Ukraine Situation Report: A Peek Into Prigozhin’s Bizarre Pad
Among the findings were millions in cash and gold bars, a disguise collection, a giant sledgehammer, and a cache of guns and ammo.
Images emerged on social media Wednesday of the opulent St. Petersburg home and its contents seized from Wagner Private Military Company boss Yevgeny Prigozhin as he made his mutinous march on Moscow. They seem to be part of an ongoing effort to degrade the mercenary warlord's image within Russia, from which he is now exiled. This effort has included a move to ensure Prigozhin's name would not appear in Russian media again. He was apparently last heard from two days ago.
Among the items seen in Prigozhin's mansion are gold bars, a closet full of wigs (likely disguises for the bald kingpin), a trophy sledgehammer and a cache of weapons that seems a bit conservative for a guy who runs a global mercenary operation.
Also pictured were a hot tub room, an ornate pool table in his office, and a kitted out hospital room.
His Robinson R44 helicopter was also on site.
Unlike the homes of most of the rich and infamous, the Prigozhin pad also had a framed photo of severed heads.
But apparently, following the raid, much was forgiven, as the FSB returned a bunch of his swag.
On July 4 the Wagner boss in a BMW accompanied by his security forces in a Land Rover rolled up to the FSB’s St. Petersburg office to reclaim the weapons seized from him, the Russian Fontanka news outlet reported.
A few days earlier, Fontanka reported 10 billion rubles (about $110M) seized from Prigozhin had already been returned to him.
“The money was found in a Gazelle in the courtyard of the Trezzini Palace Hotel and in a minivan in the underground parking of the River House Hotel (both hotels on Vasilyevsky Island),” the publication reported.
According to Fontanka, two Saiga carbines, an Austrian Stey carbine, an Arka semi-automatic rifle, and several other rifles and pistols were among the items returned to Prighozin.
The most revered of all those weapons, however, was a Glock pistol Prigozhin was awarded by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to Fontanka. Shoigu in particular bore the brunt of Prigozhin's ire. He and Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov were blamed by Prigozhin for fostering "genocide" against their own people "for the murder of tens of thousands of Russian citizens and the transfer of Russian territories to the enemy."
Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
As Ukraine continues its counteroffensive across several points in the east and the south, the fiercest fighting is taking place, as it has for nearly a year, in and around Bakhmut, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister.
“Our defense forces are hitting the enemy in the east so powerfully that in some areas their military units have begun to leave their positions,” Hanna Maliar said Wednesday on her Telegram channel.
As a result, the Russians began to use "blocking units" and "with weapons aimed at their backs, they are trying to ensure the stability of the troops," she said.
Russian troops are holding on to positions in Bakhmut, where there were battles on the northern flank around the city “without significant advances," she said.
“The enemy is trapped in the city itself thanks to our fighters. He cannot move fully, he cannot leave the city. There is a very high demand in society for constant news from the front, but the key news is that the Russians are resisting so powerfully, but they cannot advance.”
While the U.S. was celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, Ukrainian forces put on their own explosive display. They reportedly struck several Russian logistics nodes and Russian artillery batteries with M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) volleys, according to the Ukrainian Euromaidan Press outlet.
The first target was a Sarmat company factory warehouse, located just 100 meters away from the railway connection, Euromaidan Press reported.
The second target was in the twin city of Donetsk-Makiivka, according to the publication.
“Geolocated footage indicates that a powerful explosion happened on the territory of the metallurgical plant. The plant itself is extremely vast, so Russians used it to accumulate tons of ammunition," according to Euromaidan Press. “The explosion was so powerful that the smoke covered several cities. Ukrainian military-affiliated sources confirmed that Ukrainians successfully hit a Russian ammunition depot that had just received huge supplies.”
Video emerged of one such attack on that area.
There was also video that apparently showed the apparent aftermath of the attack, said to be on an unfinished residential area in Makiivka, also spelled Makeevka.
These strikes “aimed to reduce the available and ready-to-use Russian resources on the eastern front to undermine Russian defensive capabilities, particularly around Bakhmut,” the publication reported. “The creation of short-term deficits of ammunition and shells can create a perfect window of opportunity for advancement because, as you remember, Ukrainians have just 1 fortification left to overcome before they can expand south of Bakhmut.”
Euromaidan Press also reported that Ukraine carried out several HIMARS attacks in this period on Russian artillery positions as well. The publication claimed that nine Russian artillery systems of various kinds were destroyed, though we cannot independently confirm that.
Russia has already suffered huge losses, even before the full brunt of Ukraine’s counteroffensive kicks off.
So says Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of Britain’s armed forces, according to Financial Times.
The Russian army has lost half of its combat effectiveness in Ukraine, including as many as 2,500 tanks, Radakin said, according to the publication.
Rejecting suggestions that Ukraine’s counter-offensive was proceeding slowly, Radakin posited that it was “never a singular act”, and that Kyiv’s military strategy to “starve, stretch and strike” was gradually breaking down Russian defensive lines, Financial Times reported.
“The question is, how do you take a front line that is more than a thousand kilometers long and turn it into more of a problem for Russia than for Ukraine?” Radakin told a parliamentary hearing. “That is why you are seeing multiple axis being probed and feints by Ukraine.” Echoing previous statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Radakin acknowledged that the “stronger than expected” density of Russian minefields, a lack of Ukrainian air cover and “not all the [military] equipment that they [Kyiv] desired” had complicated the campaign.
The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD), meanwhile, pushed back on Radakin.
“British Admiral Radakin's estimates of Russian armor losses published by the FT, jointly with the alleged loss of 'half its combat capability' of the Russian Armed Forces, are discouraging on the scale of the falsehood,” the Russian MoD said in a statement Wednesday on its Telegram channel.
While there have been no “visible indications of mines or explosives” found during a recent inspection of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) so far, more access is needed, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Wednesday.
Grossi statement comes in the wake of both sides claiming the other was about to attack the facility, Europe’s largest. Though there were claims that the attack would happen July 5, that date came and went without incident.
Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelensky on Tuesday said Russia had planted objects resembling explosives atop the roofs of several of the power units at ZNPP.
Zelensky's comments came after Maj. Gen. Kyrulo Budanov, head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR), told us that "Russia on the technical side has set everything ready for orchestration of a technological disaster on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant."
"The part of the station - which if the decision is taken - they are most likely to blow up, is the artificial pond on the territory of the station that ensures cooling," Budanov told us. "So what they're about to do is to damage a link in the system, which will subsequently cause this technological disaster situation which no one will be able to stop or mitigate. Because search and rescue operations in a combat zone are impossible." You can read about that and much more in our recent interview with him here.
Russian officials, meanwhile, said that Ukraine is planning to strike the facility with long-range missiles and drones, the official Russian TASS news agency reported.
Concern over what might happen at ZNPP has prompted Ukrainian officials to inform the public about what to do should something happen.
Ukrainians are also responding with its typical gallows humor to the situation.
IAEA experts “have in recent days and weeks inspected parts of the facility – including some sections of the perimeter of the large cooling pond – and have also conducted regular walkdowns across the site, so far without observing any visible indications of mines or explosives," Grossi said today.
The latest satellite imagery from Planet Labs shows something appearing on the roof of one of the reactor buildings, but just what it is remains unclear.
The back-and-forth over ZNPP all plays out against the backdrop of comments made by Russian officials about the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly rattled the nuclear saber again and recently announced that he has moved tactical nuclear weapons into his vessel state of Belarus.
"Those threats worried western countries sufficiently that the US, UK, and France, NATO’s three nuclear powers, delivered a joint message to Russia vowing to retaliate with conventional weapons if Putin decided to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to the former US and Russian officials," Financial Times noted at the time.
Wednesday, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council and Putin's political right-hand man Dmitry Medvedev yet again raised the specter of nuclear weapons use in Ukraine. He suggested that there are two pathways to peace. One is by the U.S. and allies cutting off supplies to Ukraine, thus ending Kyiv's ability to defend itself. The other, said Medvedev, is by Russia dropping a nuclear weapon on Ukraine in a biting reference to the two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan to help close out World War II.
Medvedev's nuclear chest thumping comes despite Chinese premier Xi Jinping's personal warning to Putin against using such weapons.
Xi told Putin that "Beijing harbors concerns about Russia’s war even as it offers tacit backing to Moscow," Financial Times reported Wednesday, citing western and Chinese officials. "The face-to-face message was delivered during the Chinese president’s state visit to Moscow in March, the people added, one of Xi’s first trips outside China after years of isolation under his zero-Covid policy. Since then, Chinese officials have privately taken credit for convincing the Russian president to back down from his veiled threats of using a nuclear weapon against Ukraine, the people said."
In May, we told you that the Ukrainian Air Force claimed a MIM-104 Patriot missile system intercepted a Kh-47 Kinzhal air-launched 'hypersonic' ballistic missile over Kyiv. But a Chinese official that month said he doubted that happened, Financial Times reported Wednesday.
Li Hui, China's Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, visited Kyiv in mid-May and said he did not believe that US-made Patriot air defense missile systems had successfully engaged Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles and refused to see evidence that it happened, Financial Times reported.
Another tranche of M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles has apparently arrived in Ukraine. Since sending Ukraine its initial contingent of 109 OSD variants and four B-Fist versions, the U.S. has promised Ukraine two additional shipments totaling 45 Bradleys. These units retain their desert beige camouflage, at least for now.
In addition to providing mobile punch, the Brads were touted for the survivability they offered crews, something these Ukrainian troops laud in the video below. You can read more about what the Bradley brings to the table for Ukraine in our deep dive here.
Given the vast amount of waterways and wetlands Ukrainian troops have to fight through, these Czech- and Polish-provided OT-64 SKOT amphibious personnel carriers are no doubt coming in handy.
Ukraine is apparently in negotiations with Turkey for its Firtina 155mm self-propelled howitzers. In an interview with the official Ukrainian Ukrinform news outlet, deputy chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov said that the Firtina was expected.
"...the arrival of new systems that have not yet been used by units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - such as Archer, Firtina - is expected," Gromov said.
Images of Russia's Krasnopol laser-guided artillery shells have appeared on social media. Unlike the U.S.-donated Excalibur precision artillery rounds which use GPS and inertial guidance to find targets, like the American Copperhead round, Krasnopols are guided by a laser designator. The Excalibur, with a range of about 32 kilometers, can also hit targets at a greater distance than the Krasnopol.
Russia has apparently lost at least its 15th T-90M main battle tank, according to the Oryx open-source tracking group, citing the Ukraine Weapons Tracker group. The figure is likely higher since Oryx only tabulates losses for which there is visual evidence.
Ukraine is also losing tanks, in this case a Leopard 2A6 tank destroyed in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. According to the latest figures from Oryx, Ukraine has seen two of these variants destroyed, two damaged and one damaged and abandoned. This particular tank is included in that tabulation.
Anti-tank guided missiles remain a mainstay for both sides in this conflict. You can see a Russian BMP destroyed by one such weapon in this video below.
Russia's Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters continue to chew up Ukrainian targets, in this case a Strela-10 air defense system. You can read our report on Russian rotary-wing airpower's resurgence near the frontlines here.
More 'cope cage' innovation has been spotted, this time it's a huge one atop an Italian-donated M109L self-propelled howitzer.
Ukrainian weapons improvisations keep showing up. In this case of this video below, it's a half-dozen AK-74s mounted together as an anti-drone weapon. Whether it works is unclear since the video doesn't showing it firing but it certainly looks bizarre and the mechanics are all there.
Russia has also apparently introduced this monstrous technical, a pickup with a rocket launcher mounted on top.
We've shown you videos before of the horrors of trench warfare, but this Ukrainian married couple - wedding photographers turned war reporters Konstiantyn and Vlada Liberohas - shared some haunting images of troops after that combat.
Perhaps jealous of the infamous Ukrainian trench beaver, Russia is sharing images of a raccoon accompanying its frontline troops. But Ukraine is salty because they say it was stolen from the Kherson zoo by retreating Russian forces.
And finally, Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr Budko, who lost both of his legs defending his nation, showed that there is life after the severe wounds of war. Budko recently danced with a Ukrainian ballet troupe, at a performance in California.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.
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