Key events

Rescues and volunteers work at the site of hotel and restaurant buildings heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in central Kramatorsk. Photograph: Reuters
People react at the site of a restaurant building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike. Photograph: Reuters
Search and rescue efforts continue after a Russian missile attack hits popular Ria restaurant. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Eight people, including three children, were reported has having been killed on Wednesday morning but that number was expected to rise with rescue efforts ongoing. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

General Sergey Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, had advance knowledge that the mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was planning a rebellion against Moscow’s defence officials, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper cited U.S. officials briefed on U.S. intelligence regarding the matter, and reported that the officials were “trying to learn if Gen. Sergey Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend.”

Prigozhin flew into exile in Belarus on Tuesday under a deal that ended a brief mutiny by his Wagner fighters over the weekend, as President Vladimir Putin praised his armed forces for averting a civil war.

At the outset of the insurrection, Surovikin was among the first generals to release a video, in which he was pictured holding a submachine gun, asking Wagner forces to stand down. He is also commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which lost several aircraft during the incident, killing 13 pilots.

The New York Times reported that American officials also said there were signs that other Russian generals also may have supported Prigozhin.

These reports could not be independently verified.

Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media, had been put in overall charge of Ukraine operations in October. But in January Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to oversee the campaign, with Surovikin staying on as his deputy.

Prigozhin demanded the removal of Shoigu at the start of his mutiny, which he called a “march for justice”.

– with Reuters

The United States has taken fresh aim at Russia’s Wagner group, imposing sanctions on companies it accuses of engaging in illicit gold dealings to fund the mercenary force.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US treasury department said it slapped sanctions on four companies in the United Arab Emirates, Central African Republic and Russia it accused of being connected to the Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The companies engaged in illicit gold dealings to fund the militia to sustain and expand its armed forces, including in Ukraine and some countries in Africa, the treasury said.

Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement:

The Wagner group funds its brutal operations in part by exploiting natural resources in countries like the Central African Republic and Mali.

The United States will continue to target the Wagner Group’s revenue streams to degrade its expansion and violence in Africa, Ukraine, and anywhere else.

For more on this developing story, read the full report:

China’s envoy to the European Union has implied Beijing could support Ukraine’s effort to reclaim its 1991 territorial borders.

Fu Cong was in Brussels for the 2023 Europe-China Business Summit on June 16 where he was interviewed by Al Jazeera and other news organisations. When asked whether China supported Ukraine’s war goals in the conflict, including retaking regions currently occupied by Russia, including the Crimean peninsula, he said: “I don’t see why not.”

We respect the territorial integrity of all countries. So when China established relations with the former Soviet Union, that’s what we agreed. But as I said, these are historical issues that need to be negotiated and resolved by Russia and Ukraine and that is what we stand for.

Fu has previously said, in an interview with the New York Times in April, that China did not support Russian attempts to annex Ukrainian territory, and stressed that Beijing’s position is that the conflict be resolved by negotiations.

China has not explicitly criticised Russia over the conflict since the 2022 invasion and has declared a “no limits” partnership. Comments from senior officials on the conflict are rare.

Taiwan spotted two Russian warships off its eastern coast on Tuesday and sent its own aircraft and ships to keep watch, the island’s defence ministry said.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the ministry said the two frigates sailed in a northerly direction off Taiwan’s east coast and then “departed from our response zone” in a southeasterly direction off the port city of Suao, which is home to a major Taiwanese naval base.

Taiwan’s military sent aircraft and ships to keep watch and activated shore-based missile systems, it added, without providing further details.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday that a detachment of ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet had entered the southern parts of the Philippine Sea to perform tasks as part of a long-range sea passage.

Taiwan has joined the United States and its allies in enacting wide-ranging sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Democratically governed Taiwan, which China views as its own territory, has over the past three years regularly reported Chinese navy ships and air force aircraft operating around the island, as Beijing seeks to press its territorial claims.


Opening summary

Hello and welcome back to our live coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine – this is Royce Kurmelovs bringing you the latest developments.

The death toll from a Russian missile strike on a shopping centre and popular restaurant district in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk has risen to eight, including three children, according to state emergency services. The site is home to Ria, a restaurant popular with locals and foreign correspondents covering the ongoing war.

Meanwhile, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance is ready to defend itself against any threat from “Moscow or Minsk” and has increased its military presence on its eastern flank in recent days after Belarus welcomed Wagner rebel leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“It’s too early to make any final judgment about the consequences of the fact that Prigozhin has moved to Belarus and most likely also some of his forces will also be located to Belarus,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

“What is absolutely clear is that we have sent a clear message to Moscow and to Minsk that Nato is there to protect every ally and every inch of Nato territory,” he said after a meeting in The Hague of eight Nato leaders.

Nato allies Lithuania and Poland had raised security concerns ahead of Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s relocation to Belarus. The movement of Wagner troops to Belarus is a negative signal for Poland, its president, Andrzej Duda, said on Tuesday, as he headed for talks with other Nato leaders in the Netherlands.

In other news:

  • Wagner forces in Russia are expected to begin the process of disarming after Moscow announced plans for the group to hand over weapons, vehicles and equipment. Elements of the force will be disbanded, absorbed into the Russian military or head into exile in Belarus along with Prigozhin under the agreement hammered out between the mercenary leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • The Wagner mercenary group was entirely financed by the Russian state, which spent 86bn roubles ($1bn) on it between May 2022 and May 2023, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said. In addition, Prigozhin, who led the group’s brief mutiny on Saturday, made almost as much during the same period from his food and catering business, Putin said at a meeting with security forces.

  • The US Treasury department announced new sanctions on Tuesday targeting four companies it says engaged in illicit gold trading to help fund the Wagner Mercenary group. The treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said the companies were located in the United Arab Emirates, Central African Republic and Russia with the transactions used by the mercenary group to sustain itself. “The Wagner group funds its brutal operations in part by exploiting natural resources in countries like Central African Republic and Mali,” Nelson said.

  • Putin on Tuesday told members of Russia’s security services that they “essentially prevented a civil war” by acting “clearly and coherently” during Prigozhin’s armed mutiny on Saturday. “The people and the army were not on the side of the mutineers,” Putin said, speaking outside the Kremlin in front of the heads of Russia’s main domestic security service, including the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, whom Prigozhin had sought to oust with his uprising.

  • Taiwan spotted two Russian warships off its eastern coast on Tuesday, according to the island’s defence ministry. Two frigates were observed sailing north before breaking off in a southeasterly direction near the port city of Suao, which is home to a naval base, and heading out of range. Russian state media reported on Tuesday that a detachment of ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet had entered the Philippine Sea to perform tasks as part of a long-range sea passage.

  • Russian forces have carried out widespread and systematic torture of civilians detained in connection with its attack on Ukraine, summarily executing more than 70 of them, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday. The global body interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses for a report detailing more than 900 cases of civilians, including children and elderly people, being arbitrarily detained in the conflict, most of them by Russia.

  • Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, is “ready to continue to fight” for an alternative to Putin, despite being in solitary confinement and facing new charges that could put him in jail for decades, his friends and supporters have said. Launching a campaign in front of the European parliament on Tuesday, Maria Pevchikh, a Russian journalist and CEO of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, said he had been locked up in “punishment cell” for 180 days on fake charges, including not washing his teeth at the correct time.

  • Ukraine’s government reprimanded Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv’s mayor, on Tuesday as city officials faced criticism over the state of bomb shelters after the deaths of three people locked out on the street during a Russian air raid. The government said it had also approved the dismissal of the heads of two Kyiv districts and two acting heads of districts, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear whether Klitschko, a former boxer, would face any further action.

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