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Ukraine live briefing: Russian investigators confirm Prigozhin’s death; ex-U.S. official says crash was retribution

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A woman stands in front of a memorial for Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin in Moscow on Saturday. (Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed Sunday that Yevgeniy Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash last week outside Moscow, ending days of fevered speculation about the fate of the Wagner Group leader.

Fiona Hill, a National Security Council official in the Trump administration, told CBS News that Prigozhin’s death was probably a retaliatory measure after his mutinous march toward Moscow in June.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

DNA testing during the investigation into the plane crash established “the identities of all 10 victims,” the committee said in a statement. Russian aviation authorities previously confirmed that Prigozhin — along with two of his close associates, Valeriy Chekalov and Dmitry Utkin — were listed as passengers on the Embraer business jet, which went down in the Tver region of western Russia.

It’s unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Wagner chief to be assassinated, Hill said, but “there are plenty of people who were painting a target on Prigozhin’s back.” She specialized in European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019 and now works at the Brookings Institution. She said the Russian military wanted retribution for his mutiny. “The system itself expected him to be taken out of the picture in some fashion,” Hill said in an interview that was broadcast Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he had warned Prigozhin about his safety at least twice, Belarusian state news agency BelTA reported. Lukashenko claimed he had told Prigozhin that he could guarantee his “full security” by speaking with Putin and extracting him to Belarus, but that the mercenary group leader never took up his offer, BelTA reported Friday.

Evidence does not suggest that a simple mechanical problem or human error caused the plane crash, aviation experts told The Washington Post, though they said there is not enough information available to draw a definitive conclusion. Early assessments by U.S. officials suggested the possibility of an onboard explosion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that elections under martial law could only be possible if the United States and Europe provide financial support. Ukraine would also require independent observers to ensure the process is fair, Zelensky added. Although he said he would not divert funds from weapons, the leader conceded that with additional funding Ukraine could “quickly” change its legislation, which prohibits to hold parliamentary or presidential elections under martial law.

Members of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine will visit several regions of the country Monday, including Uman in Cherkasy region and the capital of Kyiv. The mission is part of an ongoing investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses. The commissioners will present their findings at the Human Rights Council session by the end September.

Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed on Aug. 27, that Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash last week outside Moscow. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

Three Ukrainian pilots were killed in a midair collision during a combat mission Friday, government authorities said. The two L-39 combat training aircraft collided near Zhytomyr, according to the Ukrainian air force. One of the pilots killed, who had the call sign “Juice,” had described to The Post in April 2022 how Ukrainian fliers were fending off Russian invaders.

Zelensky said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the collision. Zelensky in his overnight address expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the pilots. Yuri Ihnat, spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, said Sunday that it was not clear how long the investigation would take, according to the Associated Press.

The Ukrainian Defense Department shared a video of a memorial for the pilots on Sunday. In it, a man plays a piano that a service member later lights on fire.

Ukrainian officials claimed to have thwarted an attempted Russian attack overnight on Ukraine’s capital. The civil-military administration of Kyiv said cruise missiles fired in the area of the Caspian Sea and “moving in the direction of Kyiv” were destroyed by air defenses overnight without causing any damage or injuries in the capital. Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that “all intended targets were struck” in an overnight “strike from precision-guided long-range air-launched weapons” against an airfield in the Kyiv region. It was not immediately clear whether the two events were the same, and The Post could not independently verify the assertions.

Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of targeting two border regions with drones overnight. The ministry said air defenses downed two drones over the Bryansk and Kursk regions, on Russia’s western border with Ukraine. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Four more military officers in Ukraine have been detained as part of a corruption investigation, Ukraine’s Security Service said on Telegram. The four individuals are accused of helping people evade the draft in exchange for money.

Russian forces on Sunday killed two women and injured one person in two different attacks, one in the southern region of Kharkiv and another in northeastern Kherson, according to regional governors. Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram that Russian forces struck the village of Odnorobivka on Sunday with multiple rocket launchers, killing one woman. Kherson Oblast Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported that Russian shelling in the town of Virivka, killed a 35-year-old woman, and injured another person in the attack.

Ukraine has been negotiating with the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to secure security guarantees from the Western powers, Zelensky said. “We have started negotiations with Canada on a bilateral document on security guarantees. Earlier we started with the United States and the United Kingdom,” Zelensky said late Saturday. “This will give Ukraine much more opportunities. I am grateful to each and every person who works for this!”

Journalist Evan Gershkovich has appealed a Moscow court’s decision to extend his detention through November, according to Russian state news agency Tass. Gershkovich is being held before trial on espionage charges that both the U.S. government and the Wall Street Journal, his employer, say are baseless.

Prigozhin is confirmed dead. What happened to Putin’s other rivals?: Some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foes, among them journalists and opposition politicians, have died or fallen ill in suspicious circumstances after opposing the Kremlin leader.

In the latest case, on Aug. 23, Yevgeniy Prigozhin — the head of the guns-for-hire Wagner Group and Putin’s longtime ally turned foe — was killed, along with the three crew members and six other passengers on board, when a private jet flying north of Moscow crashed.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied speculation of Kremlin involvement as “all lies.” In June, Prigozhin led a short-lived rebellion against Russia’s top military leadership, prompting wider concerns that Putin would ultimately punish him for the mutiny.

Other foes, Victoria Bisset and Miriam Berger report, have been poisoned, shot or imprisoned.

Mary Ilyushina, Francesca Ebel and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.





POST AUTHOR: Lyric Li, Annabelle Timsit, Robyn Dixon, Paulina Villegas

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