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Ukraine updates: US to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots

Published August 25, 2023last updated August 25, 2023

The announcement comes after a similar commitment from European allies. Meanwhile, Russia claims Ukraine tried to attack its territory with a missile. DW has the latest.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base
Ukraine has been vying for more sophisticated aircraft to aid its counteroffensive against the Russian invasionImage: Savanah Bray/U.S. Air Force/Zuma/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

The US Pentagon says it will train Ukrainian pilots and maintenance staff on F-16 aircraft in Arizona next month.

Ukraine has long been vying for advanced fighter jets, and is in the middle of a counter offensive against Russia's invasion.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in response, thanked US President Joe Biden in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Russia said Ukraine tried to attack civilian targets on its territory with a modified S-200 missile.

Here's an overview of some of the main stories concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, August 25: 

Skip next section Turkey's foreign minister meets Zelensky in Kyiv
August 25, 2023

Turkey's foreign minister meets Zelensky in Kyiv

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has met with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy in talks aimed at reviving a deal with Russia to allow the safe passage of grain across the Black Sea.

Diplomats had earlier said the talks would focus on the UN and Turkey-brokeredgrain agreement, which Russia pulled out of last month.

Zelenskyy said "many important issues were discussed," naming in particular "risks posed by the Russian blockade of the Black Sea grain corridor."

Tensions have escalated in the key waterway since Russia last month exited a deal brokered by Turkey and the UN that guaranteed safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports from three southern ports.

The Turkish government has been trying to persuade Moscow to return to the agreement.The first civilian ship to leave Ukraine in defiance of Russia's blockade arrived earlier this month to Istanbul.

Skip next section Wagner channels say Russian arrested in Finland is top fighter
August 25, 2023

Wagner channels say Russian arrested in Finland is top fighter

Social media channels linked to Russia's mercenary Wagner Group said that a top fighter in one of the group's subunits had been detained in Finland at Ukraine's request.

Rusich, a far-right subunit affiliated to Wagner, identified him as Yan Petrovsky. The founding member and leader of the unit has been under European Union and United States sanctions since last year.

It said on the messaging app Telegram that Petrovsky, who has fought in Ukraine since 2014, was initially arrested on July 20 for a visa violation, and could now be extradited to Ukraine.

Petrovsky, who was previously a resident of Norway, is a long-time far-right activist who helped found Rusich as an explicitly neo-Nazi unit during the opening stages of the conflict in the Donbas in 2014.

Skip next section Lukashenko says 'can't imagine' Putin behind death of Wagner chief
August 25, 2023

Lukashenko says 'can't imagine' Putin behind death of Wagner chief

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely not behind the death of Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is believed to have died this week in a plane crash.

"He is a calculating, very calm and even slow person, making decisions on other, less complicated issues. So I can't imagine that Putin did it, that Putin is to blame. It's too rough, unprofessional work, if anything," Alexander Lukashenko said in comments carried by state-run news agency Belta.

After ordering Wagner troops to storm Moscow in June, Prigozhin then called for a retreat after negotiations with the Kremlin, in which Lukashenko acted as mediator.

As part of the deal reached to escape prosecution, Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters were offered sanctuary in Belarus

Wagner chief Prigozhin presumed dead in plane crash

Skip next section Five EU countries want ban on Ukrainian grain extended till year-end
August 25, 2023

Five EU countries want ban on Ukrainian grain extended till year-end

Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia support extending an EU ban on Ukrainian grain imports to those countries, Polish agriculture minister Robert Telus said.

"We support a ban on imports into our countries until the end of the year," Telus told a news conference. "I want to say that even if it fails, some countries will introduce their own restrictions. Our declaration is clear."

The European Union in May allowed Ukraine's five neighbours to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while allowing transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.

That ban is set to end on September 15.

Skip next section Germany investigates attempted murder of Russian journalist
August 25, 2023

Germany investigates attempted murder of 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 exiled journalists who experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning.

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

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.

Kostyuchenko and her doctors initially believed she was suffering from COVID-19 symptoms and by the time full tests were run, it was too late to test for poison residues or anything that would confirm poisoning.

German prosecutors declined to give further details of their investigation, citing its sensitivity.

Poison just one method used to attack Kremlin critics

Skip next section Kremlin calls accusations it killed Prigozhin an 'absolute lie'
August 25, 2023

Kremlin calls accusations it killed Prigozhin an 'absolute lie'

The Kremlin dismissed as a "lie" rumors that it had ordered the assassination of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who reportedly died in a plane crash two months after leading an uprising against the Russian army. 

"There is now a great deal of speculation surrounding this plane crash and the tragic deaths of the plane's passengers, including Yevgeny Prigozhin. Of course, in the West, all this speculation is presented from a well-known angle... All of this is an absolute lie," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a briefing.

He also said that Putin had not met Prigozhin recently and that an investigation into the plane crash is ongoing.

Western politicians and commentators have suggested that Putin ordered Prigozhin to be killed to punish him for launching a failed June 23-34 mutiny against the top brass which represented the biggest challenge to Putin's rule yet.

Skip next section Russia warns of 'severe' sentences for arson of state buildings
August 25, 2023

Russia warns of 'severe' sentences for arson of state buildings

Russia's FSB security service accused Ukraine of manipulating Russians to set fire to government buildings, warning that such "terrorist" acts had seen jail terms of up to 19 years being handed out.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, there have been frequent reports of attacks on army enlistment offices and railway sabotage.

The FSB warned Ukraine was trying to "recruit" Russians online, offering "quick money" and "persuading (them) to commit arson of administrative buildings."

The powerful structure said sentences of "up to 19 years" had been handed out across Russia  from the Moscow region to the Russian Far East  and courts are examining 22 more cases. 

Russia's silent protest against war

Skip next section Chechen leader Kadyrov mourns Prigozhin
August 25, 2023

Chechen leader Kadyrov mourns Prigozhin

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has publicly mourned the presumed death of Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

"His death is a great loss for the whole state," he wrote late Thursday evening on his Telegram channel.

Kadyrov and Prigozhin were both involved in Russia's war in Ukraine with troops under their command. For a while, they were united in their criticism of the Russian military leadership but, in the end, they fell out badly.

"We were friends for a long time," Kadyrov wrote. "I had asked him to put his personal ambitions aside in favor of matters of the highest importance for the state."

Observers said the alliance between the two was likely temporary, believing that their criticism of military leadership was primarily about gaining advantages for their own military groups.

Skip next section UK says Prigozhin 'highly likely' dead
August 25, 2023

UK says Prigozhin 'highly likely' dead

British intelligence says the circumstances surrounding the presumed death of Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin remain a mystery.

The Ministry of Defence says Prigozhin, reported to have died in a plane crash on Wednesday, is likely dead although this remains far from certain.

"There is not yet definitive proof that Prigozhin was onboard and he is known to exercise exceptional security measures. However, it is highly likely that he is, indeed, dead," the ministry said in its daily post on the war on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

The death of Prigozhin would have a "deeply destabilizing effect" on the Wagner private army, the ministry's Friday statement said.

Skip next section Russia says its thwarted massive drone attack on Crimea
August 25, 2023

Russia says its thwarted massive drone attack on Crimea

Russian defenses downed a barrage of 42 Ukranian drones near Crimea, according to Moscow's defense ministry.

The alleged attack is the largest one on the peninsula which comes a day after Kyiv claimed that special forces carried out an overnight operation in Russian-occupied Crimea, raising the Ukrainian flag there.

Kyiv has been targeting Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, more regularly now and has said that it plans to take the territory back under Ukraine.

Russia's defense ministry said that nine drones were destroyed over the territory of Crimea while 33 others "were suppressed by electronic warfare and crashed without reaching the target."

Emergency services earlier reported that there was no damage to civilian infrastructure from the drones.

Skip next section US to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots next month
August 25, 2023

US to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots next month

The US Pentagon said it will begin training Ukrainian F-16 pilots on American soil starting September, in an attempt to ready them for advanced aircraft. 

The training will include "several" pilots and "dozens" of personnel to maintain the jets, Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder said.

"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 added.

Ukraine has been vying for more sophisticated aircraft to aid its counteroffensive against the Russian invasion.

The F-16 flight training will take place at the Morris Air National Guard Base, Ryder said.

The US' training plans come after several European nations have announced plans to train Ukrainian air force pilots to fly the US-made F-16.

The announcement came when US President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to wish him on Ukraine's Independence Day and reaffirm Washington's support to fight back Russian forces. 

Zelenskyy thanked Biden in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. 

"The US took the lead in rallying global support for Ukraine. This crucial leadership enabled our struggle and bent the arc of history toward good."

Why Ukraine is pleading for Western fighter jets

Skip next section Top US general says Ukraine likely to get F-16 jets soon
August 25, 2023

Top US general says Ukraine likely to get F-16 jets soon

Ukraine is likely to receive F-16 fighter jets from the US soon, a top US general said, adding that the counteroffensive against the Russian invasion had been slow and had partial success. 

"F-16s. That is moving forward, actually. So there's a training program in place and they'll likely receive F-16s ... in the not-too-distant future," US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said in an interview with a TV news channel.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently said he had received pledges from Denmark and Netherlands to deliver F-16s.

Zelenskyy thanks allies for F-16 supply pledge

Skip next section Ukraine targets civilian territory in Kaluga, says Russia
August 25, 2023

Ukraine targets civilian territory in Kaluga, says Russia

Russia said that Ukraine tried to attack civilian targets on its territory with a modified S-200 missile.

The alleged missile was destroyed by Russia's air defense systems over the Kaluga region which borders Moscow, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Kaluga region has recently been targeted regularly by drone attacks, as per Russian authorities.

Ukraine is yet to respond to the accusation.

Meanwhile, several drones were also destroyed off Crimea, Russia said.

"Several UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were destroyed over the sea in the area of Cape Khersones" in Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol wrote on Telegram.

Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, has been increasingly targeted by Kyiv, which has repeatedly said it plans to take back the territory. 

Russian emergency services did not report any damage to civilian infrastructure. 

Wagner's Prigozhin presumed dead — is he really?