West dragging out war, Russian official says

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine would end within days if the West stopped shipping weapons to the battered nation, a top Kremlin official said Wednesday.

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev also defended the Russian military, which has struggled to gain ground since early land grabs in the 16-month war. The Russian army is “modern and heroic (despite) experiencing certain problems, like any army,” he said.

Medvedev, Russia’s former president, also made an allusion to nuclear weapons as another way to end the war. It’s the second time in a week he has raised the specter of nuclear war, recently saying the invasion of Ukraine could last for decades and “quite probably” could end in nuclear war.

“Actually, any war, even a world war, can stop very fast,” he said Wednesday. “Either if a peace treaty is signed or if one does what the U.S. did in 1945, when it used its nuclear weapons (at) Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They have, indeed, ended the war campaign back then, at a cost of lives of almost 300,000 civilians.”

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∎ Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the Financial Times reported, citing Western and Chinese officials.

∎ Even if Ukraine doesn’t get a promise that it will be invited to join NATO after the war, “I have a feeling that we will find wording that will not disappoint Ukrainians and will state more than we are used to saying,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said of the NATO summit his country is hosting next week.

∎ Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, said Wednesday that battles on the northern flank of the eastern city of Bakhmut yielded no substantial gains. But she added, “The enemy is trapped in the city itself thanks to our fighters. He cannot move fully, he cannot leave the city.”

∎ A memorial service was held in Kyiv for Victoria Amelina, 37, an award-winning Ukrainian writer whose work was translated into many languages including English. Amelina was among 12 people killed by a Russian missile attack on a pizzeria in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on June 27.

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International inspectors seek more access to nuclear plant

Inspections of parts of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant have thus far revealed no indications of mines or other explosives, International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Mariano Grossi said Wednesday. The inspectors have requested additional access “necessary to confirm” the findings at the Russian-occupied plant that has not generated power for months, Grossi said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Russia is plotting “dangerous provocations” involving the facility, and Russian officials have accused Ukraine of planning an attack on the plant.

“With military tension and activities increasing in the region where this major nuclear power plant is located, our experts must be able to verify the facts on the ground,” Grossi said. “Their independent and objective reporting would help clarify the current situation at the site, which is crucial at a time like this with unconfirmed allegations and counter allegations.”

Maliar said on Telegram that emergency personnel have been training for several days on how to respond to the effects of an attack on the plant.

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Fate of top general linked to coup unclear

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, has not been seen in public since the botched Wagner Group mutiny two weeks ago, the British Defense Ministry says. Reports of Surovikin’s arrest cannot be confirmed, but authorities will likely be “suspicious of his long association with Wagner” dating back to his service in Syria from 2017, the ministry’s latest war assessment says.

But disciplining Surovikin, dubbed General Armageddon for his ruthless tactics, could cause issues within the military ranks.

“Although largely known in the West by his brutal reputation, Surovikin is one of the more respected senior officers within the Russian military,” the assessment says. “Any official sanction against him is likely to be divisive.”

Ousted mercenary leader was key figure in US elections hacking

Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Russian rebellion has failed and he has been exiled to Belarus. But Prigozhin, through his close ties to Putin, also happens to be the owner and operator of other Kremlin-supported organizations the U.S. says were behind Russia’s hacking of U.S. elections since 2016 and other political information operations around the world, chief among them the troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

“The Kremlin is bound to be uneasy leaving him in control of their propaganda apparatus,” said John Hultquist, the chief analyst for Mandiant Intelligence-Google Cloud, which advises U.S. and foreign governments and private companies on cybersecurity issues. Read more here.

− Josh Meyer

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