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Ukraine-Russia war live: Explosion at Russian navy base after ‘largest ever’ drone attack on Crimea

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 53rd brigade fires a RPG-9 towards Russian positions at the frontline close to Donetsk – AP Photo/ Libkos

Explosions hit a Russian base in Crimea on Friday, according to reports, following Kyiv’s largest-ever drone attack on the peninsula.

Russian soldiers were taken from the military base in Perevalne to a hospital in Simferopol, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov said.

Earlier, Kyiv’s attack saw a barrage of 42 drones rain down on the island, nine of which were “destroyed” and thirty-three others “suppressed by electronic warfare and crashed without reaching the target”, the Russian defence ministry said.

Russian air defences also shot down a drone and a modified S-200 missile over the Kaluga region southwest of Moscow on Friday morning.

The series of attacks came a day after a Ukrainian commando raid destroyed one of Russia’s most advanced air defence systems in Crimea.

Follow the latest updates below.

01:36 PM BST

Germany investigates attempted murder of ‘poisoned’ Russian journalist

German prosecutors said they are investigating the attempted murder of Berlin-based Russian journalist Elena Kostyuchenko after she was one of three Russian exile journalists who experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning.

Ms Kostyuchenko, a foreign correspondent who exposed alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, last October experienced extreme disorientation, abdominal pain and swollen extremities on a train journey from Munich to Berlin.

“When I got out at the train station, I realized I couldn’t figure out how to get home,” she wrote two weeks ago in the literary journal n+1. “I knew that I needed to transfer to the subway, but I couldn’t figure out how.”

Two weeks ago, investigative portal The Insider reported that doctors they had consulted had said her symptoms were consistent with poisoning.

“We can confirm that an investigation into the attempted murder of Elena Kostyuchenko is pending,” a spokesperson for Berlin prosecutors said on Friday.

01:14 PM BST

Russian investigators confirm death of pilot of downed plane

Russian authorities have confirmed the death of the pilot of a plane that crashed while carrying mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to reports.

Alexei Levshin’s family have “documentary proof” he was on the crashed plane, Reuters quoted an anonymous source as saying.

The pilot’s family are set to undergo a DNA test later today to get genetic confirmation.

The Embraer executive jet crashed in Tver region north of Moscow on August 23, on which Prigozhin was listed as a passenger.

12:57 PM BST

Russia ‘shipping citizens to Zaporizhzhia’ ahead of elections

Russia has rounded up Russian citizens and taken them to Zaporizhzhia Oblast to allegedly help them falsify elections, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces has reported.

According to the military, Russian officials have settled these people in the abandoned homes of local residents in several settlements across the area.

It is thought that Russian officials will begin collecting votes on August 30. The vote will be held both at polling stations and visits by the occupation authorities’ representatives to apartments and houses.

12:46 PM BST

Russia says it shot down 73 Ukrainian drones over last 24 hours

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Friday that its forces had downed 73 Ukrainian drones over the past 24 hours, after a night of mass drone attacks focused on the Russian-held Crimea peninsula.

12:16 PM BST

Russia weighing US request for consular visit to jailed reporter

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow is considering a US request to make a consular visit to jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich but has not yet made a decision, state news agency RIA reported on Friday.

US national Gershkovich was detained on March 29 on charges of espionage, which both he and the Wall Street Journal deny.

11:56 AM BST

Kremlin says Putin has no plans to attend G20 in India in person

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans to attend the G20 summit in India in September in person.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Putin accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine, something the Kremlin strongly denies. This means he risks arrest when travelling abroad.

This week he attended a gathering of leaders from the BRICS group of emerging economies in South Africa by video link, not in person.

11:37 AM BST

Kremlin calls accusations it killed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin an ‘absolute lie’

The Kremlin said on Friday that Western suggestions that Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed on its orders and what it called other “speculation”, were an “absolute lie”.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that an investigation into the plane crash on Wednesday evening in which President Vladimir Putin has said that Prigozhin and his associates were killed according to preliminary information, is ongoing.

Putin had not met Prigozhin recently, Peskov added.

11:21 AM BST

Drone destroyed over Russia’s Kaluga region

Russian air defences shot down a drone over the Kaluga region southwest of Moscow on Friday, the region’s governor said on the Telegram messaging app.

Earlier, the Russian defence ministry said a modified S-200 missile had also been shot down over the Kaluga region, which borders the Moscow region. The city of Kaluga is less than 200 km (124 miles) from Moscow.

11:03 AM BST

Ukraine dismisses emergency service chief after internal inspection

Ukraine announced the dismissal of the head of its State Emergency Service on Friday after an internal inspection of the agency, which has had a prominent role since Russia’s invasion.

“The government has decided to dismiss Serhiy Kruk from the post of Head of the State Emergency Service,” Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Mr Klymenko gave no reasons for Mr Kruk’s dismissal, but said it followed an internal inspection of the service, of which he provided few details. He said Mr Kruk’s deputy, Volodymyr Demchuk, would serve as the agency’s acting head.

The service has been playing an important role in trying to save lives, clear rubble and put out fires after frequent Russian air strikes and shelling.

More personnel decisions will follow the internal inspection, Mr Klymenko said, adding that the service was working as usual.

10:41 AM BST

Zelensky photographed for Independence Day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a flag during an official ceremony on Thursday.

The visits from European leaders were meant as a show of solidarity with Ukraine 18 months after Russia’s large-scale invasion of the country.

Ukraine’s Independence Day commemorates its break with the Soviet Union in 1991.

Volodymyr Zelensky holds a flag – Alexey Furman/Getty Images

10:17 AM BST

Wagner Group since could be a sign of ‘chaos and confusion’

So far there has been radio silence from Wagner’s council of commanders since Prigozhin’s plane crash. Experts believe this could be a sign that the group is embroiled in “chaos and confusion within their ranks”.

The group met on Wednesday evening to prepare a joint statement and announce what would happen next for Wagner, but it is not yet publicly available, the Institute for the Study of War said.

“The Wagner Council of Commanders’ silence may be due to chaos and confusion within their ranks following Prigozhin’s and Utkin’s assassination or due to explicit instructions from Russian authorities to remain silent,” they said.

A man lays flowers at the makeshift memorial in honor of Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin – NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

Any public statement may be viewed by the Kremlin as an attempt to reconstitute an independent Wagner force posing a threat to Russia’s defence ministry, which, alongside “Putin’s willingness to publicly assassinate the Wagner leadership”, could be prompting a delay in announcing a successor, the ISW explained.

“A member of the Wagner Council of Commanders personally selected by Putin to replace Prigozhin now would risk becoming the focus of the ire of Wagner rank and file upset about the assassination of Wagner’s leadership,” the think-tank added.

09:57 AM BST

Russian citizen detained in Finland

The Russian embassy in Helsinki said it had been informed of the detention of a Russian citizen in Finland on Ukraine’s request and was taking steps to offer consular assistance, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Friday.

09:46 AM BST

Pro-Kyiv Russian fighters call on Wagner forces to join them

Russian militants fighting in support of Ukraine have called on Wagner Group mercenaries to switch sides following the apparent death of their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“You are facing a serious choice now – you can stand in a stall of Russia’s defence ministry and serve as watchdogs for executors of your commanders or take revenge,” commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) Denis Kapustin said in a video published late on Thursday.

“To take revenge you need to switch to Ukraine’s side,” the commander added.

The group was founded by RVC commander Kapustin, a far-right Russian national, a year ago.

They fight on the Ukrainian side and are thought to be behind numerous attacks along the Russian border.

09:24 AM BST

UK says ‘highly likely’ Prigozhin is dead

The UK’s defence ministry has said that it is highly likely that the Wagner group mercenary boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is dead, despite no definitive proof.

“The demise of Prigozhin would almost certainly have a deeply destabilising effect on the Wagner group,” the ministry said in a defence intelligence update posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

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09:01 AM BST

Analysis: How Ukrainian F-16s could unravel Russia

Since the start of the full-scale invasion last year, neither side has been able to dominate the sky, which says as much about the weakness of the Russian air force as it does about the tenacity of Ukraine’s.

Although that is unlikely to change any time soon, Kyiv would have been delighted last weekend when, after a whirlwind tour of European capitals, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, secured promises of dozens of modern fighter jets for his air force.

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08:35 AM BST

Russia’s spy chief Naryshkin says failure of Ukrainian counteroffensive ‘obvious’

Russia’s foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, said that the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive was “obvious”, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Friday.

07:56 AM BST

US imposes sanctions over forced deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children

The US State Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on 13 people and entities it said are reportedly connected to the forced deportation and transfer of Ukraine’s children, as Washington ramps up pressure on Moscow over its invasion.

The United States is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on three Russia-installed purported authorities over their involvement in human rights abuses of Ukrainian minors, the State Department said in a statement.

The sanctions coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day.

“The United States will not stand by as Russia carries out these war crimes and crimes against humanity,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday.

Ukraine’s government estimates that Russian authorities have deported and/or forcibly displaced over 19,500 children from their homes since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

07:30 AM BST

Ukraine marks Independence Day and vows to keep fighting Russia

Ukraine on Thursday marked its second Independence Day since Russia’s full-scale invasion, with officials vowing to keep up their fight to drive out the Kremlin’s forces and local people remembering their fallen loved ones.

The national holiday coincided with the war’s 18-month milestone, giving a somber mood to the commemorations.

“We remember everyone who gave their lives for freedom and independence, for the free future of Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a social media post.

He said that an independent Ukraine is “what we are fighting for.”

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07:11 AM BST

US intelligence says an intentional explosion brought down Prigozhin’s plane

A preliminary US intelligence assessment concluded that an intentional explosion caused the plane crash presumed to have killed a mercenary leader who was eulogised on Thursday by Vladimir Putin.

One of the US and Western officials who described the initial assessment said it determined that Yevgeny Prigozhin was “very likely” targeted and that the explosion falls in line with Putin’s “long history of trying to silence his critics.”

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment, did not offer any details about what caused the explosion, which was widely believed to be vengeance for the mutiny in June that posed the biggest challenge to the Russian leader’s 23-year rule. Several of Prigozhin’s lieutenants were also presumed dead.

06:13 AM BST

Mercenary group among the most likely successors to Wagner

A mercenary group controlled by Russian military intelligence is among the most likely successors to Wagner as Yevgeny Prigozhin’s group has been left leaderless, writes Roland Oliphant. 

Wagner occupied a unique position among Russia’s private “security” firms.

Although bankrolled by the Russian state and reliant on the ministry of defence for ammunition, it swelled to an enormous size and achieved a degree of autonomy, notoriety, and battlefield success that few private armies can boast of.

Under Yevgeny Prigozhin it also amassed a considerable business portfolio, taking over oil, gold, and other mineral exploitation concessions in almost every country it operated in.

With Prigozhin dead, a host of rival Russian mercenary groups will seek to take over its combat missions and its business assets.

Read the full story here

05:33 AM BST

US to begin training Ukraine F-16 pilots

The Pentagon said on Thursday it would begin training Ukrainian F-16 pilots in the United States starting next month so they can use the advanced aircraft against Russian forces.

Ukraine has long sought these sophisticated fighter jets to better fight the Russian invasion.

The US training will involve “several” pilots and “dozens” of personnel to maintain the aircraft, said Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder.

“These pilots will be conducting English language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in September prior to attending F-16 flying training in Arizona,” he said.

The Arizona training will take place at Morris Air National Guard Base, he added.

05:24 AM BST

Putin calls Prigozhin ‘a talented man who made serious mistakes’

Vladimir Putin said Yevgeny Prigozhin was a “talented businessman” who made “serious mistakes”, as Western security sources warned that the Russian president had been emboldened by the apparent assassination of the Wagner Group leader, writes James Crisp, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Ben Riley-Smith.

Putin broke his silence almost 24 hours after Prigozhin’s private jet was brought down by what is believed to be a bomb, killing the mercenary leader and his top deputies.

The West believes Putin ordered the killing, and on Thursday a British security source said the incident had left the president with “a quasi private army at hand”.

In short speech from inside the Kremlin on Thursday night, Putin said Prigozhin had made a “great contribution” to the war in Ukraine. The president added that an investigation into the crash was under way.

Read the full story here

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05:22 AM BST

Welcome to today’s live blog

Good morning.

We will be bringing you the latest news and developments today on the Ukraine war and the private jet crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin.

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