Ukraine, Briefly

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This week, Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group more recently known for a rebellion against Russia’s military, reportedly died in a plane that crashed near Moscow, CNN reported Thursday. Russian authorities investigating the incident confirmed that Prigozhin’s name was on the passenger list of the plane that crashed, killing all seven passengers and three crew members aboard, including some of the mercenary leader’s associates. The incident comes two months after Wagner’s aborted rebellion that posed a challenge to the regime of President Vladimir Putin. Now, many in and outside of Russia are speculating that the Kremlin might have been involved in the incident, especially as some witnesses said they had heard two bangs before seeing the plane freefall. Observers, meanwhile, have noted that there are also doubts about his death because of Prigozhin’s past use of aliases and body doubles, the Guardian added. Speculations about the crash’s cause, including missile strikes and onboard explosions, add to that uncertainty.

Also this week:

  • Sergei Surovikin, a top general in Russia’s army, was dismissed as head of aerospace forces amid efforts to crack down on Wagner sympathizers in the wake of the mercenary outfit’s failed mutiny, according to the Financial Times. Surovikin, known as “General Armageddon,” took over Russia’s invasion force of Ukraine in October and had connections to Wagner’s leader. He was detained in June as part of Putin’s crackdown following Wagner’s rebellion.
  • Ukraine celebrated the promise of F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands, perceiving them as a potential game-changer in its conflict against Russia, NBC News noted. However, analysts expressed doubts about their immediate impact due to unclear deployment timelines and existing air support deficiencies in Ukraine. The F-16s offer advanced capabilities, performing both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, making them crucial for providing aerial support to advancing Ukrainian troops. Training delays, including language lessons and technical preparation, suggest it might take until at least next summer for Ukrainian squadrons to be combat-ready. While the delay disappointed Ukrainian officials, observers noted that strengthening Ukraine’s air power remains essential for long-term security and any chance of a victory in the ongoing conflict.
  • Russia shot down three Ukrainian drones approaching Moscow, marking the sixth consecutive day of attacks on the capital, Politico wrote. Russian air defense systems intercepted two drones while the third lost control and hit a building. There were no casualties. Russia accused Ukraine of a “terrorist attack,” but Ukraine didn’t immediately respond. The Ukrainian leader has long aimed to bring the war home to Russians.
  • Putin defended Russia’s intervention in Ukraine during this week’s BRICS summit, and praised the economic group for countering US global dominance, Reuters added. He said Russia’s actions were a response to Western hostility, attributing the Ukraine invasion to some countries’ desire to maintain world hegemony. The BRICS group includes Brazil, India, China, and South Africa, all of which have failed to condemn Russia’s invasion.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy extended martial law in the country this week, amid an ongoing Russian bombardment, a move that will postpone parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall, the Washington Post reported. Ukrainian law requires any such law to be renewed every 90 days.

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