UK designates Wagner Group as terrorists; Russian lawmakers propose banning WhatsApp

U.S. envoy reportedly visits jailed Wall Street Journal reporter

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow visited Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held in detention on charges of espionage, Reuters reported, citing Russian state media agency TASS.

This would be the third visit by Biden administration officials since Gershkovich was arrested in March, with embassy staff having visited in July and April.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the US citizen, appears at the Moscow court to appeal against the decision to keep him in a former KGB prison until at least 29 May, in Moscow, Russia on June 22, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier that Moscow had approved a request by the U.S. consular to visit Gershkovich.

A Moscow court ruled on Aug. 24 that the reporter’s detention period had been extended until the end of November. Gershkovich was arrested in March and denies all charges against him.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia attacked Ukrainian ports 118 times after axing Black Sea grain deal, Kyiv says

Russian forces have attacked Ukrainian ports 118 times since Russia left the United Nations’ safe passage deal, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Friday, as reported by Reuters.

Russia suspended a humanitarian corridor designed to deliver Ukrainian grain to global markets on July 17. The U.N.-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative was first signed in July 2022, and discussions as to how to resolve the fallout of Russia backing out are ongoing.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Putin promises to tell Lukashenko about Kim Jong Un talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to inform his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko about his recent talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a video posted on the Kremlin’s Telegram channel, as translated by NBC.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at the Grand Kremlin Palace on May 25, 2023 in Moscow.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Lukashenko is currently visiting Sochi, Russia, where the pair have reportedly discussed reviving an old alliance with Pyongyang, as reported by Associated Press news agency.

In the exchange caught on video, Lukashenko congratulated Putin on the results of the regional elections, which were held in illegally occupied regions of Ukraine at the start of the month and were condemned by the G7 as “sham elections.”

Putin also suggested that the two leaders could discuss Ukraine, the translation said.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

With outlaws for allies, is Russia becoming another ‘rogue state’?

In this pool photo distributed by Sputnik agency, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (centre L) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (centre R) visit the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region on September 13, 2023. 

Mikhail Metzel | AFP | Getty Images

Russia’s leaning toward so-called “rogue states” — loosely defined as those breaking international laws, sponsoring terrorism and posing a threat to the security of other nations and global peace — has been accelerated since it invaded Ukraine in early 2022. A raft of international sanctions on Russian industry and individuals linked to the conflict has left Moscow largely isolated on the global stage.

It’s meanwhile become closely allied to countries widely seen as international “rogue states” — such as North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Syria — and has displayed similar character traits by crushing political opponents at home.

The visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia this week showed Moscow was increasingly looking to both fracture the world order, and to benefit from that schism.

Read the full story here.

— Holly Ellyatt

UK government designates Wagner Group as a terrorist organization

A fighter from Russian Wagner mercenary group conducts training for Belarusian soldiers on a range near the town of Osipovichi, Belarus July 14, 2023 in this still image taken from handout video. 

Voen TV/Belarusian Defence Ministry | Via Reuters

The U.K. government officially labeled the Russian private mercenary company Wagner Group as a terrorist organization.

“The Russian mercenary organisation, Wagner Group, has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation today (15th September) after an order was laid in Parliament on Wednesday (6th September),” a statement on the U.K. government’s website read.

“This order comes into force with immediate effect and will make belonging to the Wagner Group or actively supporting the group in the UK a criminal offence, with a potential jail sentence of 14 years which can be handed down alongside or in place of a fine.”

Wagner has grown in size to meet Moscow’s demand for combatants to fight in Ukraine, and is believed to include potentially tens of thousands of convicts. The group spearheaded some of Russia’s most violent fighting in Ukraine and is also active in several African countries. Its former leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, launched an aborted coup in late June, and was killed in a plane crash two months later on Aug. 23.

— Natasha Turak

Putin says he is open to negotiations to end Ukraine war, but Kyiv doesn’t want them

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his press conference at the Konstantin Palace on July 29, 2023 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. 

Contributor | Getty Images

Russian leader Vladimir Putin told press Friday that he is not opposed to negotiations with Ukraine on ending the war, but that it’s the Ukrainian side that does not want to talk.

“I have already said about this: we have never refused negotiations. Therefore, please, if the other side wants, let them say so directly. So I’m talking, but from the other side we don’t hear anything,” Putin was quoted by Russian state news outlet TASS as saying.

Kyiv says peace is only possible once Russian forces withdraw from all Ukrainian territory including the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. Moscow so far has refused to view that as an option.

Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and has since illegally annexed some 20% of its territory. It says it does not target civilians, yet regularly hits Ukrainian civilian centers and critical infrastructure with missiles and drones.

— Natasha Turak

Russia and North Korea did not sign any military agreements, Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region on Sept. 13, 2023.

Vladimir Smirnov | Afp | Getty Images

Russia and North Korea did not sign any joint agreements on military cooperation, Reuters reported the Kremlin as saying on Friday.

The two countries did not sign agreements on any other topics either, the Kremlin said, and did not plan to do so during the high-profile visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia this week.

During the visit, Kim vowed to establish “a new era of 100-year friendship” between his country and Russia.

“I will always be standing with Russia,” Kim said in footage released by the Kremlin and translated by CNN, saying he was “certain that the Russian people and its military will emerge victorious in the fight to punish the evil forces that ambitiously pursue hegemony and expansion.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there were many areas in which the two countries could cooperate.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine’s military says it seized eastern village in Donetsk

Ukraine’s military reported that it has recaptured the eastern village of Andriivka in Donetsk, which is partially occupied by Russia. Andriivka is located south of Bakhmut, which the Russians took control of in May after months of some of the war’s bloodiest fighting.

A Facebook post by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine read: “In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy does not abandon the attempt to break through the defense of the armed forces of Ukraine in the Bohdanivka area.”

“In their turn, the defense forces of Ukraine during the offensive actions had partial success in the area of Klishchiivka,” it said, adding, “During the assault operations they had success and mastered Andriivka, causing the enemy significant losses in manpower and equipment.”

CNBC is not able to verify details on the ground.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy to visit Washington and New York

U.S. President Joe Biden and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands during G7 Declaration of Joint Support for Ukraine at LITEXPO Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Center in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12, 2023.

Beata Zawrzel | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to visit Congress and the White House next week, in addition to the United Nations, as he heads to the U.S. for the U.N. General Assembly.

His visit will come as Congress deliberates the latest military and humanitarian aid package President Joe Biden is requesting for Ukraine, which could be worth as much as $24 billion.

The visit also comes amid heightened debate in some American circles over the success of Ukraine’s slow-moving counteroffensive and whether the U.S. should continue supporting Ukraine to such a high degree. More isolationist factions of both the Democratic and Republican parties have criticized Biden’s aid packages to Ukraine, saying the U.S. should end its involvement in the war.

— Natasha Turak

Russian lawmakers propose banning WhatsApp after Channels launch

Some members of Russia’s State Duma and Federal Council proposed banning the popular messaging app WhatsApp if it starts featuring Russian language channels, the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported.

Meta, WhatsApp’s owner, announced on Wednesday the launch of WhatsApp Channels in more than 150 countries, which would be similar to Telegram’s channels where users can follow celebrities and organizations.

The ISW wrote: “Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Head Viktor Bondarev, State Duma Committee on Information Policy Head Alexander Khinshtein, and State Duma Deputy Anton Gorelkin said that Russia should consider blocking WhatsApp in Russia if WhatsApp launches Russian language channels.”

It added that “Russian state media censor Roskomnadzor reported that Russia could block WhatsApp if it disseminates prohibited information.”

“Russian authorities are likely attempting to funnel the Russian information space onto a limited number of closely monitored or controlled social media platforms,” the report said.

— Natasha Turak

More than 500 children killed during war so far, Ukrainian officials say

More than 500 children have died since the start of the war in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian office of the prosecutor general, as posted on Telegram.

“According to the official information of juvenile prosecutors, 504 children were killed and more than 1,123 were injured of various degrees of severity,” the office reported. The figures date from Feb. 24, 2022, to Sept. 14, 2023.

Soft toys, candles and flowers are left near the monument to Ukrainian children who died in the war on August 20, 2023 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Most of the children affected were in the regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv, according to the office.

The platform “Children of War” is attempting to keep track of child fatalities following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but highlights it is “impossible to establish the exact number of injured children due to active hostilities and the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine.”

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia expels two U.S. embassy staff for ‘illegal activities’

Russia’s foreign ministry has declared two U.S. embassy staff “persona non grata” for carrying out “illegal activities.”

The foreign ministry’s statement, translated by NBC, said that J. Sillin and D. Bernstein had maintained contact with Russian citizen R. Shonov, who is “accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state, who in return for financial compensation was given tasks aimed at harming the national security of the Russian Federation.”

CNBC is unable to independently verify the information provided by the Russian ministry.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

South Korea warns Russia and North Korea over deeper military ties

South Korea’s National Security Council warned Russia and North Korea that there will be consequences to any violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

 “[The] South Korean government will make sure that North Korea and Russia will pay the price for any actions that threaten the national security of South Korea at the cost of violating the UN Security council’s resolutions,” the presidential office said in a statement translated by NBC News.

South Korea’s National Security Council said that “it is a very serious situation that Russia and North Korea have discussed various kinds of military cooperation.”

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on March 27, South Korea’s military said in the latest in its flurry of weapons tests in recent weeks.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

It urged North Korea and Russia “to abide by the obligations that prohibit military cooporation and arms deals laid out by the UN Security Council’s resolutions and various sanctions.”

Russia and North Korea deny that they have held arms negotiations, despite Western concern that Moscow is looking to Pyongyang to supply it with weaponry for use against Ukraine.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, said it would look to deepen military cooperation with Pyongyang, although Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged there were “limitations” to doing so.

— Holly Ellyatt

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