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 nine 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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

(AP)

Andy Gregory28 June 2023 09:44

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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

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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

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Three teenagers among eight dead in Kramatorsk restaurant bombing, say officials

Three children are among eight people killed in a Russian missile attack on a restaurant and several houses in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, authorities have said, as they continue to clear rubble and search for survivors.

At least 56 people were also wounded in the attack at a restaurant frequented by journalists, aid workers and soldiers who use Kramatorsk as a base of operations, with the city lying only a few miles from the front line.

The shelling occurred when people had returned from work, said prosecutor general Andrii Kostin, adding that the three dead children were aged between 14 and 17.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said that rescuers continued to clear rubble from the site and search for more survivors.

Rescuers and volunteers work to rescue people from under the rubble

(Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Gregory28 June 2023 08:41

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Russia still likely to withdraw from Black Sea grain deal, state media reports

The probability of Russia withdrawing from the Black Sea grain deal in July remains high, although talks continue, according to the state-backed RIA news agency, which cited an anonymous source.

Moscow has repeatedly complained it is not getting what it wanted from the deal brokered by the UN in a bid to ease global hunger, which has allowed grain to be shipped out of Ukrainian ports and expires on 18 July.

Ukrainian officials have cited Russia’s repeated threats to withdraw from the deal as among reasons why they feel they would be unable to trust Vladimir Putin in negotiations.

Andy Gregory28 June 2023 08:35

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Countdown of end to Putin’s regime has begun, says Zelensky’s adviser

Officials in Kyiv are speculating an end to Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow after the recent tremor served by a brief mutiny led by Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin alongside the continuing war in Ukraine.

“I think the countdown has started,” said Andriy Yermak, adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky said, refering to Mr Putin’s presidentship.

“What Ukraine has seen since 2014 has become evident for the entire world,” Mr Yermak said at a briefing in Kyiv.

He added: “This is a terrorist country whose leader is an inadequate person who has lost connection with reality. The world must conclude that it’s impossible to have any kind of serious relationship with that country.”

The rebellious mercenary soldiers who briefly took over a Russian military headquarters on an ominous march toward Moscow were gone over the weekend, but the short-lived revolt has weakened Mr Putin just as his forces are facing a fierce counteroffensive in Ukraine.

“Putin is much diminished and the Russian military, and this is significant as far as Ukraine is concerned,” said Lord Richard Dannatt, former chief of the general staff of the British armed forces. “… Prigozhin has left the stage to go to Belarus, but is that the end of Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group?”

Arpan Rai28 June 2023 07:55

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Senior Russian general knew about Wagner’s mutiny plans – report

General Sergey Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, had advance knowledge that the mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was planning a rebellion against Moscow’s defence officials.

The New York Times cited US officials briefed on US intelligence regarding the matter, and reported that the officials were “trying to learn if Gen. Sergey Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr Prigozhin’s actions last weekend.”

Officials in Washington also said there were signs that other Russian generals also may have supported Mr Prigozhin, the report added.

The Wagner chief flew into exile in Belarus yesterday under a deal that ended a brief mutiny by his Wagner fighters over the weekend, as Vladimir Putin praised his armed forces for averting a civil war.

Arpan Rai28 June 2023 06:45

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