Russia scrambles fighter jet to intercept Norwegian military plane, defense ministry says

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that it had scrambled an MiG-31 jet to intercept a Norwegian military plane over the Barents Sea near the countries’ Arctic border.

To identify an air target and prevent violation of the state border of the Russian Federation, a MiG-31 fighter from the air defense forces of the Northern Fleet was taken into the air,” the ministry wrote in a post on Telegram after saying it had identified an air target.

“Violation of the State Border of the Russian Federation is not allowed,” it added.

It marks the second such incident in two days, according to the RIA Novosti state news agency.

— Karen Gilchrist

Belarus to host military drills of Moscow-led security bloc in September

Police officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs try to pass qualification tests for the right to wear a black beret at racetrack in Gorani district of Minsk, Belarus on May 30, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Belarus is set to host military drills for member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led security bloc, in September, Russian media reported the Belarusian Defense Ministry’s press service as saying Thursday.

“Joint and special drills are planned in the general concept of the Combat Brotherhood-2023 exercise, bringing together the training of various combat parts of the CSTO (Collective Forces),” said the ministry statement cited by the Tass news agency.

The CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

— Karen Gilchrist

Putin hails expanded BRICS influence with new invitees

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivering his remarks virtually during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on Aug. 24, 2023.

Marco Longari | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa for hosting the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg and for his work to “expand the influence” of the grouping.

Putin addressed the meeting via video link shortly after Ramaphosa announced that the bloc of emerging markets had decided to extend membership invitations to six nations including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

“I would like to thank our South African friends for what they did in the course of joint work, I mean the work on agreeing on declarations. I must note that, as it turned out, this work was not easy,” Putin said according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.

“I want to assure all colleagues that we will continue the work that we started today to expand the influence of BRICS in the world. 

— Karen Gilchrist

At least seven people injured in Russian missile strike on Dnipro

At least seven people were injured in an overnight Russian missile strike on Ukraine’s Dnipro city that damaged residential buildings and water and gas pipes, the local governor said Thursday.

Among the injured were three men and four women, six of whom were hospitalized, Serhiy Lysak wrote on the Telegram messaging app, according to a Google translation.

“In the middle of the night — powerful explosions in the Dnipro. The enemy hit the city with rockets. One of them was shot down by defenders from the Eastern Air Command,” Lysak said.

A transport facility was destroyed in the attack, while a bank, a gas station, a hotel, and an agricultural company were among the other facilities damaged, according to Lysak, who said further details of the destruction were still being confirmed.

Russia did not immediately respond to the claims.

— Karen Gilchrist

Zelenskyy hails Ukrainians as ‘free people’ on country’s Independence Day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Ukrainians as “free people” on Thursday as his country marks its independence day.

“Happy Ukraine’s Independence Day!” Zelenskyy wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“The day of the free, the strong, and the dignified. The day of equals. Ukrainian men and women. In our entire country,” he said.

“In this fight, everyone counts. Because the fight is for something that is important to everyone. An independent Ukraine.”

— Karen Gilchrist

Prigozhin’s plane had no issues until final 30 seconds, flight data shows

The Embraer Legacy 600 jet that crashed over Russia’s Tver Region Wednesday, which led to the presumed death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and all nine other passengers on board, showed no signs of problems until its final 30 seconds, according to flight-tracking data.

The aircraft, which was traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, made a “sudden downward vertical” at 6:19 p.m. local time, around 30 minutes into its journey, Flightradar24’s director of communications, Ian Petchenik, told Reuters.

“Whatever happened, happened quickly,” Petchenik said.

In around 30 seconds, the plane plummeted more than 8,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 28,000 feet.

“They may have been wrestling (with the aircraft) after whatever happened,” Petchenik said. However, he added that prior to its precipitous drop, there was “no indication that there was anything wrong with this aircraft.”

Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA said it had not been providing any service or support in recent years to the plane.

— Karen Gilchrist

Biden says Putin likely behind Prigozhin plane crash

U.S. President Joe Biden has condemned the presumed death in a plane crash of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Andrew Caballero-reynolds | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he was not surprised by the presumed death in a plane crash of Kremlin dissident Yevgeny Prigozhin, adding that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the incident.

“I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised,” the president said during a briefing after the crash of Prigozhin’s private jet, which was traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer,” he added.

Russia’s aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya, said Prigozhin and senior Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin were among 10 people travelling on an Embraer business jet that crashed on Wednesday evening.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and the Kremlin has yet to comment on the incident.

It comes two months to the day since Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary forces staged a mutiny against Moscow’s top military brass in June over what he argued was its incompetent prosecution of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

— Karen Gilchrist

Wagner boss Prigozhin killed in plane crash with nine others, Russian authorities say

Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead after a private jet carrying him and nine others crashed while travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening.

Wagner Account | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is feared dead in a plane crash, Russian state media reported Wednesday.

The aircraft, a business jet, crashed in the Tver region northwest of Moscow, with all 10 people on board killed, according to Russia’s state news agency Tass. Prigozhin was on its list of passengers.

The 62-year old paramilitary leader, once a close confidant of Putin’s, led a short-lived mutiny against the Russian government in late June after spending months vocally criticizing his country’s top brass. His forces, known for their particularly violent battlefield tactics, spearheaded a number of battles for Russia on the Ukrainian front.

— Natasha Turak

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