last July, when President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said the government “must create conditions that are favorable” for companies to relocate. Read more.

Monday, June 26

10:25 p.m. Berlin is prepared to station a 4,000-member army brigade in Lithuania permanently in coordination with NATO defense planning, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius says.

“Germany stands by its commitment as a NATO member, as Europe’s biggest economy, to stand up for the protection of the eastern flank,” Pistorius says during a visit to Vilnius. But he notes that Lithuania must provide infrastructure such as barracks, housing areas for families, depots and training grounds.

“We agree that the brigade will grow step-by-step as the infrastructure is established,” Pistorius says. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says he aims for the infrastructure to be in place by 2026.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg calls the Wagner group’s actions “another demonstration of the big strategic mistake that President Putin made with his illegal annexation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine.”

  © Reuters

6:04 p.m. The Wagner mercenaries’ mutiny demonstrated the scale of the Kremlin’s strategic mistake in waging war on Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says. “The events … [are] yet another demonstration of the big strategic mistake that President [Vladimir] Putin made with his illegal annexation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told reporters on a visit to Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. Stoltenberg also said NATO was monitoring the situation in Belarus and condemned Moscow’s announcement to deploy nuclear weapons there. “We don’t see any indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons, but NATO remains vigilant,” he said.

5:00 p.m. Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin remains under investigation by the Federal Security Service on suspicion of organizing an armed mutiny, the Kommersant newspaper reports, citing an unidentified source. The criminal case against Prigozhin was initiated on June 23 after he announced a “march for justice” by his fighters against the military leadership, who he said were cowards undermining Russia’s war in Ukraine.

2:50 p.m. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Russian troops involved in the military operation in Ukraine, the RIA news agency reports, his first public appearance since the weekend mutiny by the Wagner paramilitary group. RIA’s report, which cites Russia’s Defense Ministry, makes it clear that Shoigu remained in charge, but provides no details on when and where he met the troops and commanders of the Western military district. Mutineers led by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin advanced on Moscow to remove what they called Russia’s corrupt and incompetent military leadership, before suddenly heading back to a Russia-held area of eastern Ukraine after a deal with the Kremlin brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

2:30 p.m. Ukraine has reclaimed some 130 square kilometers from Russian forces along the southern front line since the start of the counteroffensive, Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says. “The situation in the south has not undergone significant changes over the past week,” Maliar told the national broadcaster. She added that along the eastern part of the front line, which includes the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Maryinka directions, about 250 combat clashes have taken place over the past week.

2:00 p.m. The Russian ruble opened at a near 15-month low against the dollar in early morning trade on Monday, responding for the first time to an aborted mutiny by heavily armed mercenaries over the weekend. By 0415 GMT, the ruble was 2.1% weaker against the dollar at 86.50, after earlier hitting 87.2300, its weakest point since late March 2022. Russian mercenaries led by Yevgeny Prigozhin withdrew from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don overnight on Saturday under a deal that halted their rapid advance on Moscow but left unanswered questions about President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, pictured here in March, announced on June 26 a 110 million Australian dollar military assistance package to Ukraine.

  © Reuters

1:00 p.m. The Australian government will provide a new 110 million Australian dollar ($73.5 million) military assistance package to Ukraine, including 70 military vehicles, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says. “This additional support will make a real difference, helping the Ukrainian people, who continue to show great courage in the face of Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and immoral war,” Albanese said during a media briefing in Canberra. The latest package will include 28 M113 armored vehicles, 14 special operations vehicles, 28 medium trucks and 14 trailers.

5:24 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have spoken by phone about Ukraine’s “ongoing counteroffensive” and “recent events in Russia,” the White House says — an allusion to the aborted Wagner mutiny.

Biden “reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support, including through continued security, economic, and humanitarian aid,” the readout says.

The Ukrainian side reports more details, with Zelenskyy tweeting about a “positive and inspiring conversation.” In a news release, his office says the leaders “discussed further expansion of defense cooperation, in particular, increasing Ukraine’s firepower on the battlefield with an emphasis on long-range weapons.” The tweet and the release say he thanked Biden for providing Patriot air defense systems and supporting the coalition to provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

Wagner fighters started heading back to their bases from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don late Saturday local time under the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Reuters reports.

Saturday’s events in Russia “exposed the weakness” of President Vladimir Putin’s regime, Zelenskyy says in the news release. The Ukrainian leader also had calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Polish President Andrzej Duda the day he spoke with Biden. Trudeau and Biden also talked by phone the same day.

2:22 a.m. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Im Chon Il has met with Russia’s ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, and unconditionally taken the Russian government’s side over the Wagner mutiny.

Speaking with Matsegora on Sunday, Im expressed a “firm belief that the recent armed rebellion in Russia would be successfully put down in conformity with the aspiration and will of the Russian people, saying the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will strongly support any option and decision by the Russian leadership,” the official Korean Central News Agency reports.

For earlier updates, click here.

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