- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who last month brokered a deal to end Wagner’s armed mutiny in Russia, says the mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is no longer in Belarus, as was widely believed, but rather in St Petersburg.
- Four people were killed in a Russian missile attack on an apartment block in the western city of Lviv, according to Ukraine’s interior minister.
- Russia to expel Finnish diplomats and close a consulate in St Petersburg in what it calls a tit-for-tat move, after Helsinki chose to boot Russian diplomats accused of spying.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Bulgaria for talks that are to include Kyiv’s push to join NATO.
Russia to expel nine Finnish diplomats in retaliatory move
Russia expels nine diplomats from Finland in a tit-for-tat measure after Finland said it was expelling nine Russian diplomats allegedly working on intelligence missions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Finnish consulate in St Petersburg would also be closed in response to Finland’s “confrontational” policy towards Moscow.
“It was noted that the currently discussed parameters of Finland’s entry into NATO pose a threat to the security of the Russian Federation, and encouraging the Kyiv regime to go to war and pumping it with Western weapons amount to clearly hostile actions against our country,” the statement from the ministry said.
“This line of the Finnish authorities cannot remain unanswered.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto called the measures “a harsh and unsymmetrical response to Finland’s expulsion decisions”.
He added that Helsinki was preparing to close the Russian consulate in Turku in response.
US ambassador to visit WSJ reporter on ‘reciprocal basis’
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says the United States ambassador to Moscow will be allowed to visit the detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich “on a reciprocal basis”.
Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Gershkovich this week for the second time since he was detained in March on espionage charges, which he, his employer and Washington all deny.
Russian embassy staff were given access on the same day to Vladimir Dunaev, a Russian national in pre-trial detention in Ohio on cybercrime charges.
Earlier this week, the Kremlin said there were “certain contacts” with the US over Gershkovich’s case, but “they must be carried out and continued in complete silence”.
‘Uneasy ceasefire’ between Wagner and Kremlin: Analyst
Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence and military analyst based in Moscow, says the Wagner leader made a brief visit to Belarus and then returned to Russia.
“There is, I would say, a ceasefire between Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Kremlin, a freeze of the situation that was agreed together with President Lukashenko of Belarus, and this is an uneasy ceasefire, but both sides are more or less holding it,” he said.
Felgenhauer explained that while it’s a ceasefire, the Wagner Group is still a credible fighting force that the Kremlin is not ready to take on.
“Especially as Ukrainians are counter-attacking … They’re keeping the ceasefire negotiated by Lukashenko. Lukashenko maybe would want these men to move to his country and have his own mercenaries … but it’s a frozen situation. The mutiny was not crushed. It ended in a ceasefire,” Felgenhauer added.
Zelenskyy’s visit to Sofia is proof Ukraine wants to expand conflict: Kremlin
The Kremlin says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Bulgaria shows that Kyiv is doing all it can to drag as many countries as possible into the conflict.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said discussions, like those Zelenskyy was having in Bulgaria, would not affect the outcome of its “special military operation” in a big way and pointed to the situation on the front line as evidence.
Earlier, Zelenskyy said he was in the Bulgarian capital Sofia for talks with the country’s president and prime minister on security and next week’s NATO summit.
Russia is not tracking Wagner’s leader: Kremlin
The Kremlin says it is not tracking the movements of Wagner Group’s leader after Belarus’s Lukashenko said Yevgeny Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that no date had been set for a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko and said he could not yet confirm discussion details.
Lukashenko had earlier said Prigozhin would be discussed.
Russia’s FSB shoots man allegedly planning attack in Tyumen
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has shot dead a 38-year-old Russian man as he allegedly made preparations to blow up an energy facility in the Tyumen region of Siberia, Russian investigators say.
The FSB said an unspecified number of Russian citizens had been preparing to commit an act “at the request of representatives of Ukrainian paramilitary groups”.
The Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, published footage of officers using metal detectors in a field and said a man had shot at and tried to kill FSB officers.
“He did not respond to warnings. The attacker was killed by return fire,” the committee said.
Blasts have occurred at several Russian energy, railway and military facilities since Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to meet prime minister of Bulgaria in Sofia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Bulgaria to begin talks with its president and prime minister on issues including security and next week’s NATO summit.
Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter: “I will hold substantial talks with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, meet with President Rumen Radev, government officials, parliamentarians, politicians, and journalists.”
He said they would discuss “defence support, Euro-Atlantic integration, the NATO Summit, security guarantees and the implementation of the Peace Formula”.
Problem of relocating Wagner fighters still unresolved: Belarus
Belarus’s Lukashenko says the issue of relocating forces from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has not yet been resolved, the TASS news agency reported.
Last month, Lukashenko brokered a deal to end an armed mutiny in Russia by allowing the Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to come to Belarus.
But after a brief visit to the country, Lukashenko said Prigozhin had returned to Russia.
Lukashenko said his offer to accommodate some of Wagner’s fighters in Belarus still stood.
The fighters, Russia said, can go to Belarus and sign up with its regular armed forces or demobilise.
Russia, Ukraine should come to the table without preconditions: Belarus
Russian news agency TASS reported that Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has suggested that Russia and Ukraine come to the negotiating table with no preconditions.
During a meeting with foreign and Belarusian media representatives, Lukashenko said: “We have to stop now. We have already done a lot of bad things. But it could be worse. Therefore, we need to stop now, sit down at the negotiating table without preconditions. We must decide everything at the negotiating table.”
According to Lukashenko, a conversation with Ukraine about peace is only possible now because it will not happen after its counteroffensive.
He added that a peace settlement in Ukraine should not depend on Washington, noting that “this is the business of Russia and Belarus”.
Ukraine will demonstrate power before NATO summit: Belarus
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says Ukraine will try to demonstrate its power against Russia before the NATO summit in Lithuania next week, the Russian news agency TASS reported.
Lukashenko also warned that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would insist on NATO entering into direct conflict with Russia following its acceptance into the alliance.
Belarus President Lukashenko says Wagner chief Prigozhin is back in Russia
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who last month brokered a deal to end an armed mutiny in Russia, says Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus.
Lukashenko said on June 27 that Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus as part of the deal.
“As for Prigozhin, he’s in St Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus,” Lukashenko told reporters.
UN wants more access to Ukraine nuclear plant amid sabotage warnings
The United Nations’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is seeking increased access to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine as Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of planning acts of sabotage at what is Europe’s largest nuclear power facility.
The IAEA said it wants additional access to the Zaporizhzhia plant to “confirm the absence of mines or explosives at the site”.
“With military tension and activities increasing in the region where this major nuclear power plant is located, our experts must be able to verify the facts on the ground,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in a statement.
Recent inspections at the site by IAEA staff had not found “any visible indications of mines or explosives”, but additional access “would help clarify the current situation at the site” at a time when “unconfirmed allegations and counter allegations” are circulating, Grossi said.
Russia TV blasts Wagner boss Prigozhin, says mutiny probe ongoing
Russian state TV has launched a fierce attack on Yevgeny Prigozhin, the exiled boss of the Wagner mercenary force, saying that an investigation into the private army’s short-lived mutiny against the Moscow military leadership was still under way.
In a programme called 60 Minutes broadcast on Russia’s state Russia-1 TV channel, the Wagner boss was branded a “traitor” and viewers were told that the criminal case against Prigozhin was in full swing.
The host of the 60 Minutes programme, Russian lawmaker Yevgeny Popov, said Prigozhin was a “traitor” and footage shot during police raids of Prigozhin’s office and residence in Saint Petersburg was shown as proof of the Wagner chief’s criminality.
Zelenskyy: Slow weapons delivery delayed counteroffensive
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says slow weapons deliveries to Ukraine delayed Kyiv’s planned counteroffensive, allowing Russia to bolster its defences in occupied areas, including with mines.
Speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Zelenskyy revealed that he had sought to begin the counteroffensive against Russia “much earlier” than its actual start in early June.
“Our slowed-down counteroffensive is happening due to certain difficulties in the battlefield. Everything is heavily mined there,” Zelenskyy said via a translator in the pre-taped interview.
“I wanted our counteroffensive happening much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive will be unfolding later, then much bigger part of our territory will be mined.”
Russia, Ukraine should stop using cluster bombs: Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch says both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions that have killed Ukrainian civilians.
The international advocacy group called on both Russia and Ukraine to stop using the weapons.
More than 120 countries have signed on to an international treaty banning the weapons, which typically scatter a large number of smaller so-called bomblets over a large area that can kill or maim unwary civilians months or years later.
Moscow and Kyiv have declined to sign the treaty.
“Cluster munitions used by Russia and Ukraine are killing civilians now and will continue to do so for many years,” Mary Wareham, the group’s acting arms director, said in a statement. “Both sides should immediately stop using them and not try to get more of these indiscriminate weapons.”
Ukraine says at least four killed in Russian attack on Lviv
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko says the death toll from a Russian missile attack in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv climbed to four and that 32 others were injured.
Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said around 60 apartments and 50 cars in the area of the strike were damaged.
Sadovyi addressed residents in a video message, saying the attack was the largest on Lviv’s civilian infrastructure since the beginning of the full-scale invasion last year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the attack, offered his condolences to the relatives of those killed in Lviv and promised a “strong” response “to the enemy”.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from other areas to the east have sought refuge in Lviv.