Russia-Ukraine war news: Russia probing Prigozhin cause of death


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)

Russian state-controlled news outlet Russia Today published new footage of Paul Whelan, the security executive serving a 16-year term for espionage in Russia, on Monday. The Russia Today segment appears to show Whelan in a penal colony, eating lunch and doing various tasks around the facility. Whelan’s brother David told a local news outlet in Detroit that the video marked his first glance at Paul since 2020, adding that Paul looked strong and determined in the footage.

Whelan and the U.S. government have repeatedly denied the charges against him. The Biden administration has said it is working to negotiate Whelan’s release.

Polish authorities are investigating a series of sabotage attacks that brought dozens of trains to a standstill over the weekend amid heightened concerns about Russian attempts to disrupt the country. “We know that for some months there have been attempts to destabilize the Polish state,” Stanislaw Zaryn, a senior security official, told PAP, the Polish Press Agency. “Such attempts have been undertaken by the Russian Federation in conjunction with Belarus.”

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

Before Prigozhin plane crash, Russia was preparing for life after Wagner

Following confirmations by Russia’s Investigative Committee that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group mercenary force, died in a plane crash outside Moscow last week, the committee is set to turn its focus to the cause of the crash. But Western analysts say the true cause could remain unknown because of the opaque and politicized nature of investigations in Russia.

Investigators from the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine are set to visit Kyiv and Uman, among other locations, as part of an ongoing probe into alleged human rights violations and abuses committed during Russia’s invasion. The group will present its 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, and the visiting members are expected to stay there until Sept. 4.

The commission concluded that Russia violated human rights in Ukraine in a previous report to the United Nations. The report, dated March 15 and presented to the U.N. 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.” It said that “many of these amount to war crimes.” The commission also “documented a small number of violations committed by Ukrainian armed forces, including likely indiscriminate attacks and two incidents that qualify as war crimes,” the report said.

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 on Wednesday. The dead included two of Prigozhin’s close associates and three crew members. Aviation experts told The Washington Post that evidence points away from a mechanical problem or human error as the cause of the crash, though they said the lack of information makes a definitive conclusion difficult.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Monday that it plans to interrogate two U.S. diplomats after charging a former embassy staffer with “cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreign state,” The Post reported. The diplomats were accused of directing the former employee, Robert Shonov, to gather information about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Shonov is a Russian citizen who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok. It is unclear if Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, the two diplomats, are still in Russia, or if the State Department would allow them to meet with FSB investigators.

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)

Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia has canceled a large-scale military exercise “because too few troops and equipment are available.” Russia holds Exercise ZAPAD annually, and it is meant to serve as “the culmination of the military’s training year.” 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.”

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

Ukrainian forces have taken control of the village of Robotyne in the country’s Zaporizhzhia region, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said. Maliar said Ukrainian troops are now advancing southeast of Robotyne — which could bring them closer to Tokmak, a Russian-held transportation hub on the way to Melitopol, whose recapture is a key goal of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Myroslav Halan, the battalion commander of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Russian forces are “shelling the village” in an attempt to recapture Robotyne, though he said “they are not succeeding.” The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed to have foiled several attacks overnight and early Monday, including attempted drone strikes over Crimea and the Bryansk and Moscow regions, which the ministry said were carried out by Ukraine. The ministry said air defenses also shot down a cruise missile over the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea on Monday morning. The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, said Russian air defenses destroyed a drone headed for Moscow without causing any casualties or damage. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi next month, he told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a phone call Monday, according to a readout from Modi’s office, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

Poland and three other Eastern European countries called on Belarus to oust the Wagner Group to safeguard the European Union’s borders. In a joint statement, the interior ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also accused Belarus of having “triggered and artificially sustained” migration that the NATO nations deemed illegal, and they threatened to close their border crossings.

Putin will “soon” meet with his Turkish counterpart, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday when asked about previous reports of a meeting between Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Peskov did not specify a date for the meeting but said that “there are agreements on announcing the dates” and that “we adhere to them.” Russian state-owned news outlet Tass, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, previously reported that the meeting would take place on Sept. 4 in Sochi, Russia.

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. The ship, which sailed 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. Peskov, when asked about the vessel’s movements on Monday, said that “it has nothing to do with the prospects for the resumption of the grain deal.” He added that “our Defense Ministry is certainly carrying out the necessary monitoring.”

Wagner chief Prigozhin’s lingering popularity a challenge for Putin: Even in death, Prigozhin is posing one last challenge for Putin. Some Russians have created public memorials for Prigozhin, a public display of support for the late head of the Wagner Group 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.

Loveday Morris and David L. Stern contributed to this report.


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