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Ukraine updates: US says Wagner no longer involved in combat

Published July 14, 2023last updated July 14, 2023

The US Defense Department has said Wagner forces are no longer fighting in Ukraine in "any significant capacity" after their short-lived mutiny. Follow DW for the latest.

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District to return to base, in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Wagner soldiers followed their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin into Russia after he launched a short-lived mutiny last monthImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The Pentagon has said Wagner forces are still in Russian-occupied Ukraine but are not involved in combat operations
  • Ukraine has reported drone strikes on Ukrainian cities, but the air force said 16 of 17 drones were shot down

  • Vladimir Putin said the Wagner Group does not exist from a legal standpoint, while Belarus said Wagner mercenaries were training its troops

  • Pressure is growing on Russia to renew the Black Sea grain deal, which is set to lapse on July 18

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was not constructive or productive while at the ASEAN summit in Indonesia

  • For events from July 13, follow this link

Skip next section Kyiv says it has overcome 'psychological barrier' to joining NATO
July 14, 2023

Kyiv says it has overcome 'psychological barrier' to joining NATO

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country has overcome the "psychological" barrier to joining NATO after the military alliance's summit in Lithuania last week.

Speaking with Ukrainian television on Friday, Kuleba said Kyiv was given assurances behind closed doors that it would eventually be welcomed into NATO.

"We have overcome the psychological barrier and I see that Ukraine is considered a member of NATO in real terms," Kuleba said.

NATO members have said that Ukraine can only join the alliance once the Russian invasion is over.

Kuleba said the "quantum leap of NATO membership will inevitably come, and it will be much sooner than it seems to us now."

In the meantime, Ukraine will benefit from a separate security pact among Western states until NATO membership can be achieved.

"We interpret it as security guarantees, they interpret it as political commitments in the field of security," Kuleba said.

Skip next section Erdogan says Russia agreed to renew grain deal
July 14, 2023

Erdogan says Russia agreed to renew grain deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Russia had agreed to extend the Black Sea grain export deal.

The Turkish leader said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin "are on the same page" regarding the issue.

However, the Kremlin stressed it had not made any such announcement.

Russia has repeatedly threatened to let the deal expire on July 18 because it claims other parties have not fulled their promises to allow Russian fertilizer exports.

Skip next section Blinken says no signs of diplomatic effort from Russia
July 14, 2023

Blinken says no signs of diplomatic effort from Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there is still no sign from Russia that it is willing to engage in meaningful diplomacy.

Blinken, who was in the same room for talks as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said his counterpart had offered only a negative vision. He said Lavrov was not constructive or productive while at the ASEAN talks in Indonesia.

The US top diplomat said Russian President Vladimir Putin had already lost in terms of what he wanted to achieve in Ukraine. He said the only question now was exactly where and how the war would end. 

Blinken also pressed for Russia to extend a grain deal, which expires next week, allowing produce to be exported by ship via the Black Sea.

"If Moscow follows through on its threat, developing countries including in the region will pay the price including quite literally with higher food prices, as well as greater food scarcity," Blinken told reporters.

Skip next section Wagner Group training Belarusian soldiers
July 14, 2023

Wagner Group training Belarusian soldiers

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Friday that its soldiers were being trained by the Wagner Group.

The ministry said that training was taking place near the town of Osipovichi, situated around 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Minsk.

"(Wagner) fighters acted as instructors in a number of military disciplines," the ministry said.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko helped broker a deal ending a brief armed rebellion by Wagner Group mercenaries on June 23-24.

Wagner fighters led by Yevgeny Prigozhin group took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov and made their way in convoy towards Moscow, shooting down a number of military helicopters and killing their pilots.

Under the deal, Prigozhin stood down his mercenaries and agreed to move to Belarus in exchange for Russia dropping mutiny charges. Prigozhin has not been seen in public since leaving Rostov on June 24.

Skip next section Russia closes Polish consulate, Poland vows response
July 14, 2023

Russia closes Polish consulate, Poland vows response

Russia said on Friday that it would shut down the Polish consulate in Smolensk that cares for two Polish memorials.

Relations between Moscow and Warsaw, already low before the invasion of Ukraine, have sunk even lower over the past year.

"Warsaw has been pursuing a hostile policy towards Russia in recent years," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The atmosphere of unbridled Russophobia... prevailing in Poland precludes the demonstration of any 'goodwill gestures' on our part."

The consulate looks after a memorial dedicated to the thousands of Polish officers who were massacred by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, as well as a memorial for several Polish officials — including the then-president of Poland — who died in a plane crash on their way to the former memorial site in 2010.

Polish Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki pledged to respond in kind.

"We regularly receive information about aggressive diplomatic actions from Russia," Morawiecki told a press conference. "If in the end it comes to it that Russia starts to liquidate our offices we will respond in kind."

Skip next section Scholz backs US cluster bomb delivery as well as cluster bomb ban
July 14, 2023

Scholz backs US cluster bomb delivery as well as cluster bomb ban

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended the US decision to supply Ukraine with controversial cluster bombs.

The US government had "made a decision that is not ours, but which it made sovereignly," Scholz said, adding that there was a need to provide sufficient ammunition to Ukraine.

But the German chancellor also reiterated the "great importance" of the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, to which Germany is a signatory.

Neither the US, Ukraine nor Russia are signatories.

Cluster bombs are weapons that burst, scattering smaller explosives, many of which fail to explode and remain a threat for years.

Biden defends US plan to send cluster bombs to Ukraine

Skip next section Russia accuses West of 'sponsoring nuclear terrorism' after drone strike
July 14, 2023

Russia accuses West of 'sponsoring nuclear terrorism' after drone strike

Russian authorities said on Friday that a Ukrainian drone struck a residential building in the Russian town of Kurchatov in an overnight attack.

"A drone crashed in the town of Kurchatov overnight," the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said on the Telegram messaging app. "Fortunately, none of the residents was injured. Critical facilities were not damaged as a result of the drone crash and its subsequent detonation."

The town, not far from the Ukrainian border, is on the bank of a cooling pond for the Kursk nuclear power plant.

"Are the countries that supply [the drones] to the Kyiv regime planning to retire to Mars if there is a nuclear disaster? They won't have time," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "People in NATO countries should realize that their governments are sponsoring nuclear terrorism by the Kyiv regime."

Ukraine did not immediately respond to the claims of drone attacks in Russia.

The comments from Russian authorities came after reports of numerous drone attacks on Ukrainian cities overnight. Russian forces have also drawn international condemnation for occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

IAEA demands access to rooftops of nuclear plant

Skip next section Failure to extend the Black Sea grain deal would be 'detrimental to supply chains,' academic tells DW
July 14, 2023

Failure to extend the Black Sea grain deal would be 'detrimental to supply chains,' academic tells DW

DW spoke with Samuel Ramani, from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, about Russian President Vladimir Putin's demands in exchange for extending the Black Sea grain deal, which is set to expire on Monday.

Ramani said Moscow wants several guarantees, including the reconnection of their agricultural bank to the international SWIFT system which could "be used to get around sanctions."

Russia also wants guarantees its agricultural goods and fertilizers will reach the international market.

"Russia could engage in a lot of obstructionist tactics that could be very detrimental to supply chains across the world" if the West does not agree to its demands, the academic told DW.

However, "It's unclear whether Russia will be able to blockade the Black Sea," Ramani said, "because of the vulnerabilities of the Russian Navy."

Ramani explained that hardline ultranationalist voices — such as the now sidelined Yevgeny Prigozhin — in Russia are putting pressure on Putin to not engage in any form of diplomacy, but "Russia's soft power in Africa and the Middle East, as well as their relationship with Turkey, would be very seriously strained if they don't go ahead withthis."

"I think the most likely outcome is that he will extend" the grain deal, Ramani said.

Grain desperately needed in Horn of Africa

Skip next section Ukraine reports Russian drone attacks
July 14, 2023

Ukraine reports Russian drone attacks

Ukrainian authorities reported another night of Russian drone attacks on Friday

Serhiy Lyssak, the military governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region said that the central city of Kryvyi Rih — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hometown — was one of the targets, with a number of buildings damaged and a 56-year-old man injured in the attack.

Lyssak said that the attack on Kryvyi Rih had included six drones as well as artillery fire.

Ukraine's air force said it had shot down 16 of the 17 Iranian-made Shahed drones used in the overnight attacks.

Skip next section Putin says Wagner Group 'doesn't exist' legally
July 14, 2023

Putin says Wagner Group 'doesn't exist' legally

Speaking to the Russian daily Kommersant, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the mercenary Wagner Group "simply doesn't exist" as there is "no law on private military organizations."

His comments add further unclarity to the fate of the mercenaries, who had, until their short-lived mutiny last month, played a key role in the invasion of Ukraine, and their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Putin also said that in the meeting he had with Wagner commanders just days after their rebellion the various options he put forward to grant the mercenaries amnesty were rejected by Prigozhin.

"All of them could have gathered in one place and continued to serve," Putin told the newspaper, "And nothing would have changed for them. They would have been led by the same person who had been their real commander all along."

But the group's leader said, "The boys won't agree with such a decision."

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Wagner forces were handing over their weapons to the Russian military. On Friday, the US Pentagon said Wagner forces were still in Russian-occupied Ukraine but were not involved in combat operations.

Skip next section 'Ukraine can count on us for financing,' German finance minister says
July 14, 2023

'Ukraine can count on us for financing,' German finance minister says

Germany's minister of finance, Christian Lindner, said on Friday following a budget meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels that the bloc must reduce and reallocate funds, "with the exception of [funds for] Ukraine — that is a specific need that was not foreseeable."

"For us it is essential to support Ukraine," Lindner told reporters. "Ukraine can count on us and on the financing."

Skip next section AFP video journalist killed in Ukraine awarded order of merit in France
July 14, 2023

AFP video journalist killed in Ukraine awarded order of merit in France

French President Emmanuel Macron awarded the Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honor) order of merit to Arman Soldin, a video journalist for the French AFP news agency who was killed while working in Ukraine.

Soldin was 32 years old when he was killed in a Russian rocket attack in eastern Ukraine on May 9 while reporting on the war.

The Sarajevo-born French journalist said he has been drawn to reporting on people displaced by conflict following his own family's experience fleeing the war in Bosnia. 

The award was granted by presidential decree on Thursday. Macron earlier hailed Soldin's "bravery" in a letter to AFP in May.

AFP journalist Arman Soldin snaps a selfie with a cat on his shoulder during an in Ukraine
Soldin was working as a video coordinator for AFP in Ukraine when he was killedImage: Arman Soldin/AFP
Skip next section Wagner forces absent from combat in Ukraine, Pentagon says
July 14, 2023

Wagner forces absent from combat in Ukraine, Pentagon says

Almost three weeks after Yevgeny Prigozhin led his Wagner Group mercenary forces in a short-lived mutiny against Moscow, the Pentagon said the mercenaries are no longer involved in combat operations in Ukraine in "any significant capacity."

"At this stage, we do not see Wagner forces participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine," Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said.

Ryder added that "the majority" of Wagner soldiers were still in Russian-occupied Ukraine but the whereabouts of their former leader Prigozhin remains unknown.

Following the mutiny, Moscow said the mercenary group would be disbanded with its forces being given the choice of being folded into the Russian army, going home or moving to Belarus with Prigozhin following an offer from Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko — an offer that appears to not yet have been taken up.

For events from July 11, follow this link.

ab/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

Mystery surrounds whereabouts of Wagner boss Prigozhin