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Latest on Ukraine: Wagner chief Prigozhin died as Russia's war turned 18 months

A portrait of the late owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin sits at an informal memorial next to the former the group's headquarters in St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 24.
Dmitri Lovetsky
/
AP
A portrait of the late owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin sits at an informal memorial next to the former the group's headquarters in St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 24.

Here's a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week.

What to watch

With the death of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, questions remain about what will happen to the Russian mercenaries who have played key roles in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and operations elsewhere, including in Syria and African countries.

On Monday, Ukraine's military said its troops retook the southeastern settlement of Robotyne. Analysts will be watching for further signs of Ukrainian advances in the region.

On Tuesday, Ukraine marks Memorial Day for those killed defending the country.

This week, members of a United Nations commission are due to visit Ukraine as part of their investigation into reports of violations of human rights and international law.

What happened last week

A plane carrying Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed in Russia last Wednesday, killing all 10 people on board, two months after Prigozhin led his mercenary company in an attempted mutiny in Russia. Russian investigators said genetic tests confirmed the victims' identities matched the flight manifest, which included Prigozhin and other senior Wagner officials. The investigators did not mention a possible cause of the plane crash. The Kremlin has denied speculation it had any involvement, as has the Ukrainian government.

The Ukraine war became a sticking point in a U.S. debate of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination last Wednesday. Ron DeSantis, polling in second place, called on Europe to "pull their weight," and Vivek Ramaswamy slammed U.S. support for Ukraine as "disastrous." But candidates Nikki Haley and Chris Christie argued the U.S. should continue to stand up against Russia. The front-runner for the party's nomination, former President Donald Trump, did not attend the debate.

Leaders of the BRICS countries gathered in South Africaminus Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his video message delivered (apparently with a different, lower voice) to the summit last Tuesday, he defended Russia's invasion of Ukraine, even as China and other countries pushed a peace plan.

Ukraine celebrated Independence Day last Thursday for the second time during Russia's invasion, which reached the 18-month mark that day. Kyiv again put remnants of wrecked Russian military vehicles and equipment on public display. Also Thursday, the U.N. Security Council met to discuss Ukraine, in which Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said U.N. workers had documented the deaths of 9,444 civilians, including 545 children, but that the real figures are likely much higher.

A Moscow court extended Evan Gershkovich's pretrial detention by three months last Thursday. The American journalist later appealed the extension. The U.S. government says he was wrongfully detained by Russia.

Ukraine launched a missile toward Moscow and attacked Crimea with drones last Friday, according to Russia, which said Russian air defenses downed them all. Reuters said the operations could have amounted to some of the largest coordinated Ukrainian air attacks against Russian-held territory to date. Russia also continued to fire missiles at Ukraine. On the battlefield, Ukraine's military reported gaining some territory in the Zaporizhzhia region.

In-depth

An opening for diplomacy? Prigozhin death leaves Russian mercenaries without leader

Russia expert says it would make sense that Putin was behind the death of Prigozhin

What we know — and don't — about the Russian crash that possibly killed Prigozhin

Love, war and loss: How one soldier in Ukraine hopes to be made whole again

Why a weak ruble is good for Russia's budget but not Putin's image

The GOP candidates' differing takes on the war in Ukraine

NATO-trained Ukrainian troops contribute to offensive to push out Russian forces

A Ukrainian rescue worker's memories are on pause as he evacuates people

Special report

Russia's war in Ukraine is changing the world: See our report on its ripple effects in all corners of the globe.

Earlier developments

You can read past recaps here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find more of NPR's coverage here. Also, listen and subscribe to NPR's State of Ukraine podcast for updates throughout the day.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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