Wagner Group’s Prigozhin appears in first video since mutiny; Ukraine reportedly destroys supersonic Russian bomber

Zelenskyy hails meeting with Serbia’s president as ‘fruitful’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday described his meeting a day earlier with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic as “fruitful.”

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Zelenskyy said the “open, honest, and fruitful meeting” centered on their shared respect for the U.N. charter and the “inviolability of borders” as well as their countries’ shared ambitions to join the European Union.

The meeting signals an apparent thawing of tensions between the two leaders after Vucic said earlier this month that Ukraine would “lose everything in one day” if Kyiv recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade has refused to accept the move.

Monday’s talks were held on the sidelines of the Ukraine-Balkans Summit in Greece, where Vucic, Zelenskyy, and the leaders of Moldova, Montenegro, Greece, Romania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Croatia signed a document of support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

— Karen Gilchrist

Eight Ukrainian pilots begin F-16 training in Denmark

A Danish F-16 fighter jet is pictured at the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup Air Base near Vojens, Denmark on May 25, 2023. 

Bo Amstrup | Afp | Getty Images

Denmark has begun training eight Ukrainian pilots in flying F-16 fighter jets as part of its commitment to donate aircraft to Ukraine, the Danish armed forces said on Tuesday.

Denmark and the Netherlands on Sunday pledged to donate F-16s to Ukraine, fulfilling a longstanding wish by Ukraine that it says will help strengthen air defences and help its counter-offensive against Russia’s 2022 invasion.

The eight pilots have arrived at the Danish military air base in Skrydstrup along with 65 personnel who will be trained in maintaining and servicing the jets, the Danish armed forces said in a statement.

Greece will also take part in the training of Ukrainian air force pilots for F-16 jets, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday.

Denmark will supply Ukraine with 19 F-16 jets and will deliver the first six jets around New Year.

— Reuters

Ukraine in talks with France for more long-range weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and France’s President Emmanuel Macron meeting on June 16, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine is in talks with its ally France for the acquisition of more long-range missiles and air defense systems, the country’s ambassador to France said Tuesday.

“If we talk about the strategic issues that we are currently negotiating with the French, these are long-range missiles and air defense equipment. And another urgent need is spare parts, because everything that’s been delivered to us is being heavily exploited and worn out,” Vadym Omelchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to France, told local Ukrainian media.

“France and I are already working on solving this problem,” he said. An English translation was provided by the Kyiv Post. France first began providing Ukraine with long-range missiles in July.

Omelchenko also highlighted the “permanent pressing issue” of producing enough 155mm artillery rounds for the howitzer systems that Ukrainian forces rely heavily upon in battle. He said that “those who produce them are now working 24/7, specialized enterprises in France have gone into emergency mode … The French have decided to triple production and delivery pace.” 

— Natasha Turak

Russians celebrate Russian Flag Day in occupied Mariupol, Ukraine

Local residents, activists and administrative officials hold a 100-meter Russian flag during Russia’s National Flag Day celebrations in the central square of Mariupol, southern Ukraine.

Mariupol is the second-most populous city in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed in September of 2022.

The city was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the early months of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which reduced much of it to rubble and sent the majority of its population fleeing. Remaining Ukrainian residents estimated in May that about 50,000 Russians had relocated to Mariupol from other cities in Russia, according to reports.

Local residents, activists and members of administration hold a 100-meter Russian flag during Russia’s National Flag Day celebrations in the central square of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, on August 22, 2023.

Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

People hold Russian flags as they attend a concert marking Russia’s National Flag Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, on August 22, 2023. 

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Local residents, activists and members of administration hold a 100-meter Russian flag during Russia’s National Flag Day celebrations in the central square of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, on August 22, 2023. 

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

BRICS could become a global ‘alternative to the West,’ Serbian president says

Xi Jinping, China’s president, delivers a speech during a pre-BRICS summit state visit at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. Xi, in an op-ed published in several South African media outlets, said his country and South Africa, as natural members of the Global South, should push for developing countries to have more sway in international affairs. Photographer: Michele Spatari/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Michele Spatari | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are looking at expansion, and if they grow to take in new members, the group could become a global player with the heft to compete effectively with the West, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said.

“The BRICS Summit begins today … I think it will be a historic step for them if they decide to expand BRICS. I’m not sure if they will be able to make that decision today, but if they do, it will certainly be a historic decision and an important decision. They are becoming, after many decades, a global player that is trying to create an alternative to the collective West,” Vucic said from Athens, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

“Thus, the geopolitical game is becoming more and more interesting,” he said.

The BRICS summit is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 22-24.

— Natasha Turak

Greece will participate in F-16 pilot training for Ukrainian forces

Netherlands’ Air Force F-16 jetfighters take part in the NATO exercise as part of the NATO Air Policing mission, in Alliance members’ sovereign airspace on July 4, 2023.

John Thys | AFP | Getty Images

Greece will take part in F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, shortly after Denmark and the Netherlands announced they would donate several of their F-16 jets to the country to aid in its fight against Russia.

“Today, we have the important result for aviation coalition. Greece will participate in training of our pilots for F-16. I am grateful for this proposal,” Zelenskyy said while visiting Athens, speaking alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis meets with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at Maximou mansion in Athens, on August 21, 2023.

Aris Oikonomou | AFP | Getty Images

Greek pilots are considered to be highly experienced on U.S. aircraft. Greece has been a member of NATO since 1952.

Zelenskyy, who was wrapping up a European tour that included Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, said Monday that the promised provisions of F-16 jets — which Kyiv has asked for since the start of Russia’s full scale invasion — gave him confidence that Ukraine could defeat Russia.

Wagner group chief Prigozhin posts video appearing to be in Africa

A screen grab captured from a video shared online shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian private security company Wagner, holding a rifle in a desert area while wearing camouflage in a video for the first time after his rebellion against the Russian administration in an unspecified location in Africa on August 21, 2023. In the footage shared on the Telegram channel ‘Wagner’s evacuation’, Prigozhin stated that they have made Russia ‘even greater’ on all continents, including Africa. 

Wagner Account | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The chief of Russia’s Wagner private military company, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, appeared in a video published by Wagner-affiliated channels on Telegram. The footage appears to be Prigozhin’s first video address since leading an aborted mutiny in Russia in late June.

It was not possible for CNBC and NBC News to verify the video or ascertain when and where the footage was shot.

In the clip, the Wagner leader is holding a rifle and standing against a desert backdrop. The camera briefly pans to other armed men in a pickup truck.

“We are working. The temperature is plus 50 [Celsius]. Everything’s the way we like it. PMC Wagner is conducting reconnaissance, making Russia even greater on every continent – and Africa even freer,” Prigozhin said, according to a NBC News translation. “Justice and happiness for the African nations. We are messing with ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other banditos. We hire real supermen and continue working on tasks that were set to us and we promised to carry out.”

A phone number is included for anyone interested in joining the group.

The future of the Wagner force is uncertain after its failed coup attempt, and Prigozhin and his fighters were said to have made a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that would see them leave Russia for Belarus. Some Wagner forces are in Belarus training the Belarussian army.

Wagner has operated in parts of Africa including Mali, the Central African Republic and Libya.

— Natasha Turak

Ukrainian forces enter strategic southeastern town, defense ministry says

Ukrainian forces entered the strategic southeastern town of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, the country’s deputy defense minister said, as part of its counteroffensive attempting to retake Russian-held territory.

“The soldiers of the 47th Brigade, which entered the village of Robotyne with a fight, organized the evacuation of civilians on Bradley infantry fighting vehicles,” Hanna Maliar said in a post on the Telegram app, according to an English translation by the Kyiv Post.

“Our fighters are carrying out planned combat work and destroying the enemy,” she wrote. “In response, the Russians are continuously shelling Robotyne with artillery. The fighting continues.”

CNBC could not independently verify events on the ground. Photos posted by Maliar in what she said was the town of Robotyne showed Ukrainian soldiers being greeted by elderly residents of the town.

— Natasha Turak

BRICS summit begins; foreign minister to represent Russia

South African police officers walk in front of an event banner outside the venue for the BRICS summit at the Sandton Convention Center in the Sandton district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Michele Spatari | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The BRICS group of major emerging economies — which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — is holding its 15th summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Aug. 22-24.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the meeting in person “by mutual agreement,” the South African presidency said, with Moscow set to be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for Putin on charges of the war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of children during the conflict in Ukraine, which would presumably have forced the summit host country South Africa to proceed with the Russian leader’s arrest.

“While some of our detractors prefer overt support for their political and ideological choices, we will not be drawn into a contest between global powers,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Aug. 20.

Ruxandra Iordache

Ukraine reportedly destroys supersonic Russian bomber

File image of a Tupolev Tu-22M, Strategic bomber plane is seen is seen as Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu visits Hmeymim base in Syria’s Latakia on February 15, 2022. (Photo by Russian Defence Ministry/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russian Defence Ministry | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A Ukrainian drone strike blew up a long-range Russian bomber aircraft, according to reports from Ukrainian media and the BBC.

“Images posted on social media and analysed by BBC Verify show a Tupolev Tu-22 on fire at Soltsy-2 airbase, south of St Petersburg,” the British outlet wrote. The images show the front of an aircraft visible while the rest is engulfed in a massive cloud of flames and smoke.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense wrote in a tweet that “a Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE medium bomber of Russia’s Long Range Aviation (LRA) was highly likely destroyed at Soltsky-2 Airbase in Novgorod Oblast, 650 km away from Ukraine’s border.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that a drone “damaged” a plane before being shot down. Ukraine has made no official comment.

The Russian ministry said an attack by a “copter-type UAV” took place at “a military airfield in the Novgorod region” on Saturday morning, which is where the Soltsy-2 airbase is. It added that there were “no casualties as a result of the terrorist act.”

The supersonic Tu-22 bomber, which Russia has used extensively to bomb Ukrainian cities, can fly at twice the speed of sound.

— Natasha Turak

Russia shoots down two drones over Moscow region, apartment buildings damaged

A car damaged after a drone attack in Krasnogorsk, in the Moscow region, on Aug. 22, 2023.

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

Russia shot down two drones over the Moscow region Tuesday morning, the falling debris from which caused minor damage to the tiling and windows of an apartment building, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said that the drones attacks were from Ukraine, and that its forces also shot down two Ukrainian drones over the western border region of Bryansk.

Law enforcement officers work at the site of a drone attack in Krasnogorsk, in the Moscow region on August 22, 2023. Russian air defences downed two attack drones near Moscow, the city’s mayor said on August 22, in the fifth consecutive night of strikes on the capital region. 

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

“Police had sealed off the scene and investigators from Russia’s FSB security service collected what looked like drone fragments,” Reuters reported.

The attack marks the fifth consecutive day of drone strikes on the Moscow region.

Law enforcement officers work at the site of a drone attack in Krasnogorsk, in the Moscow region on August 22, 2023. Russian air defences downed two attack drones near Moscow, the city’s mayor said on August 22, in the fifth consecutive night of strikes on the capital region. 

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

Kyiv has not commented on the drone attacks, and rarely takes public responsibility for such events. Drone attacks in Russia have become much more frequent since May, when two drones that Russian authorities say were from Ukraine attempted to attack the Kremlin but were shot down.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine may use new Black Sea route for grain shipments: producers

Grain ship on the Black Sea on July 17, 2023.

Dia Images | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine is considering using its newly tested wartime Black Sea export corridor for grain shipments after the first successful evacuation of a vessel along the route last week, a senior agricultural official said on Monday.

Russia has blockaded Ukrainian ports since it invaded its neighbor in February 2022, and threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after pulling out of a U.N.-backed safe-passage deal for Black Sea grain exports last month.

In response, Ukraine announced a “humanitarian corridor” hugging the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria. A Hong Kong-flagged container ship stuck in Odesa port since the invasion travelled the route last week without being fired upon.

“Only one commercial vessel has passed through so far, (and this) has shown readiness to move by alternative routes,” Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Agrarian Council, Ukraine’s largest agribusiness group, told national television.

“Further, there should be a movement of potentially 7-8 more ships… then perhaps in the future these alternative routes will become a corridor for the movement of ships that are travelling with cargoes of grain and oilseeds,” he said.

— Reuters

Iranian military delegation arrives in Moscow for talks on cooperation between ground forces

An Iranian military delegation visited Moscow for talks on increasing cooperation between the two countries’ ground forces, Russian state media reported, citing the country’s Defense Ministry.

“The military delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, led by the Ground Forces Commander Brigade General Kioumars Haydari arrived in Moscow for discussion of issues of bilateral military cooperation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to an English translation provided by state media outlet TASS.

“The sides discussed issues of military cooperation and interaction, aimed at the implementation of projects that are supposed to improve the combat readiness of both countries’ armed forces,” TASS wrote.

The ministry’s statement quoted Russian ground forces commander Gen. Oleg Salyukov as saying, “The Russian Federation views Iran as one of the key states in the Middle East – it is Russia’s strategic partner, and the constant intensive political dialogue is a hallmark of the current stage of our partnership.”

Iran has been a supporter of Russia during its invasion of Ukraine, and has drawn Western sanctions for its provisions of weapons to Moscow.

— Natasha Turak

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