Russian President Vladimir Putin has traveled from the far eastern corner of his country – where he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – to the far western, for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Putin said he would brief his Belarusian counterpart on his talks with Kim, as well as discussing “the Ukrainian crisis,” which he described as Russia’s “most pressing issue.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine has enjoyed “some success” on the eastern front lines, where its troops have retaken the village of Andriivka, close to the city of Bakhmut.
Catch up on the top developments in the war:
- Lukashenko in Sochi: Putin met Lukashenko in the southwestern city of Sochi, where the two leaders discussed the state of their economies, as well as recent talks between Moscow and Pyongyang. Putin claimed his country was developing “good neighborly relations” with North Korea, adding “we do not pose a threat to anyone.” Lukashenko’s trip to Sochi comes just days after the European Parliament called him “an accomplice” in the war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, and labeled Belarus “a satellite state of Russia.”
- Kim’s trip continues: While Putin has traveled cross-country, Kim has remained in Russia’s far east, close to the North Korean border. Kim visited an aircraft plant in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on Friday, where he was accompanied by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov. Manutorov said Russia sees “the potential for cooperation” with North Korea — a partnership he said he hoped would enable both countries to “achieve technological sovereignty.”
- Kremlin denies agreement: However, as speculation over a potential arms deal between Moscow and Pyongyang grows, the Kremlin has denied that any such deal has been struck. “No agreements were signed neither on this nor on any other topics,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday, in a regular call with journalists.
- Wagner proscribed terrorists: The UK officially proscribed the Russian mercenary Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, which will make it illegal to be a member or to support it. The order was laid in parliament and backed earlier this month by lawmakers.
- No comment on Prigozhin crash probe: Peskov was also asked about the ongoing investigation into what caused the plane of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to crash in August. “An investigation is ongoing, so it would be premature to give any comments now,” Peskov said.
- Ukraine retakes Andriivka: Ukrainian forces have reclaimed the village of Andriivka near Bakhmut. “It’s official: The Third Separate Assault Brigade has liberated Andriivka,” the brigade announced Friday, claiming the Russian occupiers had been “smashed to pieces.” The brigade said fighting was ongoing and that its units “continue to consolidate their positions.” The Ukrainian and Russian sides have said that some of the most intense battles in the Bakhmut direction are happening south of the embattled city in the Andriivka area.
- Russian warship damage: Ukraine has claimed that the vessels it struck in an attack on a Russian naval base in occupied Crimea are beyond repair. Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, said the landing ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don had been destroyed in the attack. Both had been undergoing repairs at the time. Ukraine has stepped up its missile and drone strikes on Crimea in recent weeks, as Kyiv officials have claimed they are intent on retaking the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.