Ukraine latest: Russia’s Medvedev says standoff


Political turmoil has rocked Russia. Warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, took control of a southern Russian military outpost and then began an advance toward Moscow, only to reach an agreement to back down hours later.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has begun its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion forces. Kyiv is conducting attacks in Ukraine’s south and east to reclaim occupied territory.

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:

Monday, July 3 (Tokyo time)

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.

Sunday, June 25

The Russian flag flies in front of the Great Hall of the People during a visit to Beijing by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in May.

  © Reuters

10:50 p.m. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to back the Russian government in the wake of the recent turmoil involving the Wagner mercenary group.

“This is Russia’s internal affair,” the ministry quotes an unidentified spokesperson as saying, recycling a term it often uses in other contexts. “As Russia’s friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity.”

10:07 p.m. Turmoil sparked by the aborted mutiny by Wagner mercenary forces led by Yevgeny Prigozhin could take weeks or even months to play out to Ukraine’s advantage in its counteroffensive, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.

In a series of Sunday television interviews, Blinken says that tensions that led to Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny had been rising for months and that the turmoil could affect Moscow’s capabilities in Ukraine.

“To the extent that the Russians are distracted and divided, it may make their prosecution of the aggression against Ukraine more difficult,” he says on ABC’s “This Week.”

8:22 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday told state television he was in constant contact with the defense ministry and that the country remained confident in realizing its plans related to the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

5:25 p.m. All transport restrictions in Russia’s Rostov region have been lifted, including those on highways, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday, citing local officials. “Bus and railway stations are working in normal mode. Tickets are on sale, all destinations are on schedule,” Sergey Tyurin, deputy minister of regional policy and mass communications for the Rostov region was quoted as saying.

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

  © Reuters

12:45 p.m. U.S. spies learned in mid-June that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was plotting an uprising against Russia and urgently informed the White House and other government agencies, The Washington Post reports, citing several U.S. officials.

There was “high concern” about what might transpire — whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would remain in power and what any instability might mean for control of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, one official says.

8:00 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss the situation in Russia. Blinken reiterates that support by the U.S. for Ukraine will not change.

7:55 a.m. Blinken speaks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. Blinken says the U.S. will stay in close coordination with allies and partners as the situation develops.

7:50 a.m. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks with defense ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Poland, and the U.K. to discuss the situation in Russia. Austin reiterates that support by the U.S. for Ukraine will not change.

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder says the U.S. will stay in close coordination with allies and partners as the situation continues to develop.

6:30 a.m. The criminal case opened against Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will be dropped, says Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The Wagner troops who took part in Prigozhin’s “march for justice” toward Moscow will not face any charges, Peskov adds, in recognition of their previous service to Russia.

5:00 a.m. Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will move to Belarus under a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to end an armed mutiny that Prigozhin had led against Russia’s military leadership, the Kremlin says.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov adds Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement, because he had known Prigozhin personally for around 20 years.

2:35 a.m. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says he had ordered his fighters, who had been advancing on Moscow, to turn around and return to their bases in order to avoid bloodshed, reports Reuters.

Prigozhin said his fighters had advanced to within 200 km of Moscow in the last 24 hours.

2:24 a.m. The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says that he had brokered a deal with mutinous Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin who had agreed to de-escalate the situation, reports Reuters.

1:45 a.m. A convoy of Wagner fighters approaching the outskirts of Moscow by road contains about 5,000 men led by senior Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin, a source close to the leadership in the Russian-held part of Ukraine’s Donetsk province tells Reuters.

The source says Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had fewer than 25,000 men at his disposal in total, and that around 5,000 of them were in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, home to the country’s Southern Military District.

The source says Wagner’s plan for Moscow is to take up positions in a densely built-up area.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner military group, says in a June 24 video that he and his troops have reached Rostov-on-Don in Russia. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

12:28 a.m. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin asks people to refrain from trips around the city as far as possible given a counterterrorism operation had been declared, saying the situation was “difficult,” reports Reuters.

Sobyanin also says in a statement that Monday would be a non-working day — with some exceptions — in order “to minimize risks.”

12:04 a.m. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone with Vladimir Putin and urged him to act with common sense, the Turkish presidency says, after Russian mercenary fighters began an armed mutiny overnight, according to Reuters.

The Kremlin says in a separate statement that Erdogan had backed the Russian government’s handling of the mutiny during the conversation with Putin.

Saturday, June 24

11:30 p.m. Russian mercenary fighters barrel toward Moscow, with Reuters reporting its journalists seeing troop carriers and a flatbed truck carrying a tank careening past the city of Voronezh more than halfway to Moscow, where a helicopter fires on them.

However, there are no reports of the rebels meeting any substantial resistance on the highway.

Meanwhile, Russian media shows pictures of small groups of police manning machine gun positions on Moscow’s southern outskirts. Authorities in the Lipetsk region south of the capital are telling residents to stay home.

Fighters of the Wagner private mercenary group are deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24.

  © Reuters

11:00 p.m. Moscow offers Wagner fighters amnesty if they lay down their weapons but they need to act fast, the official Russian news agency Tass reports, citing a lawmaker. “Wagner fighters can still lay down their arms and avoid punishment given their achievements during the special military operation [in Ukraine], but they should do it fast,” Pavel Krasheninniko is quoted as saying.

9:49 p.m. The Security Council of Belarus releases a statement saying the nation remains an ally of Russia and that internal disputes are “a gift to the collective West.”

8:58 p.m. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says his troops had not needed to fire a single shot when they took control of the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov.

In a new audio message released by his press service, he says his men had been fired on by artillery and helicopters en route to Rostov.

He says he thinks he has the support of the Russian people for what he calls his “march of justice.”

7:35 p.m. A Wagner mercenary column of vehicles drove past the Russian city of Voronezh on Saturday afternoon, a Reuters witness says. One of the vehicles was a flatbed truck carrying a tank.

7:15 p.m. Mutinous Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin says that he and his men will not turn themselves in on the orders of President Vladimir Putin. “The president makes a deep mistake when he talks about treason. We are patriots of our motherland, we fought and are fighting for it,” Prigozhin says in an audio message. “Nobody is going to turn themselves in and confess at the order of the president, the FSB [security service] or anyone else. Because we don’t want the country to continue to live any longer in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy.”

7:10 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, “Russia’s weakness is obvious” and that the longer Moscow keeps its troops and mercenaries in Ukraine, the more chaos it will invite back home.

“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness,” Zelenskyy says in a posting on the Telegram messaging app. “And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later.”

6:40 p.m. Germany’s Foreign Ministry advises travelers to avoid the city of Rostov and the surrounding area, as well as Moscow city center, until further notice due to events taking place in Russia.

That follows various reactions in other European countries. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni earlier said that the rebellion by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is backfiring against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Britain’s Defence Ministry said that the Russian state was facing its greatest security challenge of recent times. “Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out,” Britain’s defense ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

6:35 p.m. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev calls on Russians to rally around President Vladimir Putin amid a mutiny by the Wagner Group mercenary army, following similar calls by others including Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin meets with Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, at the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in this screen grab from a video released on June 24.

  © Reuters

6:10 p.m. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have met with Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, at the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in this screen grab from a video released on Saturday and provided by Reuters.

6:05 p.m. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says his forces are ready to help put down a mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary. In a statement, Kadyrov called Prigozhin’s behavior “a knife in the back” and told Russian soldiers not to give in to any “provocations.”

5:35 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin has briefed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on the situation in Russia, according to a message posted on the Belarusian presidency’s official Telegram channel. Putin has vowed to crush what he calls an armed mutiny by the Wagner Group.

5:25 p.m. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has called on Russians to rally around Russian President Vladimir Putin, after what Putin called an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner mercenary group.

4:47 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin says in an emergency televised address that an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner Group mercenary force was treason, and that “decisive action” will be taken to stabilize the situation in Rostov-on-Don, a southern city where Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin says his forces have taken control of all military installations.


  © Reuters

3:39 p.m. Rebellious Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin says he has taken control of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don as part of an attempt to oust the military leadership amid what the authorities say was an armed mutiny. Prigozhin demands that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, whom he has pledged to oust over what he says is their disastrous leadership of the war against Ukraine, come to see him in Rostov, a city near the Ukrainian border.

He had earlier said that he had 25,000 fighters moving toward Moscow to “restore justice” and had alleged, without providing evidence, that the military had killed a huge number of fighters from his Wagner private militia in an airstrike, something the defense ministry denied. “Those who destroyed our lads, who destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, will be punished. I ask that no one offer resistance,” he said in one of many frenzied audio messages.

3:06 p.m. Russia’s anti-terrorist committee says that it is imposing a counterterrorist regime in Moscow and the surrounding region amid an apparent mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group, the RIA state news agency reports.

12:45 p.m. The governor of the Lipetsk region of central Russia said on Saturday that the M-4 motorway connecting Moscow with southern regions was closed to traffic at the border with the Voronezh region, some 400 kilometers south of Moscow. Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared to have sent an armed convoy of his Wagner fighters on a 1,200 km drive toward Moscow, having said that he intended to oust the military leadership.

11:51 a.m. Fragments from downed Russian missiles caused a fire injuring seven in Kyiv, while other Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv, were also hit, officials say, as air alerts sounded nationwide. Serhiy Popko, head of the capital’s military administration, says falling fragments started a fire on the 16th, 17th and 18th floors of a 24-story tower block. He says seven people were injured and about 40 cars were damaged in an adjacent car park. Popko says anti-aircraft units had identified and downed more than 20 missiles.

At least three Russian missiles targeted Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, with one hitting a gas line and triggering a fire, says Mayor Ihor Terekhov. He says emergency services were at the scene but gave no details on casualties. The mayor of Dnipro in central Ukraine says eight private homes have been destroyed in an attack on the city.

10:11 a.m. The governor of southern Russia’s Rostov region adjoining Ukraine told residents early on Saturday to remain calm and stay indoors, as the leader of the Wagner private militia led what Russia calls a mutiny against the Moscow defense establishment. “Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of residents of the area. I ask everyone to stay calm and not to leave home unless necessary,” Vassily Golubev said in a message on his Telegram channel.

8:18 a.m. Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Saturday his Wagner fighters had crossed the border into Russia from Ukraine and were prepared to go “all the way” against Moscow’s military, hours after the Kremlin accused him of armed mutiny. Read more.

1:16 a.m. The European Union formally approves its 11th sanctions package, aiming to stop third parties from aiding the Russian war effort. The new measures add entities registered in Hong Kong and elsewhere to the Russian and Iranian entities already on the list. Read more.

For earlier updates, click here.

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