June 26, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine, Wagner rebellion news

By Kathleen Magramo, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0516 GMT (1316 HKT) June 27, 2023
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4:06 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

US reached out to oil producers at home and abroad as chaos engulfed Russia, official says

From CNN's Matt Egan and Kevin Liptak 

As Russia faced a shocking rebellion, White House officials reached out to foreign and domestic oil producers about the dangerous situation unfolding in one of the world’s leading oil powers, a US official told CNN on Monday.

The conversations with oil producers were described as precautionary in nature. They occurred as other American officials were seeking more information about what was really happening inside Russia and attempting to assess the potential consequences, including on the global economy. 

Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin generated international concern over the weekend by capturing a Russian city and threatening to march all the way to Moscow. 

On Monday, US President Joe Biden said he'd instructed members of his national security team to "prepare for a range of scenarios" as the would-be rebellion was underway.

Representatives from the White House, Energy Department and Treasury Department did not comment on the outreach to oil producers. 

The shocking images raised the specter of a nightmare scenario for the US economy where instability derails Russian oil flows, sending gasoline prices skyrocketing just as inflation has cooled.

“Russia matters because it’s the world’s largest net oil exporter. Period,” said Bob McNally, a former senior energy official to President George W. Bush. “Revolutions in major oil countries are a huge deal. I’m sure that focused minds in the White House over the weekend.”

Potential impact: Russia exported 7.8 million barrels of oil and petroleum products per day in May, according to the International Energy Agency.

McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy Group, said chaos in Russia could theoretically shut down oil production or block export facilities. He recalled how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year set off shockwaves in energy markets.

“When we thought we were going to lose Russia — just the thought of it — caused gasoline to go to $5 a gallon,” McNally said. 

Investors breathed a sigh of relief as Prigozhin’s rebellion proved short-lived, with the Wagner boss turning around his march toward Moscow. After briefly climbing on the Russia news, US oil prices closed just 0.3% higher on Monday at $69.37 a barrel.  

Helima Croft, a former CIA analyst who now heads global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told clients on Sunday that she understands the White House was “actively engaged” on Saturday in “reaching out to key foreign and domestic producers about contingency planning to keep the market well supplied if the crisis impacted Russian output.”

Croft said a "significant concern" was that Putin would declare martial law and prevent "workers from showing up to major loading ports and energy facilities" and therefore potentially halt "millions of barrels of exports."

The former CIA analyst recalled how deep unrest in Libya shut down vast amounts of production in that OPEC nation last decade, sending oil prices surging. “There was a concurrent concern that critical pipelines could either be directly targeted or inadvertently damaged if the insurrection turned into a full-scale war,” Croft wrote in a note.

McNally said it is standard operating procedure for US energy officials to gather intel during crises like the one that unraveled in Russia. He noted that "checking with their sources in the industry while the world’s largest exporter is experiencing shocking instability is good business practice."

3:14 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Russia continues to focus "main efforts" on cities in eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine says

From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Destruction is seen on an apartment building in Lyman City, Donetsk Oblast, on Sunday.
Destruction is seen on an apartment building in Lyman City, Donetsk Oblast, on Sunday. Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia continues to focus its "main efforts" on cities in the eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine's Armed Forces said on Monday evening.

"The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut and Marinka axis. More than 35 combat clashes took place during the day," the latest update from Ukraine's General Staff said. 

In the direction of Bakhmut, Russia carried out "unsuccessful offensive operations in the vicinities of Bohdanivka. They carried out airstrikes in the Soledar and Bila Hora areas of the Donetsk Oblast," according to the General Staff update. 

In the Marinka area, Russia carried out unsuccessful offensive actions and "conducted an air strike near Krasnohorivka," the update added. 

In the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, Russian forces are on the defensive and concentrating their main efforts "on preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops," Ukraine's Armed Forces said.

"The threat of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains high," the General Staff said, adding that Russian forces carried out 36 airstrikes and launched 17 attacks from Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) within the last day. 

2:59 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Russia's State Duma claims defense forces exercised total control during Wagner rebellion, state media reports

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The Russian State Duma, or lower parliament, claimed that its defense forces exercised total control during Wagner armed rebellion, according to Russian state media TASS.

TASS quoted Andrey Kartapolov, the Duma's head of the Defense Committee, in a Telegram post on Monday. 

Kartapolov said that “no chaos arose in the Russian defense forces in the background of an attempted armed rebellion, combat control was not interrupted even for a minute," according to the TASS report.

Kartapolov also commented on the Ukrainian counteroffensive, saying it is “not going according to the plan due to heavy losses,” TASS reported.

"There was and is no large-scale counteroffensive. There are attempts to attack in different directions, the losses that Ukraine is suffering today are crucial, not critical, but crucial," Kartapolov said on the air of the Russian state TV Rossiya-1. 

2:34 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Putin will deliver "important statements" soon, Kremlin says

From CNN's Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak later this evening, a Kremlin spokesperson said Monday.

"Putin will make a number of important statements this evening," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said via state TV Zvezda news.
3:45 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will answer questions from journalists Tuesday, state media says  

From CNN's CNN's Mariya Knight and Anna Chernova 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during an interview in Minsk, Belarus, in July 2022.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during an interview in Minsk, Belarus, in July 2022. Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images

Belarusian state media said President Alexander Lukashenko will answer questions from journalists on Tuesday, according to Russia state media RIA Novosti. 

Earlier Monday, state news agency Belta said Lukashenko will "answer all," in an apparent reference to the questions swirling around the Minsk-brokered deal to allow Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to travel to Belarus.  

"A lot of questions, planted stories, versions and assumptions... The President WILL TELL everything, ANSWER all. Very soon!," state media Belta said in a cryptic Telegram post. "Follow the agenda!"

What the Kremlin said: The Kremlin has claimed that Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia under a Minsk-brokered deal that would reportedly see him enter into exile in Belarus without facing criminal charges for the rebellion. 

Lukashenko “extended his hand” and offered to find solutions to further the work of the Wagner Group in a legal way, Prigozhin said earlier, mirroring the line that Minsk and the Kremlin has communicated about why the march suddenly ended.

Belarusian officials have previously said they cannot confirm if Prigozhin has arrived in the country or what his status will be in Belarus.

3:15 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

US State Department is not commenting on Prigozhin's motivations and has no assessment about his location

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Michael Conte

The US State Department would not speculate on Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s motivations for inciting an armed rebellion in Russia over the weekend.

“I’ll say, it is Vladimir Putin that raised the specter of 1917, not someone, not anyone from the United States government,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller at a press briefing, adding that he was not aware of any US contact with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's regime over the matter.

Miller said he did not have an assessment of Prighozin’s location or the disposition of Wagner forces in Ukraine or elsewhere.

The situation in Russia remains dynamic, he continued.

“It's unclear what the ultimate implications of what happened will be as it relates to United States activities and United States interests,” Miller said, calling the move by Prigozhin “a significant step.”

“It is a certainly a new thing to see President Putin's leadership directly challenged,” said Miller. “It is a new thing to see Yevgeny Prigozhin directly questioning the rationale for this war, and calling out that the war has been conducted essentially based on a lie, which is something that we have said previously, but we certainly have not seen coming from Russian officials previously.”

2:19 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Russia's main motivation in war is to keep the land it has already seized, Ukraine official says

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

Ukraine's deputy defense minister said on Monday that Russia's main motivation is to keep land it already seized. 

"The motivation 'not to lose' the seized lands will be much stronger than the motivation to seize more lands," Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Telegram post. "It is psychologically easier for them to endure an unsuccessful offensive than the loss of conquered lands. This demoralizes and demotivates them irreparably."

She added, "The task of the Russian Federation now is to stop our offensive at any cost. By blowing up dams, mining fields, continuous shelling, sabotage, information campaigns, and even 'nuclear' rhetoric."

Maliar acknowledged that it is a difficult time for Ukrainian troops as they continue their offensive. 

"Our troops are really having a hard time now. It is very difficult. But they are moving forward. Steadily," she said. "Because we are fighting a just war. And this is our strength."

1:04 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

US expected to announce another $500 million military aid package for Ukraine, official says

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

The US is expected to announce another military aid package to Ukraine totaling approximately $500 million, a US official told CNN.

The aid, which is expected to be announced on Tuesday, will include additional Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles, the official said, and will be provided to Ukraine via Presidential Drawdown Authority. Ukraine lost several armored vehicles in the early days of its counteroffensive, which US officials believe Ukrainian forces launched earlier this month.

The package comes as US officials continue to assess what impact the Wagner rebellion inside Russia will have on Russia’s war in Ukraine. US and western officials told CNN last week that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has not been meeting expectations, with Russian lines of defense proving well-fortified. Russian forces have also had success bogging down Ukrainian armor with missile attacks and mines and have been deploying air power more effectively. 

The last package, announced earlier this month, was valued at about $325 million and included new air defense and rocket systems for Ukraine. 

The US has provided more than $39 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion in February 2022, including $22 billion in presidential drawdowns.

12:59 p.m. ET, June 26, 2023

Long-range missiles have had "significant impact on the battlefield," UK defense secretary says

From CNN's Sarah Diab in London

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Monday that Storm Shadow long-range missiles supplied to Ukraine by the United Kingdom have had a “significant impact on the battlefield.”

"It has had an effect on the Russian army," Wallace told lawmakers in the House of Commons. "We absolutely would urge other international partners to come forward with their deep fires that are required."

In May, CNN first reported that the UK had delivered multiple Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine, giving the nation a new long-range strike capability. The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile with stealth capabilities, jointly developed by the UK and France.