Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko urged dissenters not to create divisions in his relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after Minsk stepped in to provide sanctuary to failed insurrectionist and former Kremlin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin, whose paramilitary group Wagner has played a key role in the war in Ukraine and in furthering Russian military objectives abroad, accepted exile into Belarus as part of an amnesty deal brokered in the wake of his fizzled attempt to turn arms on Moscow over the weekend. The Wagner leader arrived in Belarus on Tuesday.
Ukraine sees an end to the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the horizon, following recent tensions between Russia’s defense officials and frontline-prominent paramilitary troop Wagner.
“I think the countdown has started,” Andriy Yermak, close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a Kyiv briefing, according to the BBC.
Putin addresses Russians, calls Wagner rebellion ‘criminal’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered his first televised address since Wagner Group mercenaries instigated a failed mutiny against Russian military leaders over the weekend.
Putin called the rebellion “criminal activity to split and weaken the country, which is now confronting a colossal external threat,” meaning the international response to Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian president said the organizers of the armed insurrection would be “brought to justice,” yet he did not mention Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin by name.
He also offered apparent clemency to the hundreds of Wagner mercenaries who participated in the armed march from the southern city of Rostov to about 200 miles outside Moscow.
The speech did little to clarify what comes next for the Wagner Group or for the Russian military, which was unprepared for the speed and ease with which the rebel convoy traveled through the country on major highways.
In his speech, Putin insisted his troops would have crushed the rebellion if it had proceeded any further.
Plane linked to Wagner boss Prigozhin lands in Belarus
A private business jet linked to Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin landed in Belarus on Tuesday, data from flight-tracking website Flightradar24 showed.
The Embraer Legacy 600 aircraft, registration number RA-02795, matches the identification codes of the jet belonging to Prigozhin, according to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It landed early on Tuesday morning near Minsk, having taken off from St. Petersburg shortly after 1 a.m. local time (5 p.m. ET Monday), though it is not yet known who was on board.
Under the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko over the weekend, which brought a halt to Wagner’s rebellion against Moscow, Prigozhin has been effectively exiled to Belarus. His exact whereabouts have been unknown since the uprising.
US condemns latest deadly Russian missile attacks
On the frontline, Ukraine has accused Moscow of a missile attack in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, which allegedly struck a pizza restaurant, leaving at least 10 dead.
The US State Department condemned the latest Russian attack on a populated area, calling it another example of the country’s “continuing escalation and the sheer brutality of its war of aggression.”
“The US unequivocally condemns the targeting of civilians and offers our sincere condolences to those lost in this most recent strike in the city center,” said Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department. “We are appalled by this, but unfortunately not surprised by Russia’s conduct.”
Ukrainian authorities arrested a man who allegedly helped Russia direct the missile strike that killed at least 10 people at the restaurant, the Associated Press reported.
Ukraine’s National Police said the Tuesday evening attack wounded 61 other people, and rescuers are still searching the rubble.
The detained man is an employee of the local gas transportation company who allegedly filmed the restaurant for the Russians and informed them about its popularity, the Security Service of Ukraine said in a Telegram post, according to the AP report. It provided no evidence for its claim.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov repeated that Russia doesn’t aim at civilian targets, although its air strikes have killed many civilians, the AP reported.
Russian shelling kills three in Kharkiv
At least three people were killed in Russia’s shelling of Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region on Wednesday, the regional governor said.
“Unfortunately, as a result of this shelling, three civilians in the village of Vovchanski Khutory were killed near their homes,” governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on Telegram. He said the victims were men aged 45, 48 and 57.
Litva purchases air defense systems for Ukraine
Litva has acquired two NASAMS air defense systems that will be transferred to Ukraine, Litva’s President Gitanas Nauseda said on Twitter, in the run-up to a summit of the NATO military alliance over July 11-12.
“Looking forward to more collective decisions on support to Ukraine at the NATO summit in Vilnius,” Lithva’s head of state added.
Ukraine has repeatedly entreated donations of air defense units to protect its skies from Russian missiles, with a focus on the costly US-provided Patriot systems.