Ukraine latest: Putin orders Wagner troops to swear oath of allegiance; who could replace Prigozhin? (2023)

Key points
  • Wagner troops ordered to swear oath to Russia in wake of Prigozhin plane crash| Read the oath here
  • The latest on Yevgeny Prigozhin's 'death'
  • Drone attacks continue to rain down on Russian territory
  • Rumours swirl around who could replace Prigozhin ashead of Wagner
  • Lukashenko claims he warned Prigozhin of potential assassination attempt
  • Analysis: What the Prigozhin crash investigation should look like
  • Your questions answered: Could Russia keep the Donbas in exchange for Ukraine joining NATO?
  • Live reporting byOllie Cooper


Kyiv repels large air offensive overnight

The Ukrainian military says it spent the night repelling a large aerial assault from Russian forces - downing four cruise missiles sent to strike the capital.

Forces detected up to eight missiles, but the air force believes some were dummy rounds, as it has not recorded any evidence of missiles of that calibre hitting the capital.

There have not been any reported casualties.

An air raid alert was put in place across the capital and the wider Kyiv region at around 5am Ukrainian time (3am UK time), but has since subsided.

"From the Caspian Sea area, the Russians fired cruise missiles of the Kh-101/555/55 type from Tu-95MS strategic aircraft," an update by Kyiv's military administration read.

"The cruise missiles were fired from five strategic aircraft from the airspace of the Russian Federation in the Engels region," the Ukrainian air force claimed.


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Yesterday we heard the news that three Ukrainian pilots, including a "mega talent" nicknamed 'Juice', died after colliding mid-air with another jet.

That has sent shockwaves through Ukraine, with tributes and condolences pouring in from all corners of the country - including from President Zelenskyy.

Today, we'll be bringing you more on the seismic story of the week - Yevgeny Prigozhin's reported death, as well as more on the drone attacks we heard so much about yesterday - and that are increasing in frequency as the weeks go on.

In case you missed it, here are the key developments from the past 24 hours...

  • Vladimir Putin signed a new decree requiring paramilitary fighters, including those from the apparently now leaderless Wagner Group, to swear oaths of allegiance to the Russian state;
  • A leading defence and security expert told Sky News he is "confident" that the Kremlin was involved and that a bomb brought down the aircraft;
  • Two people were killed after Russian shells hit a café in the village of Podola, in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region;
  • There were fresh claims of attempted drone attacks on Russian territory - two apparent assaults on Moscow led to the temporary closure of major airports, while the governor of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine,said air defences shot down two drones;
  • A fire engulfed a warehouse in southwestern Siberia, reportedly containing pyrotechnic equipment, according to Russian authorities.

Here is the latest territorial situation in Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank...


Russia downs drones close to Moscow and near Ukrainian border

Russia reported a new drone attack on Moscow, leading to the temporary closure of major airports, including Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo.

The Mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, confirmed that air defence systems downed a drone over the Istra district, approximately 50km west of the Kremlin.

Flights were suspended for a few hours due to the incident. The defence ministry announced that around 9:45pm Moscow time, their air defences successfully brought down an unmanned aerial vehicle over the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.

In the Belgorod region near Ukraine, air defences also intercepted a drone near Kupino without causing damage or casualties. However, four individuals were injured due to Ukrainian shelling in Urazovo village.

Despite these events, Ukraine has not issued an immediate response and typically refrains from publicly acknowledging responsibility for attacks within Russia.


Belarus' Lukashenko said he warned Prigozhin about his life being in danger twice

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko revealed during an interview on Friday that he had cautioned Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, about potential threats to his life prior to Prigozhin's apparent demise in a plane crash on Wednesday.

Mr Lukashenko, a prominent ally of President Vladimir Putin, recounted that he had issued this warning twice.

The first instance occurred during negotiations in June, a period in which Prigozhin, once aligned with Putin, orchestrated a 24-hour rebellion against the Russian government by leading his Wagner forces into Moscow.

"I told him: 'Yevgeny, do you understand that you will doom your people and will perish yourself?' He had just come back from the front. On an impulse he said: 'I will die then, damn it!'" Mr Lukashenko told reporters in remarks reported by Belarusian state news agency Belta on Friday, according to CNN.

Prigozhin openly criticised both Putin and the Russian defence ministry for several months before his rebellion against the Kremlin. He asserted that his forces were being deprived of adequate backing, essential weaponry, and necessary military provisions. His June insurrection was eventually defused with the intervention of Mr Lukashenko, who engaged in negotiations with the Wagner Group.


Four key things the Prigozhin plane footage tells us - from a former UK military pilot

Was the private jet believed to be carryingYevgeny Prigozhin brought down, and what exactly happened to it?

Several theories have been put forward as to what may have caused the plane to comehurtling to the groundas it travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg.

Using footage of the crash which has emerged online, military analyst and former pilotSean Bellpoints to four key things it shows that may provide hints as to what likely happened to the aircraft.

1. A missile strike

One image shows a "swirl of cloud" which doesn't sit comfortably against the rest, Bell says.

Drawing on his own experience of flying combat aircraft, he explains that if a surface-to-air missile hit the plane, "you would see that sort of vapour trail in the final stages of its approach".

"Therefore, either that could be an explosion, or it could be a surface-to-air missile system," he says.

2. 'Smoke' as plane plummets

Bell highlights what appears to be a trail of smoke coming from the wreckage of the plane, around halfway into its descent.

He says this is "almost certainly not smoke" and is probably "fuel venting".

"It's a large quantity, that is a massive damage to the aircraft that's caused that," he adds.

3 and 4. Missing wing or tailplane in the air - and debris on the ground

Footage of the plane closer to the ground appears to show it without its wing or its tailplane, which could explain why it came down "vertically, not unlike a falling leaf".

The fourth point Bell notes is that other pictures from the crash site show the tailplane "some distance" from the main part of the aircraft.

"Now, you put all of that together... there's lots of reasons why that might have occurred, but that is not a natural accident," Bell explains.

"That is a catastrophe that's happened in the air... there were rumours that a case of wine [containing a bomb] was put on the aircraft at the last minute.

"The trouble with that theory is that generally speaking, [an explosion] inside an aircraft blows it out... whereas a surface-to-air missile system or an air-to-air missile system generally tries to seek out the juiciest, meatiest part of an aircraft.

"That would explain why it potentially could rip a wing off. And as soon as it did that, the fate of the aircraft was sealed."


Fireworks light up Japan sky for peace in Ukraine

Colourful fireworks were launched to pray for peace in Ukraine during the Omagari Fireworks Festival in Daisen City, Akita Prefecture, in Japan today.

The fireworks displayed the Ukrainian national flower, the sunflower in the summer night sky.


Is this the end of the Wagner group?

The air crash which is believed to have killed Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has raised questions about the future of the Russian mercenary outfit.

Vladimir Putin has asked Wagner troops to swear oaths of allegiance to the Russian state.

Military analyst Sean Bell goes into further detail about what could happen next for the Wagner group.


Ukrainians get on with daily life as war continues

Some pictures coming out of Ukraine today show how the citizens of Kyiv are getting on with daily life as the conflict with Russia continues.

People were pictured making on their way to a daytime party in the Ukrainian capital this afternoon, while a man was spotted selling balloons next to piles of sandbags blocking windows of an old building.


Russia's military ties with Iran will withstand geopolitical pressure - report

Russia's military cooperation with Iran remains steadfast against geopolitical pressures, according to Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov.

His comments follow reports that Washington has urged Tehran to halt drone sales to Moscow.

"There are no changes, and cooperation with Iran willcontinue," Mr Ryabkov said, according to a report on Saturday fromRussian state news agency RIA. "We are independent states and donot succumb to the dictates of the United States and itssatellites."

The US has been exerting pressure on Iran to discontinue the sale of armed drones, which are being utilised by Russia in the conflict in Ukraine, as per the report by the Financial Times earlier this month. This information was sourced from an Iranian official and another individual familiar with the discussions.

Although Iran has acknowledged its drone shipments to Russia, it has previously claimed that these deliveries occurred prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Moscow has refuted claims of employing Iranian drones during the Ukrainian conflict.


Tributes to Prigozhin continue

Tributes are continuing to pour in from across Russia for Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, after it was reported that he had been killed in a plane crash earlier this week.

The latest of these appears to be in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which shows the Wagner insignia alongside a memorial plaque and a Russian flag.

Our Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay said yesterday that Prigozhin's death had been hard-felt by many Russians, particularly in his hometown of St Petersburg, where hundreds of tributes were left for the Wagner boss.

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