Our live coverage for the day has ended. Follow the latest Ukraine news here or read through the updates below.
“We just got them, we haven’t used them yet, but it can radically change (the battlefield),” Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky told CNN at an interview in central Ukraine on Thursday morning.
Here are the latest developments:
- Ukrainian citizen charged with murder of Russian commander: Sergei Denisenko, a Ukrainian citizen, has been charged with the "premeditated murder" of Stanislav Rzhitsky and illegal arms trafficking, the Russian Investigative Committee said Friday. Denisenko was detained earlier this week in connection with the murder of Rzhitsky, a former submarine commander in Russia's Black Sea fleet. Rzhitsky was killed early Monday morning as he was running through a park in Krasnodar.
- Alleged Russian saboteur gets 10-year prison sentence: The Security Service of Ukraine said an alleged Russian saboteur has been given a 10-year prison sentence for a foiled plot to blow up transportation infrastructure in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne. Ukrainian investigators identified him as a former militant who fought against Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation in eastern Ukraine before Russia's full-scale invasion began.
- Putin proposes new Wagner commander: Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to Wagner fighters that a senior mercenary named Andrey Troshev command the private military group, according to comments the Russian leader made to the Kommersant newspaper published Friday. Going by the call sign "Sedoy," meaning "Gray Hair," Troshev is a retired Russian colonel and a founding member and executive director of the Wagner Group, according to sanctions documents published by the European Union and France. He has also been sanctioned by Ukraine.
- Belarus and the Russian military: Ukraine recorded around 2,000 Russian military personnel stationed at Belarusian training grounds until recently, but at the moment "almost all Russian troops have been withdrawn from the territory of Belarus," said Andrii Demchenko, a spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. Earlier, the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced that Wagner private mercenary group fighters are training Belarusian fighters near the town of Osipovichi, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital Minsk.
One of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s most senior aides has expressed optimism Kyiv might soon be adding Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs) to its arsenal of weapons. The US-manufactured guided missile has a range of up to 300 kilometers (about 186 miles).
Andriy Yermak told journalists in Kyiv he believed the Biden administration was “very close” to making a decision on approving the transfer of the missiles to Ukraine, though he stressed that a final decision had not yet been made.
Ukrainian leaders have had ATACMs close to the top of their wish list since the early months of the war. The missiles’ longer range would bring more Russian targets into view, including some in occupied Crimea, as well as in Russia itself, a fact that has worried the US.
Key among the Russian targets Ukraine is looking to hit are ammunition dumps and fuel depots, as well as buildings housing Russian soldiers far behind the frontlines.
In recent months, Ukraine has stepped up these strikes in what are described as shaping operations, aimed at disrupting and degrading enemy supply lines ahead of ground offensives. Reports suggest Ukraine has begun to make effective use of Storm Shadow missiles, which were donated by the UK in May and have a range of about 250 kilometers (155 miles).
Yermak’s comments follow a report in The New York Times that described a “quiet debate” inside the Biden administration over whether to send the missiles to Ukraine, thereby reversing the US position that Ukraine does not need them.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is applying its maximum efforts to stop Ukraine’s advancements in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
“The Russian forces on our southern and eastern lands are investing everything they can to stop our warriors. And every thousand meters of advance, every success of each of our combat brigades deserves gratitude,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Friday.
"Our full focus is on the frontline,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky also said there will be further negotiations with international partners after returning from the NATO summit in Vilnius.
“We will not reduce our international activity for a single day, in particular with regard to the Peace Formula, security guarantees for Ukraine on its way to NATO, and agreements with partners on weapons for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia,” he said.
Sergei Denisenko has been charged with the "premeditated murder" of Stanislav Rzhitsky and illegal arms trafficking, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement Friday.
Denisenko, a Ukrainian citizen, was detained earlier this week in connection with the murder of Rzhitsky, a former submarine commander in Russia's Black Sea fleet. Rzhitsky was killed early Monday morning as he was running through a park in Krasnodar.
Russia's Investigative Committee previously posted a video showing the suspect, who they have now named as Denisenko, being walked through the scene of the murder. It is not clear whether Denisenko was under duress as he spoke at the scene, in a Krasnodar park.
South Africa should do "the right thing" and follow international law if Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the BRICS bloc summit in Johannesburg next month in person, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN on Friday.
The term BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to describe the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRIC bloc had its first summit in 2009 in Russia, and South Africa joined in 2010.
Some background: ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russia’s children's rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova in March over the war crime of unlawful deportation of children. Russia – like the US, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC.
As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, Putin would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia. Most countries on Earth – 123 of them – are parties to the treaty, and the ICC statute states that all state parties have the legal obligation to cooperate with the court. It means that they’re obliged to execute arrest warrants.
However, South Africa — the host for this year's BRICS summit — has issued diplomatic immunity to all officials attending a summit in August, meaning Putin might be able to travel to the country despite the ICC warrant for his arrest.
South African officials insist that this is standard protocol and it may not override the ICC arrest warrant. South Africa has not received any confirmation as to whether Putin would attend the summit, according to Naledi Pandor, South Africa's Minister for International Relations.
"South Africa has felt a crime against humanity for decades, the crime of apartheid, I don't think they need lessons from me," he said. "They are voluntarily a state party to the ICC, they know what the law is, and I think they would do the right thing. And we will assess what actually happens at the BRICS summit and respond accordingly," Khan, the ICC prosecutor, told CNN.
"I am a prosecutor, I need to be prudent and prepared for different scenarios with the tools I have available," he added. "South Africa, and I've said it before, and I mean it, is a respective state party. Whenever I look at South Africa, I recall the greatness of the great Mandela. And I think all South Africans will look to him, not to me, about what would the great Nelson Mandela do."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed to Wagner fighters that a senior mercenary named Andrey Troshev now command the private military group, according to comments the Russian leader made to the Kommersant newspaper that were published Friday.
Putin appears to have created a split between senior fighters from the mercenary group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin — whose whereabouts are currently publicly unknown — at least in terms of the narrative emerging from his comments to Kommersant. The paper was reporting on a meeting held by the Russian president five days after Wagner's short-lived rebellion collapsed at the end of June – a meeting also attended by Prigozhin and several dozen senior Wagner combatants.
Responding to a question from Kommersant, Putin said Wagner "does not exist" under Russian law, adding that the Russian government needs to determine how to handle the organization legally.
According to the paper, Putin outlined a number of options for the future of Wagner mercenaries, including continuing to fight under their direct commander, a man going by the call sign "Sedoy," meaning "Gray Hair."
So who is "Gray Hair"? Sedoy is the call sign of Andrey Troshev, a retired Russian colonel and a founding member and executive director of the Wagner Group, according to sanctions documents published by the European Union and France. He has also been sanctioned by Ukraine.
Troshev served as the group's chief of staff for its previous operations in Syria, according to EU sanctions from December 2021.
"He was particularly involved in the area of Deir ez-Zor," sanctions documents state, referring to an eastern city where Wagner fighters have had direct encounters with the US military during the Syrian civil war. "As such, he provides a crucial contribution to (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad’s war effort and therefore supports and benefits from the Syrian regime."
United Kingdom sanctions from June 2022 also identify Troshev as a chief executive with the private military group who "has repressed the civilian population in Syria."
Troshev is associated with top Wagner Group leaders, including founder Dmitriy Utkin, a former Russian GRU military intelligence officer, according to EU sanctions.
"Gray Hair" is a veteran of the wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan, for which he was awarded several medals, according to Russian media.
Troshev was among those invited to a reception at the Kremlin in December 2016. A photograph, believed to be from that 2016 reception, emerged in Russian media and shows Putin alongside Troshev and Utkin, who are both wearing several medals.
Troshev was born in April 1953 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the former Soviet Union, according to sanctions documents.
CNN's Andrew Carey and Josh Pennington contributed reporting to this post.
Russia has greatly increased the intensity of shelling of Ukraine's northern border, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said on Friday.
The intensity of shelling near the Chernihiv-Sumy region "tripled" in June compared to May, according to Andrii Demchenko, a spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine.
"Since the beginning of this year, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions have been shelled by the enemy more than 1,000 times," Demchenko said, adding that Russia continues shelling the border areas on a daily basis.
"The Sumy and Kharkiv regions have been the most frequently shelled," he added.
Some background: The Ukrainian military had earlier advised residents of the northern Sumy region's border area to leave their homes in light of increased Russian shelling. Serhiy Naiev, commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, encouraged residents to evacuate, saying, "The Sumy direction remains the most dangerous in the Northern operational zone."
The number of Russian military personnel in Belarus has greatly decreased, according to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine on Friday.
Ukraine recorded around 2,000 Russian military personnel stationed at Belarusian training grounds until recently, but at the moment "almost all Russian troops have been withdrawn from the territory of Belarus," said spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine Andrii Demchenko.
"However, we cannot rule out the possibility that in some time, as part of the rotation, regular units may be brought back to the territory of Belarus," Demchenko noted in a media briefing while emphasizing that the situation on the border with Belarus "remains fully under control."
Ukraine's Border Guard Service also said they have not observed "the organized deployment of Russian mercenaries" in the territory of Belarus.
However, that comment follows the Belarusian Defense Ministry announcing on Friday that Wagner private mercenary group fighters are training Belarusian fighters near the town of Osipovichi, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital Minsk.