Meanwhile, as Ukraine requests more weaponry for its counteroffensive against Russia, the Biden administration is weighing whether to supply Kyiv with cluster bombs. Senior U.S. administration and defense officials have contacted lawmakers to assess their comfort with sending the munitions, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. The Biden administration has concerns about the optics of the move and the potential for long-term harm to civilians because the munitions can leave behind unexploded bomblets that remain deadly for decades.
Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.
- The United States had “no part” in Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s rebellion against Russian military leaders, Burns said at a speech in Britain, but it offers an “opportunity” for the CIA. “That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at the CIA — at our core a human intelligence service,” Burns said, according to Reuters. “We’re not letting it go to waste.”
- Burns made a secret visit to Ukraine last month, when officials revealed an ambitious endgame for the war, The Post has reported. The strategy aims to retake Russian-occupied territory and open cease-fire negotiations with Moscow by the end of the year, officials familiar with the visit said.
- A U.S. official told The Post that they have seen an “increasing need” for cluster munitions, which could help address ammunition shortages in Ukraine. “We’ve always said our security assistance would evolve as battlefield conditions have evolved, and that continues to be the case,” they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue. The United States is not among the more than 120 nations that have signed an international convention banning the use, transfer or production of cluster munitions, which international rights groups and other governments have long condemned as inhumane.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he had offered Wagner troops an abandoned military base in Belarus, the country where the mercenary group’s leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin relocated this week, although he has not made a public appearance there yet. Satellite imagery captured Friday showed what could be the rapid construction of a new camp in Belarus to house Wagner forces, according to local media and experts. The Post could not independently verify the reports.
- Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be long and bloody, warned Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “War on paper and real war are different,” he said during an address at National Press Club Friday, adding that he was unsurprised by the slow progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. “It’s going to be very long, and it’s going to be very, very bloody. And no one should have any illusions about any of that.”
- There is no visible evidence of “mines or other explosives” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said. However, additional access and checks were still required, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, adding that his agency took reports that the area had been mined seriously, and that mines had previously been placed inside and outside the perimeter of the plant, which is occupied by Russian forces.
- Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, told The Post he needs more of every kind of weapon for the counteroffensive. In a rare interview, Zaluzhny expressed frustration that Kyiv has not yet received modern fighter jets, and said it angered him to hear commentators claim that the counteroffensive has started slowly. “This is not a show,” he said. “Every day, every meter is given by blood.”
- Russia is reducing its presence at the plant and Ukrainian employees have been told to evacuate, Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate said Friday. The claims could not be independently verified by The Post. Last week, Zelensky warned that Russia was planning a “terrorist act” at the plant. He reiterated that assertion Saturday, according to Reuters. Russia has denied the claims, including in a letter to the United Nations this week, Russian state media reported.
- Zelensky told a Spanish broadcaster that Kyiv wants to “show results” on the battlefield before the next NATO summit, which starts July 11 in Lithuania. The Post reported in May that NATO nations were divided over how quickly Ukraine should be brought into the Western alliance.
- Lukashenko signed a law allowing the ban of media outlets based in countries that he deems unfriendly to Belarus. The longtime authoritarian leader has a history of fomenting media criticism and protests.
- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez arrived in Ukraine on Saturday to meet with Zelensky, as his country takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union council. Sánchez tweeted: “I wanted the first act of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the E.U. to be in Ukraine,” as he expressed European solidarity. Zelensky tweeted his appreciation after a joint news conference, thanking Spain “for supporting Ukraine on the way to joining the European Union.”
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “expressed understanding and support” for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to solidify power after the failed Wagner revolt, according to the Kremlin’s readout of their phone conversation Friday. The United States, Ukraine’s largest backer, has close ties with India, hosting a recent state visit for Modi, who has not condemned Russia’s invasion.
- Japan said it had spotted two Russian Navy ships in the waters near Taiwan and Japan’s Okinawa islands over the last four days, according to its defense ministry. Tokyo said last month that repeated Russian military activity near Japanese territory posed a “serious concern” for the country’s national security, Reuters reported.
After mutiny, Kremlin looks to unwind holdings tied to Wagner mercenary boss: With Moscow still rattled by the Wagner mercenary group’s failed rebellion, the Kremlin has begun dismantling and taking control of Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s sprawling empire, which included not only the army-for-hire but also a propaganda media wing and internet troll factories infamous for interfering in U.S. elections.
But handling his operations poses a challenge for the Russian government, Mary Ilyushina, Rachel Chason, Robyn Dixon and John Hudson report. The Russian military, for instance, relies on Prigozhin’s businesses to feed soldiers fighting in Ukraine and cannot afford disruptions.
“Prigozhin is not only the Wagner Group, he represents a structure that is trying to work on the ideological front, on the political front,” said Denis Korotkov, a Russian investigative journalist who first uncovered the Wagner Group. “All this works in a tight ecosystem with other sides of his business.”…
“Nearly 18 months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine now, amidst last week’s failed coup attempt, battlefield setbacks, and global diplomatic condemnation, Putin is coming under increasing strain to finance his increasingly-expensive war—and there’s a history lesson for how this will all end,” Time reports.
“Far from the prevailing narrative on how Putin funds his invasion, Putin’s financial lifeline has his merciless cannibalization of Russian economic productivity. He has been burning the living room furniture to fuel his battles in Ukraine, but that is now starting to backfire amidst a deafening silence and dearth of public support. That is far from the prevailing narrative on how Putin funds his invasion. Ample western commentators posit that Putin is pulling in billions from trade to finance the invasion thanks to high commodity prices, weak western sanctions, and sanctions evasion.”