Wagner group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is in Russia, says Belarus

At least five people killed and 40 injured in a Russian missile strike on Lviv in western Ukraine

At least five people were killed and 40 hurt in a Russian missile strike on Lviv in western Ukraine, as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said the Wagner mercenary group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, were still in Russia after launching a brief mutiny last month.

Lviv officials said the bodies of four women and one man were found during rescue efforts in the historic city near the Polish border, where dozens of buildings were damaged in the attack during the early hours of Thursday. Ukraine’s air force said seven of 10 Kalibr cruise missiles were shot down, and urged allies to provide F-16 fighter jets as soon possible to strengthen the country’s defences against nightly Russian rocket and drone strikes.

“The aim is to completely protect the Ukrainian sky and Ukrainian land from another terrorist attack by the Russians,” said air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat, explaining that the US-made F-16 was built to be part of an integrated air defence system alongside surface-to-air missiles.

“It is designed to intercept such aerial targets as ‘kamikaze’ drones and cruise missiles. It takes off quickly and performs interceptions ... We really need the F-16, everyone is already talking about it. And we are waiting for the pilot training process to move forward,” he added, just days after Kyiv revealed that western training for its pilots on the aircraft was yet to begin due to delays.


Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted footage on social media of the destruction in Lviv and sent condolences to the victims: “There will definitely be a response to the enemy. A strong one,” he wrote.

Mr Zelenskiy was visiting Bulgaria, a significant arms manufacturer where Kyiv would like to strengthen ties and source much-needed weapons, despite Russia continuing to enjoy influence in the EU and Nato member state.

“The main focus of our talks is, of course, the security of our countries and our entire Europe, defence support and defence co-operation. The fundamental priority is energy. And strengthening our unity in Europe,” he said after meeting Bulgarian prime minister Nikolai Denkov.

Russian state television broadcast video of raids on premises owned by Mr Prigozhin in St Petersburg amid a drive to discredit the Wagner group boss, who was formerly lionised by Moscow’s media for sending his fighters into Ukraine.

The footage showed bundles of cash and gold bars, assorted weapons, passports and wigs, and a medical treatment room in his luxurious residence. At the same time, photographs apparently showing Mr Prigozhin in various disguises appeared online.

Mr Prigozhin led a brief revolt on June 23rd in which Wagner forces seized the southern Russian city of Rostov, shot down several Russian military aircraft, killing their crews, and threatened to march on Moscow in what he called a protest over the mishandling of the invasion of Ukraine.

He abandoned his “march for justice” that same evening, and the Kremlin said he would leave for Belarus and that his fighters could do the same, go home or join the Russian army. Moscow later made clear, however, that Mr Prigozhin was still under investigation over the revolt and that his business empire’s finances were under scrutiny.

“He is in St Petersburg. Maybe he went to Moscow. But he is not on the territory of Belarus,” Mr Lukashenko said on Thursday, adding that Wagner’s thousands of fighters were also still in Russia: “Whether they will be in Belarus and in what numbers, we will figure this out in the near future.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Mr Prigozhin: “We are not following his movements. We have neither the possibility nor the desire to do that.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe