As the war enters it 487th day, these are the main developments.
This is the situation as it stands on Sunday, June 25, 2023.
- Russia was plunged into crisis after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the 62-year-old chief of the mercenary Wagner group, began an armed mutiny. Prigozhin has become increasingly critical of Russia’s defence chiefs in recent months, posting angry tirades on his Telegram channel.
- Prigozhin said he had taken control of the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don near the border with Ukraine. His troops began to head north along the 1,100km (680-mile) highway to Moscow, the Russian capital.
- A “counterterrorism state of emergency was declared in Moscow and the southwestern region of Voronezh as the Wagner troops advanced. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said “anti-terror” measures had been stepped up in the Russian capital and some armoured personnel carriers were seen on the streets.
- In an emergency televised address to the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the mutiny as “treason”. He promised to take “decisive action” against anyone who had taken up arms against the Russian military. Prigozhin, sometimes known as “Putin’s chef”, got to know the Russian leader in St Petersburg in the 1990s when Putin was deputy mayor and Prigozhin had a restaurant business.
- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said his forces were ready to help put down the mutiny, and called Prigozhin’s behaviour “a knife in the back”.
- As the crisis unfolded, Putin spoke on the phone to Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Kazakhstan President Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had also spoken to Putin and that Turkey was ready to help seek a “peaceful resolution” to the rebellion.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Wagner move showed Russia’s weakness, and that the longer Moscow continued its war in Ukraine, the more chaos it would invite back home. “Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.
- United States President Joe Biden discussed the situation in Russia with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, according to the White House. They also reaffirmed their “unwavering support for Ukraine”.
- Russian military helicopters opened fire on a Wagner convoy of troop carriers and at least one tank on a low truck advancing past the city of Voronezh.
- Governor Igor Artamonov said Wagner mercenaries were “moving across” the Lipetsk region some 400km (250 miles) south of Moscow, and urged residents to stay indoors.
- Russian media reported several helicopters and a military communications plane were shot down by Wagner troops during the short-lived uprising. The Kremlin did not respond to queries on the losses, referring questions to the defence ministry.
- Late on Saturday, following mediation with Belarus’s President Lukashenko, Prigozhin ordered his fighters to turn around and return to their bases. The mercenary forces had advanced to within 200km (125 miles) of Moscow, he said. Wagner troops were also seen leaving Rostov.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Prigozhin would move to Belarus under the Lukashenko deal, and neither the Wagner chief nor its forces would face prosecution for the mutiny. Wagner soldiers who did not join the uprising would get defence ministry contracts, he added. Peskov said the agreement reflected Putin’s desire “to avoid bloodshed and internal confrontation with unpredictable results”.
Fighting in Ukraine
- Russia launched a wave of missile attacks on targets in Ukraine. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration, said air defences in the capital “detected and destroyed more than 20 missiles”, but falling debris caused a fire in a 24-storey building, and seven people were injured and about 40 cars were damaged. Dnipro Mayor Borys Filatov said “several houses were completely destroyed”, while in Kharkiv city, a gas pipeline was destroyed, causing a fire but no casualties, according to regional governor Oleh Sinegubov. The Ukrainian air force also reported Russian missile attacks in the direction of the northern regions of Sumy and Poltava.
- Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said that its armed forces made advances near Bakhmut, one of the focal points of fighting on the eastern front, and in an area further south. “In all these areas, we have made advances,” Maliar wrote on Telegram.
- Kyiv’s military commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny told the US chairman of the joint chiefs General Mark Milley that Ukraine’s counteroffensive against invading Russian troops “was going according to plan”.
- The Kremlin’s Peskov said the Wagner mutiny would not affect Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.
- Denmark hosted a meeting organised by Ukraine, bringing together several nations, including those who have remained neutral on the Russian invasion, to discuss a path towards a “just and lasting peace”, a Western official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
- Ukraine’s Zelenskyy reiterated the need for Ukraine to have “all the weapons necessary for defence” including F-16 fighter jets and Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS).