Ukraine denies missile strike on Donbas prison; Wagner fighters given front-line duties, UK says – CNBC

Ukraine denies carrying out missile strike on prisoner camp

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Friday that 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed and 75 wounded in a strike on a detention center in the town of Olenivka, in Russian-controlled Donetsk.

NBC News was not able to immediately verify the Russian claim.

Ukraine officials have denied the claim, saying they did not carry out the missile strike. The officials said that Russia is trying to cover up the “torture and murder” of Ukrainian prisoners, according to Reuters.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held,” the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement, according to the news agency.

Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out war crimes.

—Matt Clinch

Russian forces launch missile attack on the Kyiv area

For the first time in weeks, Russian forces launched a missile attack on the Kyiv area on Thursday as Ukrainian troops concentrate on the south of the country.

Ukrainian officials said that Russia had attacked the northern Chernihiv region as well, to the northeast of Kyiv and close to the Belarus border.

Kyiv regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram, according to Reuters, that 15 people had been injured with missiles hitting military installations in the Vyshhorod district, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

— Matt Clinch

Wagner Group given front-line duties by Moscow, UK says

Notorious Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has been assigned responsibility for specific sectors on the front line in Ukraine, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry.

“This is a significant change from the previous employment of the group since 2015, when it typically undertook missions distinct from overt, large-scale regular Russian military activity,” the ministry said in a tweet.

“Wagner’s role has probably changed because the Russian MoD has a major shortage of combat infantry.”

Wagner Group has long been implicated in conflicts in unstable countries around the world including Mali, Libya, Syria, Mozambique and the Central African Republic. Human rights groups accuse its mercenaries of perpetrating civilian massacres and other human rights abuses. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any connection to Wagner.

Although its structure and even existence is disputed, Wagner is believed to have first emerged during Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. The name has since become a catch-all term for an opaque and expansive network of businesses and entities.

— Elliot Smith and Matt Clinch

The hacktivist group Anonymous is ’embarrassing and demoralizing’ the Kremlin, says cybersecurity specialist

Large data leaks performed in the name of the hacktivist group Anonymous are exposing Russia’s cybersecurity defenses to be weaker than previously thought, say cybersecurity specialists.

Though Russia remains strong in its offensive capabilities, data leaks of the Central Bank of Russia, the space agency Roscosmos, several of Russia’s largest oil and gas companies and other Russian companies, have “disappointed” the cyber community, said Shmuel Gihon, a security researcher at the threat intelligence company Cyberint.

“We expected to see more strength from the Russian government,” said Gihon, “at least when it comes to their strategic assets, such as banks and TV channels, and especially the government entities.”

Anonymous has claimed responsibility for hacking more than 2,500 Russian and Belarusian sites, said Jeremiah Fowler, co-founder of the cybersecurity company Security Discovery.  

The data leaked online is so large it will take years to review, he said.

The decentralized collective of hackers has pulled the veil off Russia’s cybersecurity practices, said Fowler, which is “both embarrassing and demoralizing for the Kremlin.”

— Monica Pitrelli

White House declines to provide update on U.S. proposal to Russia for release of Griner and Whelan

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner stands inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 26, 2022. 

Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Images

The White House declined to give an update on talks with Russia on a U.S. offer for the immediate release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

“I really cannot go into more detail just for the privacy and safety of the process. We are sharing that we did put a substantial offer on the table,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a daily news briefing.

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin said that so far “there are no agreements” on a U.S. request to release Griner and Whelan from Russian custody.

The Kremlin said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address a phone call request by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he has the time, according to a report by Interfax.

— Amanda Macias

47 million more people could face acute food insecurity if Russia’s war continues, UN says

Wheat grain pours from a machine into a storage silo on Monday, July 8, 2013. Temporary silos will be built along the border with Ukraine to help export more grain to address a growing global food crisis, U.S. President Joe Biden said, according to Reuters.

Vincent Mundy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.N.’s World Food Program estimates that up to 47 million more people could face acute food insecurity this year if Russia’s war in Ukraine continues.

Last week, representatives from the U.N., Turkey, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to reopen three Ukrainian ports, an apparent breakthrough as the Kremlin’s war on its ex-Soviet neighbor marches into its fifth month.

The deal follows a months-long blockade of dozens of Ukrainian ports sprinkled along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Less than 24 hours after the deal was signed though, Russian missiles rained down on Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port.

The United Nations Secretary-General has previously warned that the armed conflict in Ukraine is threatening to unleash “an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”

— Amanda Macias

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Ukraine denies missile strike on Donbas prison; Wagner fighters given front-line duties, UK says – CNBC

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