As the war enters its 549th day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Saturday, August 26, 2023.
- Russian shelling of Kherson city killed one person and injured three, including a child, Kherson’s regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said. Sixteen Russian shells hit the city, including a residential area, he said.
- Russian forces are regrouping in the Moscow-controlled eastern parts of Ukraine in order to conduct an offensive, the commander of the Ukrainian military’s ground forces Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said.
- Russia’s foreign intelligence chief Sergey Naryshkin said the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive was “obvious”.
- Moscow said its air defences thwarted a rare Ukrainian missile attack on the Kaluga region southwest of Moscow.
- Russian air defence forces downed 42 Ukraine drones over the Crimean peninsula. The defence ministry in Moscow said nine Ukrainian drones were destroyed while 33 drones were suppressed by electronic means and did not reach their targets.
- The Russian navy said it attacked Ukrainian port infrastructure, the state-owned TASS news agency reported, citing the defence ministry.
- Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said Ukraine is dealing with tough Russian resistance in its slow-moving counteroffensive, including minefields, tank ditches and dragon’s teeth antitank obstacles, which Russia had months to prepare.
- Ukraine dismissed the head of its State Emergency Service after an internal inspection, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on Telegram. Klymenko gave no reasons for the dismissal but said it followed an internal inspection of the service.
Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner fighters
- Russian investigators recovered flight recorders and 10 bodies from the scene of the plane crash thought to have killed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin two days ago. “Molecular genetic analyses” will be carried out to establish the identities of the dead, Russia’s Investigative Committee said.
- The Kremlin dismissed accusations it ordered the assassination of Prigozhin. “There is a lot of speculation around the plane crash and the tragic death of the passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin … All this is an absolute lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
- Russia’s foreign ministry blasted US President Joe Biden for saying he was not “surprised” that Prigozhin was presumed dead in a plane crash. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Biden’s remarks were indicative of Washington’s disregard for diplomacy.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wagner mercenaries could remain in his country, following the presumed death of their leader, Prigozhin. “Wagner lived, is alive, and will live in Belarus,” Lukashenko was cited as saying by the state-run news agency BelTA.
- Lukashenko said he doubted that Putin was behind the plane crash that reportedly killed Prigozhin, maintaining that it was too “unprofessional” for the Russian president. “He is a calculating, very calm and even a slow person in making decisions on other, less complicated issues, so I can’t imagine that Putin did it … It’s too rough,” he said.
- The Kremlin announced that Russian paramilitary fighters must now swear an oath to the Russian flag.
- Kremlin spokesman Peskov said the Wagner group made a “big contribution” to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, but the force had no formal legal existence after the death of Prigozhin.
- Social media channels linked to Wagner said a leading mercenary was arrested in Finland at Ukraine’s request. Yan Petrovsky, who has fought in Ukraine since 2014 as part of Rusich, or the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group, a Wagner subunit, was arrested a month ago, according to reports.
- German prosecutors are investigating the attempted murder of Berlin-based Russian journalist Elena Kostyuchenko after she was one of three exiled Russian journalists who experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning.
- Calls have been made for the resignation of Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas after it emerged that a company partly owned by her husband was continuing to operate in Russia.
Black Sea grain exports
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Kyiv and discussed the Black Sea grain deal that Russia abandoned last month.
- A senior US official said there are viable routes to export Ukrainian grain through Ukraine’s territorial waters and overland to neighbouring countries.
- Turkey’s foreign minister Fidan said he saw “no alternative” to the original grain agreement Ukraine struck with Russia, dismissing an alternate route reportedly being considered by the US.
- Dutch brewer Heineken announced it was pulling out of Russia after selling its operations to the Arnest Group, the largest Russian manufacturer of cosmetics, household goods and metal packaging.
- Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia support extending a European Union ban on Ukrainian grain imports until the end of the year. In May, the EU allowed Ukraine’s five neighbours to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds until September 15.
- India wants to convince G20 members to find solutions to geopolitical issues, including the Russia-Ukraine war, Delhi’s G20 negotiator Amitabh Kant said ahead of the summit in India next month.
- The Kremlin said Putin has no plans to attend the G20 summit in India in September in person.