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Ukraine Latest: Pro-Kyiv Russians Urge Wagner to ‘Take Revenge’

The war in Ukraine, which broke out in February 2022 with Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, shows no sign of ending as both sides intensify attacks to gain control of contested regions.

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.

Friday, Aug. 25 (Tokyo time)

1:30 p.m. Russia’s air defense forces destroyed 42 Ukraine-launched drones over the Crimean Peninsula and one missile over the Kaluga region early on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry says. The ministry says nine drones were destroyed by air defense forces while 33 were suppressed by electronic warfare and crashed over Crimea without reaching their targets. Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of the port city of Sevastopol in Crimea, said on the Telegram messaging app that a number of drones were destroyed over the Khersones promontory, on Sevastopol’s outskirts.

10:30 a.m. The U.S. State Department has imposed sanctions on 13 people and entities it said are reportedly connected to the forced deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children, as Washington ramps up pressure on Moscow over its invasion. Washington is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on three Russia-installed purported authorities over their involvement in human rights abuses of Ukrainian minors, the State Department said in a statement. The sanctions coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day.

9:40 a.m. A group of Russian militants who fight on the Ukrainian side called on the Wagner Group of mercenaries to switch sides and join their ranks to revenge the deaths of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and their commander Dmitry Utkin. “You are facing a serious choice now — you can stand in a stall of Russia’s defense ministry and serve as watchdogs for executors of your commanders or take revenge,” Denis Kapustin, commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps, said in a video address published late on Thursday, adding, “To take revenge you need to switch to Ukraine’s side.” Russian air authorities have said Prigozhin, Utkin and eight others were on a private plane that crashed with no survivors north of Moscow on Wednesday.

8:30 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the start of training for Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, the White House says, adding that they also talked about expedited approval for other nations to transfer their F-16s to Ukraine.

5:30 a.m. The U.S. has seen no information to suggest that the plane said to be carrying Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, a Department of Defense spokesperson says.

Early indications suggest Prigozhin, a former Putin ally, has been killed, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder tells reporters, without providing details.

2:20 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to be dead, in the Kremlin’s first official reaction to the mercenary boss’s apparent demise in a plane crash Wednesday.

Putin says “initial data” indicates members of Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary group were on board and expresses condolences to the families of all 10 people who died.

“I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, from the beginning of the ’90s,” Putin says, describing his former ally as a “talented businessman” who made “serious mistakes.”

Putin’s remarks came during a meeting with Denis Pushilin, acting head of Ukraine’s self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Putin says an investigation into the crash and the victims is being carried out, adding that it will take some time.

Supporters of Prigozhin, who was listed among the passengers of a private jet that crashed northwest of Moscow, accused “traitors” of assassinating him in retribution for a mutiny he led in late June against Russian authorities. Prigozhin and his group are accused of war crimes in Ukraine and also in parts of the Middle East and Africa where they have operated.

Wreckage from the private jet linked to Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen near the crash site in Russia’s Tver region on Aug. 24.   © Reuters

12:30 a.m. Russia has called on Japan to be transparent about the release of treated water from the ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

“We are closely monitoring the development of the situation and expect that the Japanese government will show full transparency regarding the impact of the discharge of water,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova tells a news conference.

The release, which began Thursday, has provoked protests from Japan’s neighbors.

China announced it would suspend all seafood imports from Japan to “protect the health of Chinese consumers.” The country’s foreign ministry condemned Japan’s move as “selfish and irresponsible.”

Thursday, Aug. 24

10:30 p.m. Ukraine’s navy and military intelligence conducted a “special operation” overnight in which units landed on Russian-occupied Crimea, the Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence says. CNN reports, citing the intelligence agency, that special forces landed on the western shore of Crimea, near the settlements of Olenivka and Mayak.

The directorate says “all goals” were achieved and that casualties were inflicted on the enemy, but did not identify the goals. “Also, the state flag flew again in Ukrainian Crimea,” it says, without further details.

Russia has occupied Crimea since 2014. Moscow did not comment on the report, which coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day.

9:44 p.m. Swedish fashion retailer H&M Group plans to reopen the majority of its stores in Ukraine gradually starting in November, while prioritizing the safety of colleagues and customers.

The company says it will partner with organizations on the ground and engage in relief and rebuilding programs. H&M Group closed its Ukraine stores when Russia invaded the country in February 2022.

9:26 p.m. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells journalists in Kyiv that Ukraine had no involvement in the apparent death of Wagner Group mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed north of Moscow with no survivors.

“We are not involved in this situation, that’s for sure. I think everyone is aware of who is involved,” the BBC quotes Zelenskyy as saying.

8:03 p.m. Russian crash investigators pick through the wreckage of a jet said to have been carrying Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. Investigators have opened a criminal probe but there was no official word on what may have caused Wednesday evening’s crash, or even confirmation of Prigozhin’s death beyond a statement from the aviation authority saying he was on board.

A Reuters reporter at the crash site on Thursday morning saw men carrying away black body bags on stretchers. Residents of nearby village Kuzhenkino claimed they had heard a bang and then saw the jet plummet to the ground.

1:00 p.m. Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov says recent attacks on Russian airfields have destroyed two TU-22 bombers and damaged others. “Two were destroyed, two were damaged. Two cannot be repaired,” Budanov said in a TV interview for the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Russian officials reported drone attacks on military airfields Soltsy in the Novgorod region on Saturday and Shaykovka in the Kaluga region on Monday, and said that one warplane was damaged during the first attack.

Yevgeny Prigozhin led the Wagner mercenary group, which played a substantial role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    © Reuters

2:55 a.m. Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s top army brass in June, was listed as a passenger on a private jet that crashed north of Moscow with no survivors, Russian authorities say.

There is no confirmation at this point that Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, was among the 10 people on board. He was last seen Monday in an online video address purportedly filmed in Africa.

Wednesday, Aug. 23

10:01 p.m. Four educational workers are killed and four passersby are hurt in a Russian attack on a school in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Romny on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko says.

The regional military administration says a drone fired by Russia hit the school at 10:05 a.m. (0705 GMT).

9:08 p.m. Russian drones strike Ukrainian grain facilities at the Danube River port of Izmail overnight, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov says, destroying 13,000 tonnes of grain.

“This night alone, the export capacity of the port of Izmail was reduced by 15%,” Kubrakov says. “Russia is systematically hitting grain silos and warehouses to stop agricultural exports.”

He says 270,000 tonnes of grain have been destroyed in attacks since Russia quit a U.N.-brokered deal last month that had let Kyiv ship its grain via the Black Sea. The Danube River has become Ukraine’s main route for exporting grain since the collapse of the deal, which was meant to help tackle a global food crisis, and Izmail is Ukraine’s main inland port across the Danube from Romania.

Tupolev Tu-22 M3 strategic bombers in 2018. Ukraine said on Aug. 24 that it recently destroyed two similar bombers and damaged others.   © Reuters

3:30 p.m. Russia has appointed an acting head of its aerospace forces to replace Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who vanished after the Wagner mercenary mutiny in June, the state RIA news agency reports. During the June revolt, Surovikin, who once commanded Russia’s overall war effort in Ukraine, appeared in a video, looking uncomfortable and without insignia, urging Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to stand down. Unconfirmed Russian and foreign news reports have said Surovikin was being investigated for possible complicity in the revolt and was being held under house arrest. “Surovikin has now been relieved of his post, while Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov, head of the Main Staff of the Air Force, is temporarily acting as commander in chief of the Air Force,” an unnamed source told RIA.

11:30 a.m. The United States does not encourage or enable attacks inside Russia, a U.S. State Department spokesperson says after Russian authorities said they had downed drones that tried to attack Moscow early on Wednesday. It is up to Ukraine to decide how it chooses to defend itself from the Russian invasion, the spokesperson said, adding that Russia could end the war at any time by withdrawing from Ukraine. Drone strikes on the Russian capital have become increasingly common in recent months. One drone hit a building under construction in central Moscow early on Wednesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on the messaging app Telegram.

A damaged Moscow office building following a reported Ukrainian drone attack earlier this month. Major airports around the Russian capital have repeatedly closed in recent days due to such strikes.   © Reuters

9:50 a.m. An explosion was heard in Moscow’s business district early on Wednesday, and smoke was seen in the area as well, Russia’s RIA news agency reports. One of the buildings in the central district, 5 kilometers from the Kremlin, was hit by a Ukrainian drone early on Saturday. Meanwhile, Moscow airports suspended flights early on Wednesday, Russia’s TASS news agency reported, citing unnamed officials. Major airports around the Russian capital have repeatedly closed for departing and arriving flights in recent days due to drone attacks from Ukraine.

12:30 a.m. A Tu-22M3 bomber was “highly likely destroyed” in the weekend drone attack on an air base 650 kilometers into Russia, the U.K.’s Defence Ministry tweets in its daily intelligence update.

“If true, this adds weight to the assessment that some UAV attacks against Russian military targets are being launched from inside Russian territory,” since copter unmanned aerial vehicles “are unlikely to have the range” to reach the Novgorod-region air base from outside the country, the ministry explains.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has blamed Ukraine for the attack, saying that one plane was damaged but that no one was injured. Ukrainian media credit Ukrainian saboteurs with the weekend attack and another one at a different Russian air base early this week.

3:30 p.m. Russia shot down two Ukrainian drones over the Moscow region with no casualties and brought down a further two drones over the Bryansk region that borders Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry says. A Reuters reporter in the town of Krasnogorsk in the Moscow region saw minor damage to tiling on a high-rise residential building and shattered glass exterior window panes in a few of its apartments.

1:40 p.m. China and Russia, which oppose Japan’s planned release from Thursday of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, jointly urged Tokyo last month to consider a vapor release disposal strategy instead, diplomatic sources tell Kyodo. Beijing and Moscow claimed in a document submitted to Tokyo in late July that vaporizing the water and releasing it into the atmosphere would have a smaller impact on neighboring countries compared with the ocean discharge plan. Japan has rejected their proposal, saying it is “impossible” to accept, the sources said.

12:40 p.m. Russia’s Defense Ministry says a Russian warplane destroyed a Ukrainian reconnaissance boat in the Black Sea. The ship sailed near Russian gas production facilities, the military said.

9:30 a.m. The three biggest Moscow airports suspended arrivals and departures early on Tuesday, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. “The air space is closed over Vnukovo, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo,” an unnamed official told the agency, adding, “Flights are not being received, departures are delayed.”

Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin is shown at an unknown location in this image taken from video released on Telegram on Aug. 21. (Razgruzka_Vagnera Telegram channel via AP)

7:00 a.m. Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin published his first recruitment video for the Wagner Group since organizing a short-lived mutiny against defense officials in Russia, according to information on the Telegram messaging app. In the video, a person who appears to be the 62-year-old mercenary leader says the group is conducting reconnaissance and search activities, and “making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free.”

“We are hiring real strongmen and continuing to fulfill the tasks which were set and which we promised to handle,” the speaker in the video says, toting an assault rifle and wearing military fatigues. Pickup trucks and other people dressed in fatigues are in the background. Prigozhin moved into the global spotlight in June with a dramatic, short-lived rebellion that posed the most serious threat to President Vladimir Putin’s 23-year rule.

Monday, Aug. 21

3:00 p.m. Two Ukrainian drones were destroyed on Monday in the Moscow region, briefly disrupting flights at two of the capital’s airports, Russian officials say. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it jammed a Ukrainian drone in the Ruzsky district west of the capital and later destroyed another one in the Istrinsky district nearby. Arrivals and departures from Moscow’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports were briefly halted but later restarted.

6:00 a.m. the Netherlands and Denmark have announced they will give F-16 warplanes to Ukraine in a long-awaited announcement that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an important motivation for his country’s forces that are embroiled in a difficult counteroffensive against Russia. The timeline depends on how soon Ukrainian crews and infrastructure are ready for the powerful U.S.-made jets, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Zelenskyy as the two visited a Dutch air base. Zelenskyy welcomed the ”historic” announcement and praised Rutte for making the Netherlands the first country to offer the planes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is greeted by Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Eindhoven, Netherlands on Aug. 20.   © AP

Sunday, Aug. 20

7:10 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in the Netherlands on Sunday in an ongoing push to boost Ukraine’s air defenses, days after the United States approved the possible delivery of F-16 fighter jets by the Netherlands and Denmark. The Netherlands, together with Denmark, has in recent months led international efforts to train Ukrainian pilots for F-16s and to ultimately deliver the jets to help counter the air superiority of Russia, whose forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“The main issue is F-16 for Ukraine to protect our people from Russian terror. We are getting stronger,” Zelenskyy said in a post on Telegram.

6:00 a.m. Training has begun for Ukrainians to operate U.S. F-16 fighter jets, but it will take at least six months, or possibly longer, to complete, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov says, two days after a U.S. official said the fighter jets would be transferred to Ukraine once its pilots were trained.

Reznikov says six months of training is considered the minimum for pilots, but it was not yet known how long it would take to train engineers and mechanics. Ukraine wants the sophisticated U.S.-made warplanes so it can counter the air superiority of Russia. “Therefore, to build reasonable expectations, set a minimum of six months in your mind, but do not be disappointed if it is longer,” he says in a TV interview.

Saturday, Aug. 19

Rescue workers at the site of a Russian rocket strike in Chernihiv, Ukraine.   © Reuters

8:30 p.m. Seven people, including a 6-year-old child, are killed and more than 120 wounded by a Russian missile attack in the northern city of Chernihiv, according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

“A Russian missile hit right in the center of the city, in our Chernihiv. A square, the polytechnic university, a theater,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is on a working visit to Sweden, posts on Telegram.

7:15 p.m. A Ukrainian drone targeted a military airfield in Russia’s Novgorod region, causing a fire and damaging one warplane, Russia’s Defense Ministry says. According to the ministry, nobody had been hurt and the fire was quickly extinguished.

5:30 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Sweden, saying he is there to meet with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, the royal family and other officials to thank them for supporting Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

1:30 p.m. President Vladimir Putin visited the commander of Russia’s operation in Ukraine and other top military brass, the Kremlin says, a meeting that came after Ukraine claimed counteroffensive gains on the southeastern front. “Vladimir Putin held a meeting at the headquarters of the special military operation group in Rostov-on-Don,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Russia, which launched its invasion in Ukraine in February 2022, calls its actions a special military operation. The Kremlin added that Putin, Russia’s supreme commander in chief, listened to reports from Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Army in charge of Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, and other top military commanders and officers.

Source : Nikkei Asia