June 27, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, June 28, 2023
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2:36 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Sweden says it has fulfilled the requirements set out by Turkey to join NATO

From CNN's Duarte Mendonca in London 

Sweden has fulfilled the requirements set out by Turkey in order to join NATO, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference alongside the UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Billstrom said that with the introduction of a new terrorism law, Sweden has fulfilled the final requirements to join the alliance agreed in a tri-lateral plan between Finland, Sweden and Turkey.

"New legislation has recently entered into force in Sweden that makes it illegal to participate in a terrorist organization in any way that promotes, strengthens or supports it. We are thereby delivering on the last parts of our agreement," Billstrom said.

The UK foreign secretary also addressed the journalists in the room, reiterating the UK’s support for Sweden’s NATO inclusion. "My position is clear that Sweden must and shall join NATO and should do so as soon as possible," Cleverly said. 

"We will continue to push for the speedy completion of your accession process," Cleverly added. 

The UK foreign minister also stressed that it was in Turkey’s interest “that Sweden becomes a member of the alliance and does so quickly."

Sweden stated its intent to join NATO through its open-door policy in May last year, just weeks after Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

2:48 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

US secretary of state announces $500 million security assistance package for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Antony Blinken attends the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21.
Antony Blinken attends the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, on June 21. Leah Mills/Pool/AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a $500 million security assistance package for Ukraine Tuesday.

According to a statement, the package includes:

  • Bradley and Stryker vehicles
  • Additional munitions for air defense systems
  • Artillery
  • Multiple launch rocket systems
  • Anti-tank weapons
  • Anti-radiation missiles
  • Precision aerial munitions

"The enduring courage and solidarity of the people of Ukraine continues to inspire the world. Russia started this unprovoked war against Ukraine," Blinken said in his statement.

Blinken went on to reaffirm US commitment to Ukraine.

"Russia could end it at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks against Ukraine’s cities and people. Until Russia does so, the United States and our allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine, for as long as it takes," he said.

 

2:24 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

UN report: Over 800 civilians detained by Russia in Ukraine, with many tortured and executed

From CNN's Duarte Mendonca and Yulia Kesaieva

Almost 900 Ukrainian civilians have been detained by Russia — with 77 executed — in the first 10 months of the war in Ukraine, according to a United Nations report released on Tuesday.  

Russian forces “engaged in widespread torture and ill-treatment of civilian detainees” and, in some cases “subjected (them) to sexual violence,” the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, said in a statement.  

The report covers 15 months of the war, from February 2022 to May 2023.

“Torture was used to force victims to confess to helping Ukrainian armed forces, compel them to cooperate with the occupying authorities or intimidate those with pro-Ukrainian views,” Bogner said. 

Civilians who were detained included local public officials, humanitarian volunteers, priests and teachers.  

"Many civilian detainees were held incommunicado, in unofficial places of detention, often in deplorable conditions. In about a quarter of the documented cases, civilian detainees were transferred to other locations within occupied territory or deported to the Russian Federation. Often, no information was disclosed to their families for prolonged periods of time," according to the report.  

The UN also found evidence of civilian detentions by Ukraine, reporting a total of 75 arrests, mostly of people suspected of "conflict-related" offenses. Over half of those arbitrarily detained by Ukrainian forces also reported being tortured or mistreated, usually while they were being interrogated or immediately after arrest, Bogner said.  

According to Bogner, Ukraine offered “unimpeded confidential access to official places of detention and detainees” with the exception of a group of 87 Russian sailors, while Russia did not grant similar access, despite the UN’s requests.

 

3:33 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Wagner chief Prigozhin is in Belarus. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin arrived in Belarus Tuesday, according to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

In an address, Lukashenko said he cautioned Prigozhin that his forces would be destroyed if they continued their march to the Russian capital. "Halfway you'll just be crushed like a bug,” Lukashenko recalls telling Prigozhin during a call on Saturday, according to Belarusian state media. 

Lukashenko also provided new details about the conversations he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin over the weekend, saying that negotiations with the Wagner boss occurred all day Saturday.

The Belarusian president claimed the country is not currently building camps on its territory for Wagner mercenary forces, and that he'd offered the group some abandoned land inside Belarus if they needed it.

Earlier, Putin told Russian security personnel that they "virtually stopped a civil war" in responding to Wagner forces' failed insurrection, in strong remarks following Russia's weekend of chaos.

Here are other key developments related to the Wagner rebellion:

  • "You saved our homeland:" Putin told security forces at a Kremlin invitational event that they "defended the constitution, the lives and the freedom of our citizens" while fighting against Wagner mutineers. He also thanked officials for showing "responsibility for the fate of the Motherland and its future."
  • Display of unity: Putin said the personnel involved in facing Wagner's rebellion on Saturday "did not flinch," after the march led by Prigozhin appeared to threaten Moscow. Separately, the Kremlin also rejected the notion that Putin's authority had been jeopardized.
  • Wagner charges dropped: Russia's Federal Security Service said on Tuesday it will drop a case against Wagner fighters. "It was established that its participants stopped their actions directly aimed at committing a crime, the case was closed," it said. The Russian defense ministry said Wagner will also transfer its heavy military equipment to active Russian military units.
  • Russian pilot casualties: Putin on Monday confirmed the deaths of Russian army pilots in clashes against Wagner over the weekend. Prigozhin said earlier that "not a single soldier on the ground was killed." The president on Tuesday said no civilians died during the mutiny.
  • More details about Lukashenko and Putin's discussions: Lukashenko highlighted his purported role in quelling Wagner's advance. According to Lukashenko’s account, reported by Belarusian state media, he spoke with Putin on the phone at 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) Saturday about the mounting crisis in Russia’s south. "I suggested Putin not to hurry. Let's talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders,” he recalled of those early conversations with the Russian leader.
  • Transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus: Lukashenko said most of the tactical nuclear weapons that Russia plans to station in Belarus have already arrived. He denied that Wagner forces are being used to guard the weapons, saying: “Russians and Belarusians are guarding it… No Wagner fighters will guard nuclear weapons. This is our task." 

3:33 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Analysis: A look at Putin's effort to reassert control after Wagner incited an armed rebellion

From CNN's Christian Edwards

Wagner fighters prepare to pull out from the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don to return to their base on Saturday, June 24.
Wagner fighters prepare to pull out from the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don to return to their base on Saturday, June 24. Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

For two days after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called off his abortive mutiny, Russian President Vladimir Putin said nothing in public. Having faced the greatest challenge to his authority in 23 years, and almost witnessed his country tip into civil war, many expected the president to respond with sound and fury.

Instead, the silence was broken first by his adversary. In an 11-minute audio message posted to his Telegram channel, Prigozhin claimed to have merely staged a protest, rather than a coup, attempting to “bring to justice” Russia’s top military brass for their “mistakes during the special military operation.”

When Putin finally addressed the nation again on Monday, he was remarkably clement. The last time he had been seen on Saturday, he told the nation that Prigozhin’s mutiny was “a stab in the back of our country and our people,” and promised to hold the insurgents “accountable.”

“Putin values loyalty above all else,” Dmitri Alperovitch, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, told CNN. “You can steal under him, you can kill, you can be a criminal. But the one thing you cannot be is disloyal.”
Given this, Putin’s apparent reluctance to punish the insurgents seemed puzzling.

But, according to Kirill Shamiev, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Putin’s first priority will be to “demilitarize, disarm and demobilize the Wagner group,” before issuing any potential punishment.

“On the tactical level, it’s important to pacify a bit, to make it calm, to give some hope and benefits to the ordinary Wagner mercenaries and senior command, to reduce their incentives to act,” Shamiev told CNN.

Read the full story here.

CNN’s Katherina Krebs, Anna Chernova and Jessie Yeung contributed reporting.

3:33 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Ukrainian foreign minister on Wagner rebellion: It was "just a matter of time" before someone challenged Putin

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. CNN

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that while Ukraine did not have any specific intelligence related to Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's attempted rebellion over the weekend, it was inevitable that someone would challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"For us, it has always been pretty obvious that it's just a matter of time when someone in Russia will dare to challenge Putin. Because we saw how his power and authority is shrinking, and how Russia is entering very difficult turbulence. So Prigozhin is just the first one who dared, but I have no doubt that others will follow one way or another," Kuleba told CNN's Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview in Kyiv on Tuesday.

Kuleba also said Putin's nuclear saber-rattling is the last weapon in his arsenal.

"Frankly, I believe that the fear of nuclear weapons is the last argument Putin has in his book. ... He exhausted all other arguments," he told Burnett.

"It's obvious that his army is (incapable) of achieving its strategic purposes in Ukraine. He realizes that his power vertical has been shattered. And so there's only one last argument left in his pocket. ... I think it's nothing more than a fear game, because Putin loves life too much," Kuleba said.

"The West will make a big mistake if it decides to play the nuclear fear game with Putin," he added.

The foreign minister also expressed concern over the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, saying "the risk is real" as long as Russian troops hold the facility.

"Of course, they don't want to be blamed for causing another nuclear disaster. So I think they're struggling to find a way to perform it as a false-flag operation or as something else that would not be directly attributable to them," he claimed.

Last week, the Kremlin denied a claim made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia was “considering” a “terrorist attack” at the plant in occupied southern Ukraine.

Watch the full interview on CNN at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday.

3:32 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Lukashenko: Most of the tactical nuclear weapons Russia plans to station in Belarus have arrived

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, attend the Russia-Belarus Union State Supreme Council at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on April 6.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, attend the Russia-Belarus Union State Supreme Council at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on April 6. Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said most of the tactical nuclear weapons that Russia plans to station in Belarus have already arrived. 

“In terms of nuclear weapons, most of them were already brought to Belarus, I won't say how many. It’s surprising that they didn’t trace it,” Lukashenko said according to Belarus state media.

He denied that Wagner forces are being used to guard the weapons, saying: “Russians and Belarusians are guarding it… No Wagner fighters will guard nuclear weapons. This is our task." 

Earlier Tuesday, Lukashenko claimed that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin had arrived to Belarus.

More on the transfer of weapons: Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus. Putin said Moscow would complete the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in the neighboring country by the beginning of July. He added that Russia had already transferred an Iskander short-range missile system, a device that can be fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads, to Belarus.

Prior to the nuclear deal, Belarus had no nuclear weapons on its territory since the early 1990s. Shortly after gaining independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it agreed to transfer all Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction stationed there to Russia.

Since invading Ukraine more than a year ago, Putin has used escalating rhetoric on a number of occasions, warning of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war and suggesting Moscow may abandon its “no first use” policy.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration is closely monitoring the situation between Russia and Belarus after Putin had claimedMoscow had deployed tactical nuclear weapons to the neighboring country. He said the US has "no reason to adjust" its nuclear posture and doesn't "see any indications" that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

CNN's Mariya Knight, Uliana Pavlova, Helen Regan and Mike Conte contributed reporting to this post.

3:32 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Lukashenko says he told Prigozhin his Wagner forces would be "crushed like a bug" if they marched to Moscow

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he cautioned Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin that his forces would be destroyed if they continued their march to the Russian capital.

"Halfway you'll just be crushed like a bug,” Lukashenko recalls telling Prigozhin during a call on Saturday, according to Belarusian state media. 

Lukashenko said Prigozhin told him: "'We want justice! They want to strangle us! We will go to Moscow!'"

"For a long time, I was trying to convince him. And in the end I said, 'You know, you can do whatever you want. But don't be offended by me. Our brigade is ready for transfer to Moscow,' he said."

Lukashenko said he told Prigozhin that "this situation does not only concern Russia. It's not just because this is our Fatherland and because, God forbid, this turmoil would spread all over Russia, and the prerequisites for this were colossal, we were next."

Lukashenko denies building camps for Wagner forces: The president said Belarus is not currently building camps on its territory for Wagner mercenary forces, following Saturday’s rebellion.

"We are not building any camps yet. But if they want, we will accommodate them. Set up tents, please. But for now they are in Luhansk in their camps,” the Belarussian president said in an address on Tuesday.

He said Wagner had been offered some abandoned land inside Belarus if they needed it.

3:32 p.m. ET, June 27, 2023

Lukashenko says he negotiated all day Saturday with Wagner boss Prigozhin

From CNN’s Katharina Krebs

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech during a meeting with high-ranking military officers in Minsk, Belarus, on June 27.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech during a meeting with high-ranking military officers in Minsk, Belarus, on June 27. Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus/Reuters

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko revealed new details of the conversations he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin over the weekend, after claiming he played instrumental role in halting Saturday’s rebellion.

According to Lukashenko’s account, reported by Belarusian state media, he spoke with Putin on the phone at 10 a.m. local time on Saturday morning about the mounting crisis in Russia’s south. Lukashenko said he negotiated all day Saturday with Prigozhin.

“The most dangerous thing, as I understand it, is not what the situation was, but how it could develop and its consequences. I also realized there was a harsh decision taken — to destroy. I suggested Putin not to hurry. Let's talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders,” Lukashenko recalled of those early conversations with the Russian leader.

Lukashenko said Putin then told him that Prigozhin would not respond to phone calls, so he tried to find phone numbers to contact Prigozhin, and "by the middle of the day, we organized as many as three channels through which we can talk with Rostov."

At 11 a.m. local time, Lukashenko said he called Prigozhin, who "immediately picked up the phone," saying the Wagner founder sounded euphoric.

"We talked for the first round of 30 minutes in a swear language. Exclusively. There were 10 times more swear words — I later analyzed them — than normal vocabulary. Of course, he apologized in advance, and began to tell me everything using these obscene words," Lukashenko said. 

CNN has reached out to Prigozhin’s press service and has not heard back. 

Lukashenko said he warned Prigozhin that he would no longer mediate negotiations if any civilians were killed.

"As soon as you deliberately, inadvertently kill at least one person, especially a civilian, that’s it, there will be no negotiations with you, and I won’t talk to you," he said.  

The Belarusian leader described how Prigozhin backed down on his demand for the dismissal of Russia's defense minister and chief of the General Staff.

Lukashenko said he gave Prigozhin personal assurances of his safety and the safety of his men in order to bring the rebellion to a final end on Saturday evening.

Lukashenko said Prigozhin called him at 5 p.m. local time to accept the conditions,

Prigozhin then asked him, "'but ... what should I do? We stop, they will destroy us,'" according to Lukashenko, who replied, "They won't. I guarantee you. I'll take it upon myself."