Mercenaries of Russia’s Wagner Group outside a damaged building in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, April 10, 2023
Map: Institute for Study of War
UPDATE 1504 GMT:
Four civilians have been injured by Russian shelling of Kherson city in southern Ukraine on Sunday.
The Russians fired on a residential area occurred at about 11:20 a.m., damaging civilian infrastructure.
UPDATE 0758 GMT:
Forty Russia Embassy staff have left Bucharest following a request from Romania’s government.
Eleven diplomats and 29 technical and administrative staff, accompanied by their families, departed in an Ilyushin Il-96 jet.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said the departure “reflects the current level of bilateral relations…after Moscow launched its war of aggression against Ukraine”.
On June 8, Bucharest made its request, giving Moscow 30 days to comply.
UPDATE 0752 GMT:
UK military intelligence notes that Russia has cancelled its 2023 Maks International Airshow.
The analysts assess that the cancellation is likely due to security concerns, following drone attacks inside Russia, and fears that fewer international delegations will attend this year.
They also note that the Commander in Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, has not been seen in public since last weekend’s Wagner Group mini-rebellion.
Surovikin has reportedly been detained on suspicion of involvement in the Wagner capture of the city of Rostov-on-Don and advance on Moscow.
UPDATE 0742 GMT:
Russia has labelled the exiled former Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, a “foreign agent”.
Goldschmidt left Russia in March 2022 and later called on Russian Jews to do the same, saying they may become scapegoats for Vladimir Putin’s troubled invasion of Ukraine.
Chief Rabbi of Moscow for 30 years, Goldschmidt said in January:
Pressure was put on community leaders to support the war, and I refused to do so. I resigned because to continue as chief rabbi of Moscow would be a problem for the community because of the repressive measures taken against dissidents.
Russian authorities also applied the label to a musician, two journalists, a former Moscow city official, and a non-profit educational organization on Friday.
Goldschmidt responded to the designation, “I am proud to be on the right side of history and to join the list of people opposing this terrible war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands.”
But he added a warning:
This is the first time since the beginning of the war that a religious leader has been declared a foreign agent and described by the Russian government as a hostile threat.
It’s very likely that this will mean the start of a new antisemitic campaign against the Jewish community in Russia. I’ve previously called on the local Jewish community to leave the country before it’s too late.
“Pressure was put on community leaders to support the war, and I refused to do so,” he told Britain’s The Guardian in January. “I resigned because to continue as chief rabbi of Moscow would be a problem for the community because of the repressive measures taken against dissidents.”
UPDATE 0709 GMT:
During the Wagner Group’s mini-rebellion on June 24, a question circulated on social media: why was Vladimir Putin’s personal jet being tracked on a flight out of Moscow?
Now the mystery may have been solved. Putin was not fleeing Russia, as some speculated. He was flying to the Scarlet Sails Festival, a celebration of high school graduates in St. Petersburg.
Citing “sources close to Mr. Putin’s inner circle“, Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar writes that Putin attended the event, which culminates in a light show and fireworks as ships — including one with scarlet sails — pass along the Neva River.
Putin watched the show from the yacht of Yuri Kovalchuk, a close friend and one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs.
UPDATE 0659 GMT:
The organizers of a music festival in northwest Russia halted the performance of a punk band because of the lyric, “In the land of dreams, no one wants war”.
The band Change was singing Dreamland at the Rokot Over Ilmen festival in the Novgorod region when they were interrupted. The group later posted on social media:
Right during our performance, a representative of the co-organizer came up and said that our performance was over….
Behind the scenes, we asked, “What exactly is the matter?”….It happened that because of the line “In the country of my dreams, no one wants war,” we could not finish our set to the end.
Before the performance, the band were required to sign a pledge “not to promote LGBT, extremism, or drugs” as well as not to discredit the Russian military.
UPDATE 0646 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has expressed concern about the delay in training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
In a joint press conference with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in Kyiv on Saturday, Zelenskiy said:
I have the same questions as you do for our esteemed partners.
Ukraine can get the F-16s. We have agreed, we have pressed, and we have a coalition of countries that are ready to start training for Ukrainian pilots. (But) there is no schedule for training missions, and they’re delaying it. I don’t know why they’re doing this.
On May 19, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark had agreed to participate in the training of Ukrainian pilots.
UPDATE 0636 GMT:
The Ukraine military says it destroyed all eight drones in a Russia overnight attack on Kyiv.
A man was injured when drone fragments struck three private homes.
The launches of the Iranian-made Shahed attack drones were the first by the Russians on the Ukrainian capital in 12 days.
Three Kalibr cruise missiles were also downed, said the military.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Kyiv’s forces have killed 21,000 mercenaries of Russia’s Wagner Group and wounded another 80,000.
Zelenskiy spoke to Spanish journalists on Saturday about Wagner, now at risk of being broken up by Vladimir Putin after its mini-rebellion last weekend.
“These were colossal losses for the Wagner….Now everyone can see: we destroyed the real fist of the Wagner fighters in the east of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy explained.
Describing the mercenaries as the most motivated members of Vladimir Putin’s invaders, the President linked the six-month defense of areas like Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine to the current Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Killing such a powerful force and so many mercenaries in the east is also a counteroffensive. This is a serious springboard for our troops to move forward….When someone says: Ukrainian troops started [the counteroffensive] on the 1st, 4th, 10th — we started earlier, we did a lot of things.
Wagner’s “human wave” assaults finally took over Bakhmut in May, but Ukrainian forces regained territory to the north and south of the city in the Donetsk region. Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said his mercenaries were withdrawing from Bakhmut, and accused Russian conventional forces of firing on them as they pulled back.
That would feed Prigozhin’s escalating feud with the Russian Defense Ministry, which culminated in the mini-rebellion.
Kremlin’s Media Assault on Wagner
In Russia, the Kremlin’s media outlets launched a new wave of assaults hoping to discredit Wagner in the eyes of the public.
On Friday, State TV channel Russia 1 said it was dismantling the “constructed myth about the Wagner Group’s effectiveness”. It belittled the mercenaries’ six-month battle for Bakhmut, arguing that the seizure of Mariupol in May 2022 by Russian conventional forces was far more important. Commentators added that it only took 12 weeks of bombing, ground assaults, and siege to subdue the port city in southeast Ukraine.
But many Russian military observers denounced the report as a shameless rewriting of history and part of a “vile agenda” designed to “consign [Wagner] feats to oblivion”.
On Friday, Russia’s communications monitor Roskomnadzor blocked Prigozhin’s websites RIA FAN, Politics Today, Economy Today, Neva News, and People’s News.
RIA FAN director Yevgeny Zubarev said late Saturday, “I am announcing our decision to close down and to leave the country’s information space.”