Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 489: Zelensky says Ukrainian forces advancing ‘in all directions’

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Putin says no civilians were killed in failed Wagner insurrection

Russian President Vladimir Putin said there were no civilian casualties during Wagner’s advance towards Moscow on Saturday, as he addressed security forces involved in resisting the paramilitary group’s mutiny.

The Kremlin leader praised law enforcement units for defending “the life, security and freedom of our citizens,” and thanked them for their “military duty.”

On Monday, Putin confirmed the death of Russian army pilots in weekend clashes against Wagner.

Russian military and its law enforcement agencies prevented a major internal armed conflict in the country last week, Putin stated, referring to the aborted rebellion by Wagner Group chief Evgeny Prigozhin.

“In fact, you have stopped a civil war, acting precisely and cohesively,” he told a group of service members, who gathered at the Kremlin on Tuesday to receive state decorations for their endeavors last Friday and Saturday.

The response of the people, on whom Russia’s security depends, enabled all critical defenses and government systems to continue operating, the president added. He noted that no units had been pulled back from the frontline of the special military operation in Ukraine.

Kremlin rebuffs suggestion that Wagner rebellion threatened Putin’s leadership

Moscow on Tuesday rejected the notion that Wagner’s failed mutiny jeopardized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority, claiming such assertions “have no bearing on reality.”

“The level of consolidation demonstrated by society, political parties, the military, our servicemen, civil society representatives, religious leaders, believers, and others around the president is very high,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

“These events only showcased the strength of the level of unity within society around the president,” he added.

“There are currently numerous ultra-emotional outbursts among so-called experts, pseudo-experts, political scientists, and pseudo-political scientists. Some hysterical voices are also emerging in certain online and new media platforms,” he continued.

Wagner forces took control of military facilities in southern Russia on Saturday, and threatened to march on Moscow, in a move that sent shockwaves through Putin’s decades-long grip on power.

Moscow says it’s unaware of Prigozhin’s whereabouts

The Kremlin on Tuesday did not give further details on the agreement reached with Yevgeny Prigozhin, after the Wagner boss pulled his forces back from a march on Moscow in a failed armed insurrection over the weekend.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said agreements were reached in order to avoid the “worse-case scenario” but failed to expand on the deal, which also involved Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are talking about a rather sad and very extraordinary event. A lot of work has been done by a number of people. I repeat once again, the will of the president was demonstrated to prevent the development of events according to the worst scenario,” Peskov stated.

“There were certain promises from the president, certain guarantees from the president,” he continued.

He added that he is not aware of current whereabouts of Prigozhin, who has not been seen in public since the weekend’s events.

“I don’t have any information regarding that matter, and I am unable to provide any details,” Peskov told reporters when questioned about whether the Kremlin has any information on the Wagner chief’s location.

Peskov also refused to comment on earlier remarks made by Lukashenko.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s Federal Security Service said it is dropping the case against the Wagner rebels, state media RIA Novosti said.

Russia says it will drop charges against Wagner group for armed insurrection attempt

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Tuesday that it will drop the case against the Wagner paramilitary group, after its fighters staged an attempted rebellion on Saturday that threatened President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

The case of the armed insurrection armed was dropped on June 27, the FSB added, state media RIA Novosti reported.

“During the investigation of the case of the rebellion, it was established that its participants stopped their actions directly aimed at committing a crime, the case was closed,” the FSB press service said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement did not mention Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin by name.

Wagner will also hand over its heavy military equipment to active units of the Russian military, the Russian Defense Ministry noted on Tuesday, according to RIA Novosti.

On Monday, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the mercenary group was due to leave its positions on June 30 and hand over equipment to the Southern Military District in Rostov, Russia.

However, he claimed Moscow’s troops attacked Wagner forces on Friday, days before that handover was due to take place.

Jet linked to Prigozhin arrives in Belarus following mutiny

Ukrainian fighters have advanced in all directions of frontline: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that Ukrainian forces have made advances on all fronts.

“Our warriors have advanced in all directions, and this is a happy day,” he said in his nightly address.

Zelensky’s comments followed his visit to the frontlines of the Donetsk region and Zaporizhzhia on Monday. Zelensky added he awarded Gold Stars of the Hero of Ukraine to two fighters and met with several generals.

The Ukrainian president added that “several operational decisions were made” during his meeting with the generals.

US gathered detailed intelligence on Wagner chief’s rebellion plans but kept it secret: Sources

US intelligence officials were able to gather an extremely detailed and accurate picture of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans leading up to his short-lived rebellion, including where and how Wagner was planning to advance, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

But the intelligence was so closely held that it was shared only with select allies, including senior British officials, and not at the broader NATO level, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

It was not clear exactly when Prigozhin would act, the sources said. But he appears to have decided to move forward with his plan following a June 10 declaration by Russia’s Ministry of Defense that all private military companies, including Wagner, would be forced to sign contracts with Russia’s military beginning in July and essentially be absorbed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The intelligence was so secret that within the US, it was briefed only to the most senior administration officials as well as the Gang of Eight members of Congress who have access to the most sensitive intelligence matters.

The secrecy surrounding the intelligence was why some senior European officials and even senior officials across the US government were caught off guard by Prigozhin’s attack on Friday, and the speed with which Wagner forces marched into Rostov-on-Don and up toward Moscow into Saturday morning, the sources said.

Some NATO officials expressed frustration that the intelligence was not shared. But doing so would have risked compromising extremely sensitive sources and methods, sources explained. Ukrainian officials were not told about the intelligence in advance, either, officials said, due primarily to fears that conversations between US and Ukrainian officials might be intercepted by adversaries.

Biden spent the days after the rebellion fizzled out speaking with allies, including the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky. During those conversations, he shared what information the US had about the rebellion, according to officials, in order to ensure the leaders had a better understanding of what was known to US intelligence.

Putin is holding meeting with top security officials, including defense minister: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a meeting with the heads of security agencies, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday night, according to state media RIA Novosti.

“Prosecutor General Krasnov, Interior Minister Kolokoltsev, Defense Minister Shoigu, FSB director Bortnikov, National Guard head Zolotov, FSO director Kochnev, head of the Investigative Committee Bastrykin, and the head of the Kremlin administration Vaino are participating,” according to RIA Novosti.

Putin says Wagner fighters can sign up with defense ministry, return to families or move to Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday thanked the Wagner Group fighters who made the “right decision” and halted their advance.

“I thank those soldiers and commanders of the Wagner Group who made the only right decision — they did not go for fratricidal bloodshed, they stopped at the last line,” Putin said in an address to the nation.

He also added those fighters would have the “opportunity to continue serving Russia by entering into a contract with the Ministry of Defense or other law enforcement agencies, or to return to your family and friends. Whoever wants to can go to Belarus.”

During the address to the nation, Putin did not mention Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin by name.

Prigozhin broke his silence earlier Monday in an audio message — his first since allegedly agreeing to leave Russia for Belarus in a deal to end the insurrection. Belarusian officials said they cannot confirm if Prigozhin arrived in the country.

Putin’s address on Monday lasted five minutes.

He stated that the “armed rebellion would have been suppressed anyway,” a reference to the insurrection launched by the Wagner Group.

“Civil solidarity showed that any blackmail and attempts to organize an internal mutiny will end in defeat,” the president continued.

The Russian president appeared to be speaking in a pre-recorded address.

Putin’s last address to the nation was on Saturday morning while Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner forces launched their march toward Moscow.

Russia’s main motivation in war is to keep land it has already seized: Ukraine official

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said on Monday that Russia’s main motivation is to keep land it already seized.

“The motivation ‘not to lose’ the seized lands will be much stronger than the motivation to seize more lands,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Telegram post.

“It is psychologically easier for them to endure an unsuccessful offensive than the loss of conquered lands. This demoralizes and demotivates them irreparably,” she continued.

She added, “The task of the Russian Federation now is to stop our offensive at any cost. By blowing up dams, mining fields, continuous shelling, sabotage, information campaigns, and even ‘nuclear’ rhetoric.”

Maliar acknowledged that it is a difficult time for Ukrainian troops as they continue their offensive.

“Our troops are really having a hard time now. It is very difficult. But they are moving forward. Steadily,” she said. “Because we are fighting a just war. And this is our strength.”

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