Ukraine latest: Video shows graveyard for Wagner soldiers 'demolished'; officials find flight recorder at plane crash site (2023)

Key points
  • Flight recorders found at crash site of Prigozhin's plane
  • Accusations Kremlin killed Prigozhin 'an absolute lie' - Russia
  • 'Highly likely' Prigozhin is dead, say UK officials
  • Wagner fighters urged to 'take revenge'
  • Ukrainian counteroffensive reaching 'make or break moment' | Michael Clarke
  • Are these pictures from inside Prigozhin's jet?
  • Listen:What next for Putin and Ukraine?
  • Your questions answered: Could Russia keep the Donbas in exchange for Ukraine joining NATO?
  • Live reporting by Emily Mee


Russia 'downs drone over Moscow'

Russia reported a new drone attack onMoscow in the early hours of this morning.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that a drone was broughtdown by an air defence system over the Istra district of theMoscow region.

Three major Moscow airports Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo andVnukovo suspended flights early on Friday, according to the TASS news agency.

The Russian military have reported repeated Ukrainian drone andmissile attacks on Russian territory over the course of thisweek.


Belarusian president claims he warned Prigozhin about 'assassination attempt'

Earlier we brought you comments from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said he didn't believe Vladimir Putin would have assassinated Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The private military group head is thought to have been killed in a plane crash this week.

More comments from Mr Lukashenko have been shared by Belarusian state news agency BELTA, which quoted him as saying he had warned Prigozhin of a previous assassination attempt.

"The last time we flew to the Emirates, I received very serious information from sources, which cannot be deeper, about the attempt on the life of Yevgeny Prigozhin," he said.

"Within two hours [I instructed], they found the Russian ambassador in Emirates, they called him to me. I gave him a cipher message to the Kremlin to Putin and Bortnikov about the impending assassination attempt on Prigozhin."

Mr Lukashenko said he later checked with Prigozhin whether the information had reached him, to which the Wagner leader said it had.


Biden: We're trying to work out how Prigozhin's plane was brought down

Joe Biden has commented on the fate of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, saying the US is trying to "nail down precisely" how his plane was brought down.

It's believed Prigozhin was killed in Wednesday's plane crash - the cause of which is not yet known.

US intelligence sources yesterday said preliminary investigations suggested there was an explosion on board the flight.

When asked about the incident previously, the US president said he knew very little as he had just finished a workout.


Civilian killed in Russian attack on Nikopol

Russian forces have launched an attack on the city of Nikopol in Ukraine's central Dnipropetrovsk region.

A 59-year-old man was killed, regional governor Serhii Lysak said.

Two houses, a power line, a gas pipeline and a car were damaged.

Nikopol is across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is currently occupied by Russian forces.


Russia regrouping in east, Ukrainian commander claims

Moscow's forces are regrouping in occupied parts of eastern Ukraine ahead of a new offensive, a top Ukrainian commander has said.

"After a month of fierce fighting and significant losses in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions, the enemy is regrouping its forces and means, simultaneously throwing newly formed brigades and divisions from the territory of the Russian Federation," Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi wrote on Telegram.

Mr Syrskyi, who is the commander of the Ukrainian military's ground forces, said the main goal of these measures was to "increase the level of combat potential and resume active offensive operations".

Although he did not provide further details on the regrouping, he said the forces continued heavy artillery, mortar shelling and air assaults.

"Under such conditions, we must promptly take all measures to strengthen our defences on the threatened lines and advance where possible," he said.

Regional authorities in Ukraine announced a mandatory evacuation of civilians from near the Kupiansk front earlier this month due to daily Russian shelling.


Russian intelligence chief could be linked to Prigozhin 'death' - report

A Russian intelligence chief in the GRU has been tipped as potentially behind the death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Major General Andrey Averyanov is being discussed in connection with the plane crash thought to have killed Prigozhin, British and Ukrainian intelligence sources told the i.

The Kremlin has denied it ordered the killing of the mercenary group leader.

British intelligence agencies looking into the crash remain open-minded about what happened and who - if anyone - was behind it, the i said.

Earlier, our security and defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke said Mr Averyanov was being considered to replace Prigozhin in heading up Wagner's operations in Africa.

Mr Averyanov leads Unit 29155 of the GRU – Russian military intelligence - which carries out operations on foreign soil on Vladimir Putin's orders.

The unit has been linked to multiple assassinations, including that of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.


Prigozhin 'given gold bars' during last trip to Africa

Yevgeny Prigozhin was presented with gold bars during his final visit to Africa, according to a report.

Five commanders from Sudan's Rapid Support Forces reportedly brought Prigozhin the gold from a Wagner-controlled mine.

The Rapid Support Forces is a paramilitary group reliant on Prigozhin's help during their war against their country's government.

The commanders were thanking the Wagner leader for providing them with surface-to-air missiles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Prigozhin apparently told them: "I need more gold."

The Wagner leader arrived in Africa on Friday. Some 5,000 Wagner fighters are deployed on the continent to push Russia's interests.

Prigozhin is thought to have been killed in a plane crash on Wednesday.


Graves of Wagner soldiers 'destroyed' at cemetery in Russia

By Olive Enokido-Lineham, OSINT producer

A Wagner supporter claims graves of mercenary soldiers have been "destroyed" at a cemetery in Russia.

A video circulating on Russian Telegram channels and verified by Sky News shows a supporter of the group stood at a graveyard known to be where Wagner troops had been buried and was heard saying "everything has been demolished".

"This is blasphemy. People were dying for Russia and you levelled all their graves," the man wearing a PMC Wagner Group T-shirt claimed.

The footage was filmed at the cemetery in the village of Nikolayevka, located in Russia's southwestern Samara region.

The video then pans to a pile of crosses which appear to have the date 2023 written on plaques alongside colourful wreaths.

The man adds: "Where the work is going on were graves."

He said it's "unclear what's going on, all crosses and wreaths were collected".

Wagner Group fighters have been vital to some of Moscow's successes in Ukraine, including the capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut in May following months of bloody fighting.

However, questions remain over the future of the mercenary group following the crash of a private jet linked to Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday evening. Russia's aviation authority said Prigozhin was one of 10 people on board the flight.


F-16 jets will 'radically' change situation on battlefield, says Ukrainian official

The deployment of F-16 fighter jets will make a big difference to Ukraine's counteroffensive, an official has said.

Oleksii Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, said there is currently "no parity" in the air with Russia.

But modern F-16 fighter jets have now been promised to Ukraine by Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

"As soon as the F-16s appear and are used by our armed forces to the fullest extent possible, believe me, the situation will change radically before our eyes," Mr Danilov told Radio Liberty.

The jets are unlikely to be in service until some time next year, US and NATO officials have said.

Mr Danilov said Ukraine is, for now, continuing its "complex operation" and aiming to keep casualties to a minimum.

"If anyone thought that it was a cakewalk and that we could achieve the goals we set for ourselves — the liberation of all our territories — very quickly, keep in mind that the enemy is powerful," he said.

"The enemy has a certain system of defences and protective structures that it has been able to build there."


Flight recorders found at crash site of Prigozhin's plane - Russian authorities

Russia's Investigative Committee has said it found the flight recorders from Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane at the crash site.

The private jet crashed on Wednesday, killing all 10 people on board, Russian authorities have said.

Prigozhin is thought to have been on the plane but his death has not been confirmed yet.

Genetic examinations of the bodies found at the crash site are now being carried out, the Investigative Committee said.

It added the investigation would "carefully check all possible versions of what happened".

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