August 27, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Joshua Berlinger, Thom Poole and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, August 28, 2023
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11:30 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

These are the other Wagner members killed when Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane crashed, according to Russia

Russian servicemen inspect a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia, on Thursday, August 24.
Russian servicemen inspect a part of a crashed private jet near the village of Kuzhenkino, Russia, on Thursday, August 24. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The remains of all 10 passengers on Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane that crashed on Wednesday have been identified, confirming the death of the Wagner chief, Russia's Investigative Committee said Sunday.

The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency has reported that in addition to the three crew members, the following individuals were on board the plane that crashed in the Tver region north of Moscow:

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin
  • Dmitry Utkin
  • Valeriy Chekalov
  • Sergey Propustin
  • Evgeniy Makaryan
  • Aleksandr Totmin
  • Nikolay Matuseev

What do we know about them?

CNN has previously reported on Utkin's role as a trusted lieutenant of Prigozhin’s since the beginning of the Wagner Group.

A report from a Russian investigative group run by exiled Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Dossier Center, revealed more details about the other passengers on board:

Valeriy Chekalov: ​​​​​​​Chekalov was one of the Wagner boss' deputies who had worked with him since the early 2000s, the Dossier Center says. He oversaw all of Prigozhin's "civilian" projects abroad, including geological exploration, oil production and agriculture, as well as the company's logistics.

In July, the US State Department imposed sanctions on Chekalov for acting on Prigozhin's behalf, noting that he had "facilitated shipments of munitions to the Russian Federation."

Evgeniy Makaryan: Makaryan joined Wagner in March 2016, the Dossier Center reported. He was part of the fourth Wagner assault detachment in Syria, which came under fire from American aircraft near Khasham in February 2018.

CNN previously reported that Russia acknowledged suffering heavy casualties in an ill-fated operation against US-backed forces in Syria.

At the time, Moscow insisted the casualties were not Russian troops, saying “servicemen of the Russian Federation did not participate in any way” in the clash. It did not say what the Russians were doing there, but families of the victims say they were military contractors working for Wagner.

Nikolai Matusevich: While the Dossier Center said it could not find a Wagner official with a perfect match for the spelling listed by Russian officials — Nikolay Matuseev — they did find Matusevich, who has been with Wagner since January 2017 and also served in the fourth assault detachment in Syria.

Sergey Propustin: Propustin joined Wagner in March 2015 and fought in a company dubbed Kirill Tikhonovich, which was one of the Wagner group's combat units, according to the Dossier Center.

CNN's Celine Alkhaldi and Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.

10:15 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

Ukraine's Zelensky says September will be a busy month for diplomacy

From Yulia Kesaieva and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his country is preparing for a "productive" September, as several international events are set to take place and Ukraine is "expecting decisions" on defense packages.

"We are preparing Ukraine's participation in international events, including the UN General Assembly. The next (Kyiv) Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen is a way to build up Ukraine's soft power. Global food security is a constant priority," Zelensky said in a Telegram post. 

"The free world needs more power to defend itself. Together we have this potential and we will demonstrate it," Zelensky added. "In September, there will be even more unity."

9:33 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

Vladimir Putin signed a decree calling for "volunteer formations" to swear loyalty to the Kremlin

From CNN’s Josh Pennington, Uliana Pavlova and Martin Goillandeau

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

Russian volunteer forces and those defending the country's territory are now required to swear their allegiance to the Kremlin thanks to a new presidential decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

The order, which took immediate effect, obliges military "volunteer formations" and those involved in territorial defense to swear loyalty to the Russian Federation by taking an oath before the Russian flag.

Key context: Though no specific groups are named in the decree, its timing is noteworthy.

The order comes as questions swirl around the future of the Wagner private military company. Russia has confirmed that Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday — two months to the day after leading his forces on a short-lived mutiny against the Moscow military establishment.

The mutiny lasted fewer than 24 hours, but it revealed the intensity of the discord between various factions fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Moscow.

Putin signed the loyalty decree just two days after the crash.

Who this affects: The new measure applies to members of “volunteer formations,” as well as “other persons assisting in the performance of tasks assigned to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, other troops, military formations and agencies."

Some state enterprises employees and “persons brought in for the implementation of territorial defense measures,” will also take the oath. 

It's unclear if this will affect Wagner troops or other forces fighting on behalf of Russia, such as those aligned with the breakaway republics in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Though Wagner has a global presence, Putin has said it has no legal right to exist in Russia, as private military companies are technically outlawed there. Despite that, he cultivated a close relationship with Prigozhin, and Wagner's convoluted legal status hasn't stopped it from operating across Africa or fighting the war in Ukraine under the umbrella of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

10:20 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

Russia confirms Yevgeny Prigozhin's death in plane crash

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Radina Gigova

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin appears in an undated video shared to social media on August 21.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin appears in an undated video shared to social media on August 21. WAGNER_svodki/Telegram

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the notorious Russian mercenary leader believed to be on board a plane that crashed Wednesday, has been confirmed dead by Russian authorities.

Though Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company, was one of 10 people listed on the plane's flight manifest, Russian officials refrained from verifying his death until genetic testing was completed.

Russia's Investigative Committee confirmed Sunday that the remains of all 10 passengers listed on board were found in the wreckage.

Read about the other Wagner members killed in the crash here.

Some background: The crash came two months to the day after Prigozhin's short-lived mutiny against the Russian military establishment. The insurrection was the greatest challenge to Russian leader Vladimir Putin's authority in more than two decades of power.

Prigozhin's uprising ended up lasting just hours, thanks to a deal negotiated by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin ally. Lukashenko said he talked his Russian counterpart out of destroying Wagner and convinced him to allow Prigozhin to leave Russia for Belarus to end the standoff.

The mutiny prompted some in the West, including US President Joe Biden, to suggest the Kremlin might be behind the crash, speculation Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called an “absolute lie.”

To date, no evidence has been presented that points to the involvement of the Kremlin or Russian security services in the crash. The cause of the incident remains unknown and Russian authorities say they have launched a criminal investigation.

5:39 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

How the war in Ukraine is affecting those who go on holiday in Crimea

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Uliana Pavlova and Katharina Krebs

For more than nine years, Russian tourists vacationing in Crimea didn’t need to give much thought to the fact that their country was waging war on Ukraine - or that their sun lounger was parked on occupied territory.

But with Kyiv’s counteroffensive underway, the southern Ukrainian peninsula is no longer the safe haven such holidaymakers had become accustomed to since Moscow annexed it in 2014.

Crimea has experienced a spate of attacks in recent weeks, including a seaborne raid by Ukrainian special forces on Thursday and a series of drone attacks on Friday. The bridges that connect Crimea to Russia and to southern Ukrainian areas under Russian control have been struck repeatedly in recent months.

Ukraine has claimed responsibility for some of these strikes and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has warned its assaults will continue.

The attacks are forcing Russian tourists to reconsider their plans

Read more about the situation in Crimea here:

9:40 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

At least 2 people were killed and 10 were wounded in Russian strikes across Ukraine

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Josh Pennington

A destroyed car is seen from a destroyed building near the village of Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on August 25.
A destroyed car is seen from a destroyed building near the village of Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on August 25. Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

The latest Russian attacks across Ukraine killed at least two people and wounded another 10, Ukrainian authorities said.

The head of the military administration in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia said Sunday morning that a 42-year-old man was killed and four others were hurt during Russian attacks in the past day.

To the west, in the southern region of Kherson, another person was killed and four more were injured during Russian shelling. The strikes hit regional settlements, infrastructure, a medical institution, a national park and some warehouses, authorities in Kherson said.

And in Kyiv, the capital, two people were injured and 10 homes were damaged in missile attacks overnight, the head of the Kyiv military administration said. The air raid alert caused by the salvo lasted for almost three hours.

9:39 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

Ukrainian Air Force says a well-known fighter pilot who went by the call sign "Juice" has died

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Heather Chen

The Ukrainian Air Force is paying tribute to a well-known pilot who was one of three people killed in a plane crash during a combat mission on Friday.

Andriy Pilshchikov, who went by the call sign “Juice," and two other pilots died when two L-39 combat trainer aircraft collided in the air, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

A MiG-29 pilot, Pilshchikov was part of a unit known as the “Ghost of Kyiv” that defended central and northern Ukraine at the outset of the war. He had campaigned for the supply of American-made F-16s to Ukraine, the Air Force said.

Read more about "Juice" here:

5:32 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

Ukraine detains more military recruitment officials amid ongoing corruption purge

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky speaks to the media on the second day of the 2023 NATO Summit on July 12, in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky speaks to the media on the second day of the 2023 NATO Summit on July 12, in Vilnius, Lithuania. Sean Gallup/Getty Images/FILE

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has detained four more employees of military enlistment offices as part of an ongoing crackdown on corruption, the agency said in a statement Saturday. 

Those detained are employees in military enlistment offices and heads of military medical commissions "who 'helped' evaders to avoid conscription and escape abroad," the SBU said. 

"In exchange for money, the officials offered conscripts to evade mobilization on the basis of fictitious documents on their medical unfitness for military service," SBU said. 

The cost of such "services" was up to $10,000 per person, the SBU said, adding "the amount depended on the timeframe for 'resolving the issues' and the financial capabilities of the 'clients.'"

In Kyiv: The head of the district military enlistment office and the head of one of the capital's military medical commissions were detained "for selling fake medical certificates about the presence of severe diagnoses," the SBU said. 

"The evaders used the purchased fake documents to avoid conscription and further travel outside Ukraine," it added. 

In the Kharkiv region: The head of a district military enlistment office in the northeastern Kharkiv region was detained after illegally gaining around $300,000 from potential conscripts. He also involved three officials of a local hospital in illegal activities, according to the SBU.

"In exchange for bribes, they 'found' 'health problems' in conscripts, which became a formal basis for deregistration," it said.

In Odesa: SBU cyber specialists also shut down a corruption scheme in Odesa involving the secretary of the local military medical commission.

"Together with a Kyiv lawyer and two accomplices, they set up a large-scale sale of falsified documents on unfitness for military service," the SBU said.

The suspects searched for their clients all over Ukraine and then registered them with the Odesa military enlistment office "to 'write them off' from military service," according to the agency. 

"Currently, the secretary of this military medical commission and her accomplices have been detained red-handed. They have already been notified of suspicion and the issue of choosing a preventive measure is being decided," it said. 

Probes ongoing: Investigations involving all the cases are still active, the SBU said. The operation was conducted jointly with the National Police under the supervision of the Prosecutor's Office.

The offenders face up to 10 years in prison as well as confiscation of property, according to the agency. 

Remember: Earlier in August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has dismissed all officials in charge of regional military recruitment centers amid a widespread corruption scandal. On August 11, he said there were 112 criminal proceedings against officials at military registration and enlistment offices.  

At the beginning of the year, Zelensky also fired a number of senior officials over involvement in a scandal linked to the procurement of wartime supplies. 

The investigations are part of a major government shakeup aimed at eradicating corruption. Tackling corruption has been a key condition for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. 

5:25 a.m. ET, August 27, 2023

WSJ journalist to appeal decision by Moscow court to extend pre-trial detention, Russian state media says

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova and Niamh Kennedy

Wal Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich will appeal a decision by a Moscow court Thursday to extend his pre-trial detention by three months, Russian state media outlet TASS reported Saturday.

Gershkovich’s lawyers have filed an appeal against the decision to extend his pre-trial detention until November 30, TASS reported, citing Moscow’s Lefortovo Court.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in jail on espionage charges, which he, his employer and the US government vehemently contest. The journalist's detention has further ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Moscow during Russia's war in Ukraine.