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Ukraine live briefing: U.N. investigates alleged wartime abuses; Russia probes cause of Prigozhin’s crash

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A man photographs a memorial on Sunday for Wagner Group founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, the mercenary organization’s commander, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (Anastasia Makarycheva/Reuters)

Independent investigators from the United Nations will visit Ukraine Monday as part of an ongoing probe into alleged human rights violations and abuses committed during Russia’s invasion.

Now that the death of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group paramilitary force, in a plane crash outside Moscow last week has been confirmed by Russia’s Investigative Committee, their investigation will continue to probe the cause of the crash. But Western analysts say the true cause may never be known because of opaque and often politicized investigations in Russia.

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

Investigators from the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine will visit Kyiv and Uman, among other locations, before presenting their findings to U.N. members in the next two months. The United Nations said the investigators are expected to meet officials, diplomats and civil-society groups “to discuss the situation in the country.” It’s the commission’s third visit to Ukraine since the war began, the U.N. said, and the visiting members are expected to stay there until Monday, Sept. 4.

The commission concluded that Russia violated human rights in Ukraine in a previous report to the U.N. The report, dated Feb. to March, 2023, and presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, said the commission collected evidence showing “that Russian authorities have committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many regions of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation,” and said that “many of these amount to war crimes.” It also “documented a small number of violations committed by Ukrainian armed forces, including likely indiscriminate attacks and two incidents that qualify as war crimes.”

Prigozhin’s death was confirmed via DNA testing, Russia’s investigative committee said. Its investigation confirmed the identities of all 10 people killed when the Embraer business jet crashed Aug. 23, including two of Prigozhin’s close associates, as well as three crew members. Aviation experts told The Washington Post that evidence points away from a mechanical problem or human error being behind the crash, though they said the lack of information made a definitive conclusion difficult.

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)

A vessel left Ukraine through a temporary Black Sea corridor, according to Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov — the second ship to do so since Russia unilaterally terminated a U.N.-sponsored agreement allowing safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments through the sea. The ship, which departed from the port of Odessa on Sunday, is carrying steel bound for Africa. The previous vessel to use the corridor left Aug. 16 with a shipment of grain.

Britain’s Defense Ministry believes Russia has cancelled a large-scale military exercise “because too few troops and equipment are available.” Russia holds Exercise ZAPAD annually, and the exercise is meant to serve as “the culmination of the military’s training year.” This year, it “should have taken place in September,” but British defense analysts in their intelligence briefing Monday said it is “highly likely” that it has been canceled because of the strain the war has placed on Russian forces — and possibly because Russian leaders are “sensitive to domestic criticism liable from running another slickly presented [joint strategic exercise] during wartime.”

Two people were killed after a factory was struck by a Russian missile, the acting governor of Poltava region, Dmytro Lunin, said on Telegram early Monday. Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak said five people were injured in the strike, and added that the victims were night-shift workers at the factory.

Ukrainian forces have taken control of the village of Robotyne in the country’s Zaporizhzia region, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Maliar said Ukrainian troops were now advancing southeast of Robotyne — which could bring them closer to Tokmak, a Russian-held transportation and infrastructure hub on the way to Melitopol, whose recapture is a key goal of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.

Russian air defenses destroyed a drone headed for Moscow, according to the mayor, Sergei Sobyanin. There were no casualties and no damage was reported, he said in a Telegram post early Monday local time. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had downed two Ukraine-dispatched drones over its Bryansk and Kursk regions the previous evening. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Wagner chief Prigozhin’s lingering popularity a challenge for Putin: Even in death, Yevgeniy Prigozhin is posing one last challenge for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some Russians have created public memorials for Prigozhin, a public display of affection and support for the late head of the Wagner Group paramilitary force who led a short-lived mutiny against the Russian military in June.

Though the memorials are far from a national outpouring of grief, they highlight the balancing act required by the Kremlin as it attempts to manage potential anger among Prigozhin’s supporters, The Post’s Moscow bureau chief Robyn Dixon reports. The memorials are occurring against the backdrop of suspicion among many in Russia’s elite that the Wagner chief’s death was an assassination ordered by Putin.

David Stern contributed to this report.





POST AUTHOR: Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit

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