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Ukraine war: Zelenskyy rallies for support, Wagner boss 'not' in Belarus, anti-Wagner campaign

Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin stands in front of multiple bodies lying on the ground in an unknown location in March 2023.
Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin stands in front of multiple bodies lying on the ground in an unknown location in March 2023. Copyright AP/PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE
By Euronews with AP
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All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has continued to rally support for his hopes of being formally invited to join NATO.


A few days before the Vilnius summit, Ukraine's leader has taken his message to Bulgaria, where he offered thanks for the support he has received in the face of Russian aggression.

Although the Bulgarian parliament approved a declaration in support of Ukraine's NATO membership, President Rumen Radev spoke of peace.

"We would like the leading efforts to be for peace," he said. "We have not used all means of diplomacy at the moment."

Zelenskyy was scheduled for another meeting in Prague on Thursday and will meet with Turkish officials in Istanbul on Friday.

Prigozhin on the move

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus and had returned to Russia, contrary to reports.

The Wagner boss arrived in Belarus just over a week ago upon Lukashenko's invitation, brokering a deal to end the Wagner group's mutiny. 

"He's in St Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus," Lukashenko told reporters on Thursday. 

The deal also dropped criminal charges against Prigozhin allowing him to move to Belarus. 

Lukashenko added that Wagner militants were still in their respective bases to the best of his knowledge, adding the relocation issue had not been resolved. 

The offer to accommodate some of Wagner's mercenaries still stands as they are not a risk for Belarus, Lukashenko said. 

None of Mr Lukashenko’s claims have been verified, and Mr Prigozhin has not been seen in public since the rebellion nearly two weeks ago.

Russian missile attack on Lviv kills five civilians

Multiple people were killed and wounded on Thursday in the largest attack on Lviv’s civilian infrastructure since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

At least five were killed and 36 others injured, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said, as emergency service workers searched for more people trapped under the rubble. 

“Unfortunately, there are wounded and dead. My condolences to the relatives. There will definitely be a response to the enemy. A tangible one,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a reaction video posted on Telegram.


Zelenskyy also posted drone footage that shows wrecked buildings from above.

The missile destroyed entire floors of a residential building that was struck, leaving the streets below covered in rubble.

Ukraine’s air force said it intercepted seven of the 10 Kalibr cruise missiles that Russia fired from the Black Sea toward the western Ukrainian region of Lviv and the wider region early on Thursday.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said around 60 apartments and 50 cars in the area of the strike were damaged.


Sadovyi addressed residents in a video message, saying the attack was the largest on Lviv's civilian infrastructure since the beginning of the full-scale invasion last year.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian war refugees have sought safety in Lviv from other areas to the east.

Russia ramps up campaign against Wagner

Russian state TV has slammed exiled Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin as a “traitor” in a programme broadcast on Wednesday.

The Russia-1 TV channel revealed a probe into the mercenary group’s failed mutiny is ongoing and could result in a criminal case against Prigozhin.


Wagner started a “March of Justice” on June 23, capturing Russia's southern cities of Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh before ceasing en route to Moscow, following a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The 60 Minutes Programme consisted of footage purporting to show luxuries in Progozhin’s office and residence in Saint Petersburg. 

The US-based Institute for the Study of War recently said Moscow is trying to discredit the mercenary leader in the eyes of the Russian population. 

Footage of police raids in Prigozhin’s office and residence showed boxes full of the Russian ruble and US dollars, his personal helicopter and the Wagner group’s infamous sledgehammer collection.


The programme also accused the Wagner boss of possessing multiple passports, all under different names.

“A normal person can’t have so many passports,” journalist Eduard Petrov, the special guest of the broadcast, said.

Petrov blamed Prigozhin for feeding pro-Wagner propaganda to portray himself as the people’s hero.

“We need to get to the bottom of who was on whose side [in the mutiny]. We need to punish and prosecute them,” he said, adding that Prigozhin-influenced media have been shut down following his exile.


The director general of the Russian news agency TASS had been replaced, the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said on Wednesday. 

Ukrainian officials said the move might have come as an effect of the Kremlin’s disapproval of how the Wagner mutiny was reported. 

Russia to replace Wagner troops with convicts and Chechen fighters

Russia is planning to send Chechen fighters and more prisoners to Ukraine to fill the void left by the Wagner group’s withdrawal.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive towards Bakhmut could overstretch the Russian units, said US-based Bloomberg, citing European intelligence officials.


“Russia deployed large numbers of troops to Bakhmut after Wagner announced its withdrawal from the city in late May, leaving shortages in occupied areas of southern Ukraine,” the officials said.

Estimates say some 15,000 convicts are already fighting the war in Ukraine and Russia’s Defence Ministry is planning to increase that figure.

The head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov said in May that 7,000 Chechen soldiers were deployed in war zones with 2,400 soldiers undergoing war training.

Paramilitary group Wagner withdrew from the frontlines after refusing to sign a contract with the Defence Ministry.


Yet, its withdrawal from the battle will not change the course of the war, according to the intelligence officials who spoke in conditions of anonymity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law facilitating the early release of convicts who agree to fight in Ukraine on the same day Wagner boss Prigozhin went to Belarus in exile.

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