June 23, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, June 24, 2023
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9:33 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Rostov region governor asks residents to stay calm

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Rostov region Governor Vasily Golubev is asking residents to stay calm and to not leave their homes.

"Dear fellow countrymen! The current situation requires a maximum concentration of all efforts to maintain order. Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of the region's residents. I ask everyone to stay calm and do not leave your homes unless it is necessary," Golubev said in a Telegram post Saturday.

The warnings come after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said his fighters were entering the Russian Rostov region, which neighbors Ukraine. Prigozhin earlier vowed retaliation after accusing Russia's defense ministry of killing a "huge amount" of his mercenaries in a strike on a camp.

9:37 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Local Moscow journalist describes calm in city, but heightened security at government buildings

From CNN's Katherina Krebs

A local journalist said the streets appear calm in Moscow, but that there is heightened security at government agencies.

Russian journalist Vasily Polonsky told CNN people in Moscow do not appear to be afraid at all, but he heard people talking about Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as they walk down the streets. On Friday night, he saw people out playing music, drinking and partying. He didn't see authorities asking people to leave the streets.

But Polonsky said military equipment is visible in central Moscow and there is some equipment behind the main building of the Ministry of Interior. He said he walked to most buildings of the government agencies and spotted at least one or two police cars next to each one. The most guarded building appeared to be the Ministry of the Interior. 

9:34 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Moscow accuses Wagner chief of calling for "armed rebellion." Here's the latest on what's happening in Russia

From CNN staff

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, arrives during a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8, 2023.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, arrives during a funeral ceremony at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, on April 8, 2023. AP

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian private military group Wagner, on Friday accused Russia's military leadership of killing a "huge amount" of his mercenary forces in a strike on a camp.

And he vowed to retaliate. "Many dozens, tens of thousands of lives, of Russian soldiers will be punished," Prigozhin said. "I ask that nobody put up any resistance."

In a later Telegram post, Prigozhin said that his criticism of the military leadership was a “march of justice” and not a coup. 

His comments prompted Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to launch a criminal case, accusing the mercenary force's chief of calling for "armed rebellion," the state news agency TASS reported.

Here's the latest on the situation unfolding in Russia:

Nations monitor the infighting in Russia: President Vladimir Putin is aware “of the situation unfolding around Prigozhin,” Russian state media TASS said Friday, as well as the investigation into his comments. In Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the country's presidential administration, tweeted "tumultuous times are coming," while Ukraine's Ministry of Defense concisely tweeted: "We are watching." In the US, the White House said it was "monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments,” according to Adam Hodge, National Security Council spokesperson.

Russian officials urge Wagner fighters to detain their leader: The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) urged Wagner Group fighters not to follow Prigozhin's orders and implored fighters to take measures to detain him. Similarly, Sergey Surovikin, Russia’s top commander in Ukraine, urged the mercenary fighters to "stop" and to "obey the will" of President Putin. "We are of the same blood. We are warriors. I urge you to stop, the enemy is only waiting for the internal political situation to worsen in our country," Surovikin was seen saying in a video posted to Telegram by a Russian state media reporter.

Russia takes steps to control the narrative: State news TV channel Russia 24 interrupted the broadcast of a program Friday night to read out a message from the Russian Ministry of Defense, stating the claims made by the Wagner mercenary group leader "do not correspond to reality." This statement has been widespread throughout Russia, even appearing on Telegram in a message from the defense ministry.

Russia steps up security: In the Russian city of Rostov near southeast Ukraine, military vehicles could be seen driving the streets. Posts were organized on Saturday in the area of ​​the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov where military personnel and law enforcement officers are keeping order, a TASS correspondent reported. The preparations were taking place as Prigozhin said his fighters were entering the Rostov region. In Moscow, security measures were also visible, according to TASS.

9:25 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Prigozhin claims a helicopter fired at civilians and was downed by his forces 

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military group Wagner, said a helicopter fired at a civilian column and was downed by his forces.

Prigozhin did not give any further details. The claim is one of many accusations made by the Wagner boss.

The mercenary group leader, who was accused Friday by Moscow of calling for "armed rebellion," said earlier that his forces were entering the Rostov region, which is close to the Ukraine border.

CNN can not verify Prigozhin's claim of an attack on civilians or that his fighters downed a helicopter.

9:16 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Explosions reported in Kyiv, mayor says

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Jennifer Hauser

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were explosions early Saturday in Kyiv's central Solomyanskyi district. 

"In Solomyanskyi district, fragments of a rocket hit the upper floors of a 16-story building. There is smoke on the upper floors. One victim was treated at the scene, another was hospitalized. There is no fire in the building. Rescue services are working at the scene," Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

The Kyiv City Military Administration said on Telegram that air sirens had been sounded.

9:01 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

US intel has long assessed the power struggle between Prigozhin and the Russian government

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US officials determined as early as January that there was an internal power struggle underway between the mercenary Wagner Group and the Russian government, and have been gathering and closely monitoring intelligence on the volatile dynamic ever since.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stalled earlier this year, top American officials said they saw indications of tension between the Kremlin and the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. They said they believed those tensions would mount over the coming months.

Officials said their assessments of the situation derived from intelligence, an indication of how seriously the White House and Pentagon took the potential for a power struggle to cause further instability in the ongoing conflict.

In January, a top White House official said Wagner was becoming a “rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian militaries.”

Officials suggested at the time that Prigozhin was working to advance his own interests in Ukraine instead of the broader Russian objectives. 

The Wagner Group, which the West claimed had recruited prison convicts for fighting in Ukraine, was making decisions based on “what they will generate for Prigozhin, in terms of positive publicity,” John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said in January.

Since then, White House and other US national security aides have been highly attuned to what one official said was an “ongoing battle” between Prigozhin and the Russian defense ministry. 

8:49 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Here's why Russia is investigating Prigozhin

From CNN staff

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the bombastic chief of Russia’s private mercenary group Wagner, appears to be falling out of favor fast in Moscow, after he unleashed a tirade against the Russian military on Friday and vowed to retaliate against its leaders.

Russia’s domestic intelligence service, the FSB, has opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, accusing him of “calling for an armed rebellion.” It also urged his own mercenaries to detain him.

Here’s what you need to know:

What did he do? Prigozhin on Friday accused Russia’s military of attacking a Wagner camp and killing a “huge amount” of his men. He vowed to retaliate with force, insinuating that his forces would “destroy” any resistance, including roadblocks and aircraft.

Prigozhin later rowed back on his threat, saying his criticism of the Russian military leadership was a “march of justice” and not a coup – but by that point he appears to have already crossed a line with the Kremlin.

Late on Friday, Prigozhin said his fighters had entered Russia’s Rostov region.

What Russia's saying. Russia’s defense ministry has denied attacking Wagner troops, calling the claim “informational propaganda.” And the FSB also opened a criminal case against Prigozhin for his threats, accusing him of calling for “an armed rebellion.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of the situation, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Russian officials meanwhile appeared to take no chances with security measures stepping up in Moscow, according to Russian state media TASS. Social media posts showed military vehicles were seen driving around the main streets of the Russian capital in the early hours of Saturday.

Read more:

9:18 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Prigozhin accuses Russia's military chief of ordering aircraft to fire "in the middle of civilian cars"

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military group Wagner, accused the Russian military's chief of staff Valery Gerasimov of ordering an aerial attack “in the middle of civilian cars.” 

“The Chief of the General Staff has just given the order to raise the planes and open fire on the columns that are moving among civilian vehicles and trucks,” Prigozhin said. “He doesn't care who he kills. They have been killing their civilians for a year and a half instead of fighting the enemy.” 

Prigozhin praised the Russian pilots for “refusing to carry out these criminal orders."

CNN cannot confirm Prigozhin's account of an aerial attack. He had earlier said his forces had entered the Russian Rostov region, which borders Ukraine.

The Russian defense ministry has not yet commented.

8:45 p.m. ET, June 23, 2023

Russian prosecutor general reported to Putin on criminal case against Prigozhin, Kremlin says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Russia's General Prosecutor Igor Krasnov attends a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on January 31, 2023.
Russia's General Prosecutor Igor Krasnov attends a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on January 31, 2023. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov made a report to President Vladimir Putin about initiating a criminal case against Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

"The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Krasnov reported to Putin about initiating a criminal case in connection with an attempt to organize an armed rebellion," he told Russian state media RIA Novosti in a comment on Friday.

According to him, the Prosecutor General also informed the president on the legality of initiating such a criminal case.