Authorities in Russia launched a criminal probe Friday against the owner of the Wagner Group military contractor over his alleged threats to oust Russia’s defence minister.
The announcement follows a statement from owner Yevgeny Prigozhin accusing Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike on Wagner’s field camps in Ukraine where its soldiers are fighting on behalf of Russia against Ukrainian forces.
Prigozhin said that his troops would now move to punish Shoigu and urged the army not to offer resistance. Prigozhin declared: “This is not an armed rebellion, but a march of justice.”
The Russian Defence Ministry rejected Prigozhin’s claim and the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, the country’s top counter-terrorism structure, said it opened a criminal inquiry on charges of making calls for a military coup.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the situation, adding that “all the necessary measures were being taken.”
Ukraine thwarts Russian missile strikes
The Ukrainian Air Force said on Friday it shot down multiple Russian cruise missiles overnight.
“All thirteen Kh-101/Kh-555 missiles were destroyed by anti-aircraft defence,” it announced on Telegram, adding the attacks targeted a military airfield in the western Khmelnytsky region.
Two Ukrainians were killed and four others injured after Russian strikes on the city of Kherson as Russia has continued its bombardment fo Ukraine with exploding drones and missiles since May and Kyiv launched its much-anticipated counteroffensive.
Kyiv also released images of the destruction of a Russian tank in the Donetsk region.
Russia sanctions European officials
Russia announced on Friday it had “considerably expanded” the list of European officials banned from entering its territory.
Moscow said it was retaliation to new sanctions from Brussels over the Ukraine war.
Without specifying how many people were targeted, Russia suggested the officials were members of Europe’s security services or political and commercial institutions, besides European parliamentarians “promoting an agenda towards Russia”.
Moscow vowed all “unfriendly measures” taken by the West would receive an “appropriate” response.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has banned hundreds of Western leaders, officials, industrialists, journalists and other individuals it considers hostile.
The latest announcement comes following a new package of sanctions announced by Brussels, the eleventh since fighting broke out. These measures aim to avoid the circumvention of existing sanctions.
Russia hiding dam breach victims bodies – Zelenskyy
Moscow has created special groups to collect and hide the bodies of people killed by the Kakhovka dam breach in southern Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday.
“The Russian evil has formed special groups there to remove and, obviously, hide the victims’ bodies,” the Ukrainian President said in his nightly video address.
He described the situation in Russian-occupied parts of the affected regions as “catastrophic to put it mildly”.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of being behind the breach on 6 June, which sent water cascading through parts of southern Ukraine.
Areas of the Russian-occupied Kherson region were particularly affected, with some analysts suggesting it diverted Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
Ukrainian officials have put the official death toll at 21, including five people who died from what they claim was Russian shelling during evacuation operations. Russian officials put the death toll at 46.
Ukraine on track to open membership talks, says EU
The European Union said on Thursday that Ukraine, even amid the relentless attacks from Russia, remained on course towards opening membership talks with the bloc.
Brussels lauded Kyiv for reforms in several sectors.
In an interim report addressing some of the changes it needs to make, EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said Ukraine had “completed” two of seven steps on judicial governance and media freedom, plus it had made “good progress” on constitutional court reform.
But he added only “some progress” had been made on tackling corruption, money laundering and the system of oligarchs.
In dealing with minority groups, Kyiv still needed to address recommendations from the continent’s foremost human rights body, the Council of Europe.
Ukraine sees EU membership as an essential part of its Western-oriented future.
Plagued by deep structural issues it could take many years for the country to get ready, however.
UN puts Russia on ‘list of shame’
The United Nations has placed Russian forces on its annual blacklist of countries that violate children’s rights.
It accused Moscow of killing children and attacking schools and hospitals in Ukraine, according to a new report seen on Thursday by AP.
“I am particularly shocked by the high number of attacks against schools, hospitals and protected personnel, and by the large number of deaths and maimings of children attributed to Russian forces and affiliated armed groups,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
In the report, the UN confirmed 477 children had been killed in Ukraine in 2022, including 136 deaths attributed to Russian forces and affiliated groups and 80 to Ukrainian armed forces.