Russia detains prominent hardliner who accused Putin of weakness in Ukraine
A prominent Russian hardliner who accused President Vladimir Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine was detained Friday on charges of extremism, a signal the Kremlin has toughened its approach with hawkish critics after last month's abortive rebellion by the Wagner mercenary company. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
Issued on: Modified:
This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here
9:51pm: US plans new $400 million military aid package for Ukraine
The United States plans to announce as soon as Tuesday a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, primarily comprised of artillery, air defense missiles and ground vehicles as Ukraine's counteroffensive grinds on, three US officials said on Friday.
The US is not including cluster munitions in this weapons assistance package, two of the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said. The US first sent dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) – a cluster munition fired from a 155 millimetre Howitzer cannon to Ukraine earlier in July.
Included in the package are several Stryker armored personnel carriers, mine clearing equipment, munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), anti-tank weapons including TOW and Javelin and munitions for Patriot and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, according to the officials.
The package, which was still being finalised and could change, would be the 43rd approved by the United States for Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022, for a total of more than $41 billion.
9:32pm: Wagner is not fighting in Ukraine at present, says White House
The group's chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was shown in a video on Wednesday saying his fighters would take no further part in the Ukraine war for now but ordering them to gather their strength for Africa.
Other videos online show Wagner mercenaries training with Belarusian troops in the country's west near its border with Poland.
7:21pm: Bulgaria to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine
Parliament approved – with 148 votes in favour and 52 against – a proposal of the new pro-European government to send the vehicles along with armaments and spare parts.
The government bought various models of Soviet-made BTR carriers in the 1980s but they were never used.
"This equipment is no longer necessary for the needs of Bulgaria, and it can be of serious support to Ukraine in its battle to preserve the country's independence and territorial integrity after the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression," parliament said in its decision.
EU and NATO member Bulgaria has in stock large quantities of Soviet-style weapons coveted by Ukraine and also produces ammunition for them.
6:28pm: EU still open to working with UN to revive Black Sea grain deal
The European Union remains "open to explore solutions" with the United Nations that would contribute to reviving a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain, the EU envoy to the United Nations said on Friday after Russia quit the pact.
Before Russia withdrew from the agreement on Monday, the United Nations had "brokered a concrete proposal" with the European Commission to enable a subsidiary of Russia's Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to be connected to the SWIFT international payments system.
4:52pm: Arrested pro-war Kremlin critic Girkin charged with incitement to extremism
Prosecutors from Russia's FSB federal security service on Friday asked a Moscow court to remand prominent nationalist Kremlin critic Igor Girkin in detention on a charge of inciting extremist activity, Russian state news agencies reported.
The 52-year-old Girkin was detained earlier today according to his spouse.
Girkin faces up to five years in prison if convicted, the TASS and RIA agencies said.
4:39pm: Russian shelling kills two in eastern Ukraine
"At about three o'clock in the afternoon, the Russians shelled the village with artillery – one of the shells hit the yard where the children were," governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on social media.
The boy was aged 10 and the girl 16.
Earlier Friday, Kyrylenko said a couple had also been killed by Grad rocket fire in the city of Kostyantynivka.
4:21pm: Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports risk food security in poor countries, says UN
Russia's attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports risk "having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries", the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council on Friday.
Rosemary DiCarlo also told the 15-member council that threats about the potential targeting of civilian vessels in Black Sea waters – made by both Russia and Ukraine – are unacceptable.
"Any risk of conflict spillover as a result of a military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or by accident – must be avoided at all costs, as this could result in potentially catastrophic consequences to us all," she said.
3:49pm: Wagner mutiny ‘a staged act’, says geopolitical expert
As videos of Russian mercenary group Wagner launching joint drills with the Belarusian army were made public on Thursday, their short-lived rebellion against Moscow almost a month ago now appear to resemble "a staged act", said Velina Tchakarova, founder of FACE Geopolitical Consultancy, in an interview with FRANCE 24's Tom Burges Watson.
Please click on the video player below to watch the interview.
3:26pm: Moscow working on new grain export routes, says Russian deputy foreign minister
Vershinin added that Moscow will do "all it can" to protect Africa from the consequences of Russia's withdrawal from the deal.
The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, aimed to help prevent a global food crisis by allowing grain blocked by the war in Ukraine to be safely exported from Black Sea ports.
2:47pm: Russian authorities detain a hard-liner who accused Putin of weakness in Ukraine
A prominent Russian hardliner who accused President Vladimir Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine was detained Friday on charges of extremism, a signal the Kremlin has toughened its approach with hawkish critics after last month's abortive rebellion by the Wagner mercenary company.
Igor Strelkov, a retired security officer who led Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and also was implicated by the Netherlands in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that year, has argued that a total mobilisation is needed for Russia to achieve victory and recently criticised Putin as a “nonentity".
The detention of the 52-year-old Strelkov, whose real name is Igor Girkin, was reported by his wife, who posted the news on his messaging app channel. She said he apparently faces charges of extremism.
The move comes nearly a month after a short-lived mutiny launched by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin that saw his Wagner troops capture military headquarters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and then drive as close as 200 kilometres (125 miles) to Moscow to demand the ouster of Russia's top military leaders. Prigozhin agreed to end the June 23-24 rebellion under a deal that offered an amnesty to him and his mercenaries and allowed them to move to Belarus.
2:28pm: Germany and NATO ready to support Poland in defending its eastern flank
"Where the Polish partners need support, they will receive it," Pistorius said at a press conference with his Czech counterpart in Prague. "They are NATO partners and reliable NATO allies, so we can confidently say that we are prepared."
The comment comes after Poland's security committee decided to move military units to the country's east due to the Wagner Group's presence in Belarus, according to a report by Poland's state-run news agency PAP.
1:58pm: Russian investigators detain pro-war nationalist Igor Girkin
A prominent Russian hardliner who accused President Vladimir Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine was detained Friday on charges of extremism, a signal the Kremlin has toughened its approach with hawkish critics after last month's abortive rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group.
Igor Strelkov, a retired security officer who led Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and also was implicated by the Netherlands in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that year, has argued that a total mobilisation is needed for Russia to achieve victory and recently criticised Putin as a “nonentity”.
The detention of the 52-year-old Strelkov, whose real last name is Girkin, was reported by his wife, who posted the news on his messaging app channel. She said he apparently faces charges of extremism.
12:48pm: Putin says 'aggression against Belarus' also means aggression against Russia
"As far as Belarus is concerned, it is part of the Union State, unleashing aggression against Belarus will mean aggression against the Russian Federation," he said at a meeting of the Kremlin's Security Council. "We will respond to this with all the means at our disposal".
12:38pm: Putin says Western weapons and support 'not helping' Ukraine
Vladimir Putin said Friday that Kyiv's counteroffensive, launched to push Russian troops back in the south and east of Ukraine, was failing despite military and financial support from Western countries.
"In any case, there are no results yet" of the counteroffensive, the Russian president said in televised remarks. "Neither the colossal resources that have been pumped into the Kyiv regime nor the supplies of Western weapons, tanks, artillery, armoured vehicles and missiles are helping."
He also claimed that the West was stoking the "flames of war" by supporting Ukraine in the conflict, and that Western weapons supplied to Ukraine "burn well" on the battlefield.
11:54am: Ukrainian government approves Sense Bank takeover
Ukraine's government approved a decision on Friday to take over Sense Bank, the country's top commercial lender, from its Russian owners who are under Western sanctions.
The government said in a statement that the finance ministry will take over the bank.
11:40am: Kremlin says Ukraine poses danger to civilian shipping in Black Sea
The Kremlin said on Friday that what it called Ukraine's "unpredictable" actions posed a danger to civilian shipping in the Black Sea, and accused Kyiv of carrying out "terrorist attacks" in the area.
Russia warned earlier this week that ships heading to Ukraine's Black Sea ports could be considered military targets, after it revoked their security guarantees by quitting the Black Sea grain deal.
10:07am: Zelensky sacks ambassador to UK after criticism
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday dismissed the country's ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, after he criticised Zelesnky's response to a row over British military aid.
Prystaiko's dismissal came after he criticised Zelensky's sarcastic response to suggestions from UK defence minister Ben Wallace that Ukraine should show more gratitude for arms supplies from its allies.
8:15am: Russia is not ruling out quotas on fuel exports, says deputy PM
Novak added that other ideas were being considered, and that some refineries had postponed planned maintenance to a later date.
7:39am: Russian missiles strike grain terminals of 'agricultural enterprise' in Odesa region
Russian missiles hit grain terminals of an agricultural enterprise in Ukraine's southern Odesa region, injuring two people, regional Governor Oleh Kiper said on Friday.
"Unfortunately, the grain terminals of an agricultural enterprise in Odesa region were hit. The enemy destroyed 100 tonnes of peas and 20 tonnes of barley," Kiper said on the Telegram messaging app.
7:12am: Poland to move soldiers to east of country due to Wagner Group's presence in Belarus
Poland has decided to move military formations from the west to the east of the country due to possible threats related to the Wagner Group's presence in Belarus, state-run news agency PAP quoted the secretary of the country's security committee, Zbigniew Hoffmann, as saying on Friday.
6:47am: Russian navy carried out live-fire 'exercise' in Black Sea, says defence ministry
Russia's navy carried out a live-fire "exercise" in the northwest Black Sea, Moscow's defence ministry said Friday, days after the Kremlin said it would consider ships travelling to Ukraine through the waterway potential military targets.
The Black Sea Fleet "carried out live firing of anti-ship cruise missiles at the target ship in the combat training range in the northwestern part of the Black Sea ... and also carried out a set of measures to detain the offending ship", the defence ministry said in a statement.
5:30am: White House says Ukraine using US cluster munitions on battlefield
Ukrainian forces are using United States-supplied cluster munitions on the battlefield, the White House said, as Kyiv seeks momentum in its grinding counteroffensive.
Washington provided the weapons to Ukraine for the first time earlier this month. Kyiv is attempting to dislodge entrenched Russian forces and retake land lost in the early months of Moscow's invasion last year.
The cluster munitions, which disperse up to several hundred small explosive charges that can remain unexploded in the ground, are banned by many countries because of the long-term risks they pose to civilians.
Ukraine's forces started using the munitions "in the last week or so", White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.
"They're using them appropriately, they're using them effectively and they are actually having an impact on Russia's defensive formations and Russia's defensive manoeuvring," he said.
3:22am: Ukraine's culture minister resigns over funding woes
Ukraine's minister for culture said Friday he had resigned after a"misunderstanding" about the mobilisation of funds for cultural projects as Kyiv battles a Russian invasion.
"I brought my resignation note to the Prime Minister tonight, due to a wave of misunderstanding about the importance of wartime culture," Oleksandr Tkachenko wrote in a Facebook post.
"During the war both private and budget funds for culture are no less important than for drones, because culture is the shield of our identity and our borders."
The announcement came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to consider replacing Tkachenko.
"People should feel that budget resources are used fairly and properly," he said in his nightly address.
Key developments from Thursday, July 20:
Russian prosecutors on Thursday requested a jail term of 20 years for the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who denounced Russia's "senseless war" in his last statement to the court.
People living near Poland’s border with Belarus said on Thursday they could hear shooting and helicopters after fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group arrived to train Belarusian special forces just a few miles from the frontier, compounding their fears the Ukraine war would reach them.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was shown in a video on Wednesday welcoming his fighters to Russia-ally Belarus.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe