Putin appeals to Russian public after Wagner mutiny
The “countdown has started” for the end of Vladimir Putin, Volodymr Zelensky’s top aide has claimed, as the Russian president reels from the aborted mutiny by Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Labelling him “an inadequate person who has lost connection with reality”, Andriy Yermak insisted that the “world must conclude that it’s impossible to have any kind of serious relationship” with Mr Putin’s Russia.
His remarks came as Mr Zelensky accused Russia of using S-300 missiles in an attack on a restaurant and several homes in the Donetsk city of Kramatorsk which authorities say has killed 10 people, three of them girls aged 14 to 17.
Another 56 people present at the restaurant – which is frequented by journalists, aid workers and soldiers who use Kramatorsk as a base of operations – were injured, the city council in Kramatorsk said, as rescue workers continue to comb through debris for casualties.
The city in frontline oblast of Donetsk has been a target of Russian attacks frequently and capturing it a key objective for Moscow.
Putin ‘trying to shatter populist appeal’ of potential ‘martyr’ Prigozhin
Vladimir Putin has likely decided that he is unable right now to directly eliminate [Yevgeny] Prigozhin without making him a martyr and has instead decided to “break” his popular support by branding him “corrupt” and “a liar”, a Western think-tank has suggested.
For the first time, the Russian president has now claimed that the Kremlin “fully funds” and “fully supplies” the Wagner mercenary group, as he tries to ensure that the mercenaries – and wider Russian society – “become disillusioned” with Mr Prigozhin, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
In his statements, Mr Putin deliberately attempted to separate Mr Prigozhin from the Wagner Group “so that the Kremlin can accuse Prigozhin of corruption or conspiring with Ukraine or the West and alienate Prigozhin from Wagner personnel”, the analysts said.
“Prigozhin had built his personal brand on criticising the Russian military command and bureaucrats for corruption and ties to Western countries, and Putin is likely attempting to shatter Prigozhin’s populist appeal by accusing him of the same sins.”
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 12:04
Kremlin says papal envoy in Moscow for talks on Ukraine
The Kremlin appreciates the efforts of the Vatican to help resolve the Ukraine crisis, Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson has said, as he claimed that papal envoy had arrived in Moscow for peace talks.
“We highly value the efforts and initiatives of the Vatican and welcome the aspiration of the pope to contribution to ending the armed conflict,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told a regular briefing.
He said Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser would hold talks with the envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, at the Russia president’s request.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 11:49
Large majority of Americans support military aid for Ukraine, poll suggests
Around two thirds of Americans support providing weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia – rising from 46 per cent just a month ago, new Ipsos polling for Reuters has found.
Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 56 per cent of Republicans and 57 per cent of independents favour supplying US weapons to Ukraine, suggests the two-day poll of 1,004 adults, conducted just days after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s shortlived mutiny.
“This definitely reinforces Biden’s decision to be all-in on this,” William Taylor, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, told Reuters. “The Republican leadership of the House and Senate will also take heart from this.”
The poll also found that 76 per cent of Americans believe that providing aid to Ukraine demonstrates to China and other rivals that the United States has “the will and capability to protect our interests, our allies and ourselves”.
In other findings, the survey said large majorities of Americans – 67 and 73 per cent respectively – are more likely to support a candidate in next year’s US presidential election who will continue military aid to Ukraine and who backs Nato.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 11:34
Three civilians in Kharkiv village killed by Russian shelling, says governor
At least three people have been killed in the Kharkiv region by Russian shelling, the regional governor has alleged.
“Unfortunately, as a result of this shelling, three civilians in the village of Vovchanski Khutory were killed near their homes,” governor Oleh Synehubov wrote Telegram.
He said the victims were men aged 45, 48 and 57.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 11:27
Germany and France ‘missing in action’ over European defence, report claims
A lack of leadership by countries such as Germany and France and narrow industrial interests keep Europe from boosting defence cooperation as warranted by Russia’s war on Ukraine, a report by the Munich Security Conference has claimed.
“The crucial capability gap in European defence is still political leadership,” the Munich Security Report on European Defence said. Acknowledging that European defence has come a long way since Russia’s invasion, the report said Europeans were still far from living up to a “darkening” global security environment.
The report said Germany and France in particular were “missing in action” at a time when European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and EU top diplomat Josep Borrell are driving EU support for Kyiv and joint procurement initiatives.
“Under the Scholz government, Germany has faced recurrent criticism for its absence in EU defence questions,” it said. “Meanwhile, France is seen as pursuing narrow industrial rather than collective European interests.”
Both countries’ initial dithering on supplying arms to Ukraine, on top of a history of neglecting eastern European fears of Russia, has caused lasting damage to their credibility in eastern Europe and to that of joint defence initiatives, the report said, adding: “The onus is on Germany and France to win back trust.”
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 10:52
Putin holds call with Bahrain’s king, Kremlin says
Vladimir Putin has held a phone call with the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The king expressed support for measures taken by the Russian president to end an armed mutiny by mercenary fighters on Saturday, it claimed.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 10:25
Body of boy pulled from rubble in Kramatorsk, says mayor
The body of a boy has been pulled out of the rubble of a building in Kramatorsk on Wednesday, taking the death toll from a Russian missile strike on a restaurant to nine, the city’s mayor said.
“Rescuers pulled a boy’s body from the rubble,” mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said, as search and rescue operations continued. He did not give the boy’s age.
Three girls aged between 14 and 17 are also among the nine people killed, authorities said.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 09:59
Lithuanian president to meet with Zelensky to discuss Nato
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda is set to meet Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Wednesday to discuss Nato, his office has said, as Ukraine seeks to enter the alliance.
Mr Zelensky has stepped up calls for Ukraine to receive a “political invitation” to join Nato at the summit in Vilnius next month, with Nato members reportedly close to agreeing incremental steps to strengthen ties with Kyiv.
Lithuania has been one of the staunchest supporters of Ukraine in Nato and the EU, and is buying Nasams air defence systems for Ukraine from a Norwegian company.
The presidents will discuss “the Nato summit agenda”, Ukraine’s European Union membership negotiations, and European support for Ukraine, Nauseda’s office said in a statement.
Nauseda will then head to a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 09:44
Sweden ‘will become a Nato member’, PM insists
Sweden still wants to join Nato no later than the alliance’s summit in Vilnius next month, prime minister Ulf Kristersson has said, as he conceded it was not certain this would be possible.
“Sweden will become a Nato member,” Mr Kristersson told public service broadcaster SVT. “Nobody can promise it will happen specifically in Vilnius or right ahead of Vilnius, even if that has been our ambition all along. And that is an ambition we share with every other Nato country as well.”
Turkey has blocked Sweden’s accession, accusing Stockholm of harbouring members of what it considers terrorist groups and expressing outrage over anti-Turkish demonstrations in the Nordic country. Sweden has said freedom of speech is firmly enshrined in its constitution and that it has lived up to all the requirements set out in an agreement struck in Madrid last year with Turkey and Finland.
Swedish and Turkish officials met on 14 June for what Sweden’s chief negotiator characterised as good talks, and are due to hold another high level meeting in Brussels organised by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg before the Vilnius summit.
“We’ve also said that we respect that it is Turkey that makes Turkish decisions and it is good we now have another meeting … and maybe we can address the odd question mark ahead of the Vilnius summit in that kind of conversation,” Mr Kristersson said.
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 09:21
Lukashenko claims he persuaded Putin not to ‘wipe out’ Prigozhin
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has claimed he persuaded Vladimir Putin not to “wipe out” mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin during the shortlived mutiny last weekend.
Mr Putin initially vowed to crush the mutiny, but hours later a deal was clinched to allow the Wagner boss and some of his fighters to go to Belarus, where he arrived by plane on Tuesday.
Describing his conversation with Mr Putin, Mr Lukashenko used the criminal slang phrase for killing someone, equivalent to the English phrase to “wipe out”, echoing Mr Putin’s vow in 1999 to “wipe out [Chechen militants] in the “s***house”, which became widely quoted and emblematic for some of his severe tendencies.
“I also understood: a brutal decision had been made (and it was the undertone of Putin’s address) to wipe out” the mutineers, Mr Lukashenko told a meeting of his army officials and journalists, according to Belarusian state media.
“I suggested to Putin not to rush. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘Let’s talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders.’ To which he told me: ‘Listen, Sasha, it’s useless. He doesn’t even pick up the phone, he doesn’t want to talk to anyone’.”
Mr Lukashenko, both an old acquaintance of Mr Prigozhin and close ally of Mr Putin, claimed he had advised the Russian president to think “beyond our own noses” and warned that Mr Prigozhin’s elimination could lead to a widespread revolt by his fighters, adding that his own army could benefit from the experience of Wagner troops.
“This is the most trained unit in the army,” BelTA state agency quoted Lukashenko as saying. “Who will argue with this? My military also understand this, and we don’t have such people in Belarus.”
Later, Mr Lukashenko told his military that “people fail to understand that we are approaching this in a pragmatic way”, adding: “They’ve been through it, they’ll tell us about the weaponry – what worked well, which worked badly.”
Andy Gregory28 June 2023 09:13