Top general questioned on ties to mercenary group; Latvian premier warns on Wagner in Belarus

Top general questioned on ties to mercenary group; Latvian premier warns on Wagner in Belarus
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets people in a street during a working trip to Dagestan, in Derbent, the Russian Republic of Dagestan, on 28 June 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Gavril Grigorov / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool)

A top Russian general was questioned over his links to the mercenary group that carried out a failed revolt against the Kremlin’s military leadership as Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed ahead with a string of public appearances.

Investigators questioned General Sergei Surovikin over several days about his connections to Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the matter is sensitive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to Moscow overnight from a trip to the south of Russia as he continued with efforts to project a sense of business-as-usual days after the mercenary rebellion marked the most serious threat to his nearly quarter-century rule.

Latest developments




EU leaders weigh Ukraine security commitments with Nato chief

European Union leaders are trying to agree on steps to support Ukraine militarily over the longer term amid pressure to provide the government in Kyiv with additional security commitments and a clearer path to joining Nato.

Arriving at Thursday’s EU summit, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins called for the nation to be given full Nato membership as soon as Russia’s war on its neighbour ends, but others are more cautious. Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who joined the talks in Brussels, said members of the military alliance would agree on a “multiyear programme to help Ukraine move towards Nato” at their 11-12 July summit.

“All sorts of other guarantees, they’re probably interesting, but what Ukraine needs, and what the rest of Europe needs, is full-fledged Nato membership once the war ends,” Karins told reporters.

EU leaders are set to declare that they “stand ready to contribute, together with partners, to future security commitments to Ukraine”, according to a draft of the summit conclusions seen by Bloomberg, which could still change. Those commitments “will help Ukraine defend itself in the long term, deter acts of aggression and resist destabilisation efforts”.

The statement is meant to highlight the EU’s support for Ukraine, including a training mission for its troops and plans to send the country one million artillery shells.

Latvian premier warns on Wagner in Belarus

Latvia’s prime minister, Krisjanis Karins, said the presence of Wagner mercenaries in neighbouring Belarus poses an urgent threat of “infiltration” into the European Union, calling on the bloc to intensify security measures.

“The threat will probably not be a frontal military threat, but the threat of infiltration into Europe for unknown purposes,” Karins said in Brussels as EU leaders met. “That means we need to heighten our border awareness and make sure we can control that.”

Poland to raise Belarus border security amid Wagner presence

Poland will bolster security on its border with Belarus amid fears that the presence of Wagner mercenary forces may intensify what it calls hybrid warfare with its neighbour.

“We potentially have a new situation in Belarus with the Wagner presence,” Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a press conference in Warsaw on Wednesday. “The situation is dangerous for Ukraine and it’s also potentially dangerous for Lithuania and us.”

UK terms Russian aircraft losses ‘psychological shock’

During last week’s short-lived mutiny, Wagner air defence forces reportedly shot down Russian military helicopters and an Ilyushin Il-22M airborne command post aircraft, the UK defence ministry said in a Twitter thread.

While the loss of the aircraft is likely to have a negative impact on Russian air and land operations, the “psychological shock” will almost certainly damage morale within the Russian Aerospace Force, the UK said.

Deaths from Tuesday’s Russian strike on Kramatorsk at 12

The final death toll from a Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s east on Tuesday is 12, Ukraine’s interior ministry said. At least other 60 people were wounded when a popular pizza restaurant was hit.

Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday arrested a man they accused of helping Russia direct the strike, the Associated Press reported. Three teenagers were among those killed.




Russian hypersonic missile scientist goes on trial for treason

A Russian court began the trial of a hypersonic missile scientist accused of treason as authorities pursue a crackdown on military-use technology experts.

The St Petersburg city court held a closed-door hearing in the case of Anatoly Maslov on Thursday, according to its press service. Maslov (76) is one of three scientists from the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in Novosibirsk arrested on treason charges in the past year.

All are specialists in the hypersonics technology used in Russia’s latest missiles that are claimed to be capable of flying at as much as 10 times the speed of sound and have become part of the arsenal used in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military said it shot down six air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles fired against the capital Kyiv in mid-May, using US-made Patriot air defence systems. Putin had touted the weapon as unstoppable when it was first unveiled in 2018.

Maslov was detained in June last year. Director Alexander Shiplyuk and senior researcher Valery Zvegintsev were also arrested on suspicion of treason in the past year, according to an open letter of support published on 15 May by staff at the Siberian institute.

They are accused of revealing state secrets through contacts with China and Iran, according to Russian media reports.  All had participated in a European Union research programme, said the T-invariant scientific online publication, citing people familiar with the matter. DM


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