Six In The Morning Friday 25 August 2023

Kremlin dismisses allegations it killed Prigozhin as ‘complete lie


  1. The Kremlin says suggestions that it gave an order to kill Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin are a “complete lie”
  2. President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says there’s “lots of speculation” amid the “tragic death” of those on the private jet that crashed near Moscow
  3. But he stopped short of confirming whether Prigozhin was on board, reiterating that an investigation was ongoing
  4. Earlier, the UK defence ministry said Prigozhin is “highly likely” to be dead – but there was “not yet definitive proof”
  5. The leader of Belarus – a close ally of Putin – has also commented on the incident, saying he “can’t imagine” the Russian leader was behind the plane crash
  6. One US official has anonymously told the BBC’s US partner CBS that an explosion on the aircraft was the probable cause

Here’s a look at how the day has unfolded – so far.

This morning: Russia’s defence ministry said it thwarted an attempt by Ukraine to attack Russia-annexed Crimea. It came after Ukraine landed troops there yesterday, on its second independence day at war.

Soon after: The UK’s defence ministry released a statement saying Prigozhin’s death is “highly likely”, but admitted there is not yet any “definite proof” he was on board the private jet that crashed on Wednesday near Moscow.

This afternoon: During a conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that allegations the Kremlin gave an order to kill Prigozhin are a “complete lie”. He insisted people await the results of an ongoing “official investigation”.

Since then: We’ve heard from Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, who revealed that Wagner troops would remain in his country. After Prigozhin’s death, the group currently has no leader.

Rape still a weapon of war in Tigray months after peace deal

Medical records from across the region show sexual violence continues to be used ‘to intimidate and terrorise communities’

Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers continue a widespread and systematic campaign of rape in Tigray despite the peace agreement signed in November last year, a new report reveals.

In the first report to document sexual violence – using hundreds of medical records from the start of the conflict in November 2020 through to June 2023 – healthcare professionals recount cases of gang-rape, sexual slavery and murder, including the killing of children.

The report, by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Organization for Justice and Accountability in the Horn of Africa, reviewed 304 medical records of conflict-related sexual violence from health facilities across Tigray; 128 showed rape occurring after the agreement to halt all hostilities after two years of civil war.

The long list of Putin critics targeted by the Kremlin

Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is thought to have died in a plane crash. While the details remain vague, what is clear is that those who dare to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin live dangerously.

September 2022 — Ravil Maganov’s fatal fall from a hospital window

Ravil Maganov, chairman of Russian oil giant Lukoil, died when he fell from the sixth-floor window of a Moscow hospital. Police suspect he committed suicide, saying that he was diagnosed with depression on top of his heart problems. Lukoil was the first major Russian company to call for an end to the war in Ukraine.

August 2020 — Alexei Navalny’s poison-laced underwear

One of Putin’s fiercest critics Alexei Navalny collapsed on a domestic flight from Tomsk to Moscow and fell into a coma. After the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Siberia, Navalny received immediate medical treatment. He was then transferred to the Charite hospital in the German capital Berlin, which found that he had been poisoned with Novichok, a chemical nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. After recovering, Navalny released the recording of a phone conversation, in which  a suspected agent from Russia’s domestic intelligence service FSB, admitted to the attack. In the recording, which was uploaded to YouTube, the man said that the poison had been applied to the inside of Navalny’s underwear. Russia dismissed the recorded conversation as fake.

These photos do not show Ukrainian ‘children’ being sent to the front

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, some have claimed that “children” are being recruited into the Ukrainian army. Three viral photos, purporting to show graves of very young soldiers, have been shared since mid-August as evidence of this phenomenon. However, two of these three photos have been manipulated, and actually show the burial sites of adult men.

If you only have a minute

  • Three photos of graves have been used as evidence of the use of child soldiers by the Ukrainian armed forces.
  • We have been able to trace the origin of two of these photos: one is of a 21-year-old man whose face has been digitally replaced by a young boy. The other photo is of a 26-year-old man, whose face, name and date of birth have been digitally altered.
  • We were unable to determine the source of the third photo.

The fact-check, in detail

“The UA are already sending children to slaughter. The third was not even 17…” said this post from July 17 on X (formerly Twitter), seen more than 130,000 times. The account regularly shared pro-Russian misinformation.

The three photos shared show framed pictures of soldiers killed at the front, their faces seemingly juvenile.

China imposes ‘abnormal’ ban after Fukushima water release


August 25, 2023 at 16:34 JST

Japanese government officials expected a reaction from China but were caught off-guard by the severity of Beijing’s response to the Aug. 24 discharge of treated radioactive water into the ocean.

China, describing the released water as “polluted,” imposed a full-blown import ban on all products from Japan that may have once lived in the sea.

The measure covers fish, shellfish and seaweed in whatever form they have been processed, be it fresh, refrigerated or frozen.

‘I will not resign,’ says defiant Spanish soccer boss Luis Rubiales following week of fierce criticism for unwanted kiss on star player

Updated 11:27 AM EDT, Fri August 25, 2023

Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales has refused to resign from his position as Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president following a week of fierce criticism after video showed him placing an unwanted kiss on a star player of Spain’s winning Women’s World Cup team.

Rubiales was speaking at the federation’s Extraordinary General Assembly on Friday and said he will “fight to the end.”

In a defiant speech, he described the kiss as “mutual” and spoke of “unjust” campaigns and “fake feminism,” and emphatically said, “I will not resign” several times during the almost 30-minute address.