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Russia's air defenses thwarted a new drone attack near Moscow early Saturday, the country's defense ministry said in a post on Telegram.
The drone was destroyed over theIstrinsky district's territory in the Moscow region around 3 a.m. local time, it said.
"Preliminarily, there are no casualties or damage. Response teams are working at the scene," Moscow MayorSergei Sobyanin said on Telegram.
Ukrainian units have "almost reached" the main Russian defensive lines in the key southern region of Zaporizhzhia, but have multiple challenges in making further progress, according to a Ukrainian military officer serving on the front lines.
The officer — who CNN is not identifying, as he is not authorized to speak on the record — said the area between thevillages of Robotyne and Verbove"is the hottest right now."
But Russian troops have pulled up artillery and their aviation is constantly at work "24 hours a day, there are a dozen air raids a day," he said.
Here are some other headlines you should know:
- More on the counteroffensive: The lack of aerial combat power is hurting Ukraine as it continues its effort to liberate territories, but the deployment ofF-16 fighter jetswould "radically" change the situation, a Ukrainian official said Friday. President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that the United States will help train Ukrainian pilots and engineers on F-16 fighter jets. On the ground, Ukraine remains focused on a southern push toward the Sea of Azov, which could allow it to break off Russia's land route between annexed Crimea and Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region.
- Prigozhin plane updates: Russian investigators say they've recovered 10 bodies and the flight recorders from aplane crashthat is believed to have killed Wagner bossYevgeny Prigozhin this week. DNA analysis is also being conducted on the victims to confirm their identities. CNN has reviewed flight data and videos, and interviewed aviation and explosive experts, to piece together what happened in the minutes leading up to the crash.The analysis suggests that the private aircraft experienced at least one “catastrophic inflight incident” before it dropped out of the sky. Grief, suspicion and speculation are pouring in at the unofficial memorial for the Wagner warlord. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he “can’t imagine” that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is behind Prigozhin's apparent death.
- Arson attacks: The Russian Federal Security Service said on Friday that the Ukrainian special services were behindarson attacks on facilitiesof the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and state-owned Russian Railways.
The United States will help train Ukrainian pilots and engineers on F-16 fighter jets, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday.
The Ukrainian president said he talked to US President Joe Biden on Thursday to discuss plans around the jets,.
“It was a good conversation," Zelensky said in his nightly address. "We discussed how to further strengthen freedom. And we have a new important agreement: America will join the training of F-16 pilots and engineers,” he added.
On Thursday night, the White House confirmed that Biden and Zelensky had discussed the commencement of training Ukrainian fighter pilots.That trainingis expected to start in October, Pentagon Spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Thursday.
Zelensky has repeatedly called for support in bolstering Ukraine’s air defense system through F-16 jets and training for pilots to operate the aircraft.
In Friday’s address, Zelensky said the next steps for Ukraine are clear.
“For the international team, it is to maximize the expansion of training missions. For the military, it is to accelerate the preparation of the infrastructure as much as possible, to send pilots and engineers to ensure Ukraine's full readiness. And all together, it is about bringing closer the moment when F-16s will help us keep Russian terrorists away,” Zelensky said.
Training with other countries: The F-16 training program is being supported by a coalition of 11 NATO countries and requires official US approval because the jets are American technology. Last Friday, the US approved the transfer of instructional materials from Denmark to Ukraine — an important step in starting these programs.
Ukraine's Defense MinisterOleksii Reznikov said last week that Ukrainian pilots have already begun training on F-16 aircraft. Reznikov said the “minimal term” for the training is six months, though it would be up to the instructors to decide how long the course will run.
Among the mass of red carnations laid outside Wagner’s St. Petersburg headquarters, a photograph of the Russian private military group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, peers out.
On it, the words “in this hell he was the best” are printed in Russian. His death has still not been officially certified, but everyone is now speaking of him in the past tense.
Across Russia, makeshift memorials for Prigozhin, which sprang up after he was reported killed in a plane crash alongside some top aides Wednesday, have seen a steady stream of Wagner fighters and their supporters come out to pay their respects.
Under Prigozhin, the Wagner Group reveled in the infamy of its brutal methods worldwide and its battleground victories in the Ukraine war. One mourner, named Arkady, said his presumed death was “a huge setback, not just to the city but for our entire country and its prospects in the war.”
“Aside from being a great patriot he was also a top military commander. We have all witnessed his success in (eastern Ukraine’s) Bakhmut. How the war will continue without him is a big question,” Arkady added.
A man who identified himself only as Dmitry told CNN the Wagner boss gave work to thousands of people in St. Petersburg, which paid well and provided them with a mission in life. That, he said, was now over.
Nestled among the memorial’s flowers was a sledgehammer. It is a potent symbol of the extreme violence the group represented: Last year, the warlord applauded a video in which a former Wagner member, who had deserted, was brutally murdered with a sledgehammer, cementing Wagner’s image as uncompromising and ruthless.
Some in the crowd at the memorial speculated about the reasons behind Prigozhin’s plane crash. One woman blamed it on Ukraine – a claim that has been denied by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Others said that they think Prigozhin might be still alive. Zlata and Vitya, a couple who live in the city, said they think the mercenary leader's death was orchestrated to allow the Wagner boss to be deployed on other missions for the benefit of Russia.
CNN has reported that while the US intelligence community is still determining what happened, it believes the crash was deliberate and the goal was to kill Prigozhin.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday that any assertions that the Russian government was somehow involved in the crash are "an absolute lie."
A woman who walked by the St. Petersburg memorial told CNN that his death represented "one mafioso” falling “victim to another, bigger mafioso — who’s become … bigger and stronger by swallowing (the) 'Kremlin’s chef,'" referring to Prigozhin’s nickname.
She added: “No tears shed here. You reap just what you sow."
CNN's Tara John contributed reporting to this post.
Hear why someone left a sledgehammer at a Prigozhin memorial:
There is a puff of white and then a plane can be seen falling, a trail of smoke or vapor stretching behind it, descending rapidly against a bright blue sky. The person filming the video zooms in as theaircraft spirals downwardout of control, revealing that it is missing a wing.
The footage, published by Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti, appears to show the moments before a private plane purportedly carrying mercenary leaderYevgeny Prigozhincrashed in a field northwest of Moscow, while en route to St. Petersburg.
CNN has reviewed flight data and videos, and interviewed aviation and explosive experts, to piece together what happened in the minutes leading up to the crash. The analysis suggests that the private aircraft experienced at least one “catastrophic inflight incident” before it dropped out of the sky. The available video does not show that catastrophic event.
A passenger manifest released by Russia’s civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, on Wednesday showed that Prigozhin’s name and that of Wagner’s top commander, Dmitry Utkin, were among the seven passengers and three crew members, all of whom Russia’s emergency services ministry said were killed.
Russian authorities have yet to officially confirm Prigozhin’s death but, acknowledging the crash in public comments on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putinreferred to him in the past tense.
Rosaviatsia said it had launched an investigation into “the circumstances and causes of the accident.” The Investigative Committee has also launched a criminal probe.
The crash came two months to the day after Prigozhin launched ashort-lived mutinyagainst Russia’s military leadership, posing an unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that Prigozhin was “likely” killed in the crash. US and Western intelligence officials that CNN has spoken to believe it was deliberate.Officials saidthat it was too early to determine what brought the plane down, but that one possibility being explored was an on-board explosion.
There’s been plenty of speculation. But no evidence has been presented pointing to the involvement of the Kremlin or Russian security services in the crash.
Experts interviewed by CNN say that available evidence indicates that the crash was unlikely to have been caused by a mechanical failure. The dramatic descent of the plane, the way that it broke apart in the air and the extent of the debris field point to an explosion, they said.
Read more about experts' analysis of data and video
Russian investigators say they've recovered 10 bodies and the flight recorders from a plane crash that is believed to have killed Wagner bossYevgeny Prigozhin this week. DNA analysis is also being conducted on the victims to confirm their identities.
"The Russian Investigative Committee continues to investigate the criminal case of the aviation accident in Tver Oblast," the committee said in a statement posted to Telegram Friday.
Flight recorders and other materials are being processed and handed over for forensic examination.
"During the investigation flight recorders have been recovered. A detailed examination of the scene continues. At the moment, items and documentation relevant to establishing all the circumstances of the plane crash are being seized and handed over for forensic examination," the post continued.
The committee said all possible scenarios for the cause of the incident are being thoroughly reviewed.
A Ukrainian military officer serving on the front lines in the southern Zaporizhzhia region says Ukrainian units have "almost reached" the main Russian defensive lines, but have multiple challenges in making further progress.
The officer — who CNN is not identifying, as he is not authorized to speak on the record — said the area between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove "is the hottest right now."
"We have almost reached their main defense lines. We have constant tactical advances, and we are gradually reclaiming our territory," the officer said.
But Russian troops have pulled up artillery and their aviation is constantly at work "24 hours a day, there are a dozen air raids a day," he continued.
The officer, who previously fought around Bakhmut, said the Russian aerial power he is seeing now is "a lot" compared to when he was fighting around Bakhmut.
"The same thing with mines. There were no dense minefields in Bakhmut ... Now almost everything is mined. It's stressful, there are a lot of wounded from mines and explosions of equipment," he said.
The officer said the open terrain is also a challenge.
"Drones are hanging in the sky around the clock, both ours and theirs. So it is impossible to hide any movement of equipment. Any maneuver immediately becomes known to the enemy, and shelling begins either with artillery or drones," the officer said.
He said Ukrainian units use steel nets to protect against drone attacks and are working with small assault groups and equipment.
"We used to work at night and at dusk, but the (Russians) have adapted and started waiting for us at night, so now we have to work during the day as well," the officer said. "It is much more difficult because the enemy immediately sees movement and starts shelling."
A grueling counteroffensive: Ukraine’s highly anticipated counteroffensive has been underway for weeks, with fighting focused along the eastern and southern fronts. Kyiv launched the campaign in hopes of recapturing territory seized by Russia. But so far, any gains have been small and painfully fought for.
Now signs are growing thatUkrainian forceshave penetrated Russian defenses along partof the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region and are expanding a wedge toward the strategic town of Tokmak. As the officer outlined, any progress remains hard-earned.
CNN's Tim Lister,Josh Pennington,Olga VoitovychandAnna Chernova contributed reporting to this post.
The lack of aerial combat power is hurting Ukraine as it continues its counteroffensive to liberate its territories, but the deployment of F-16 fighter jets would "radically" change the situation, a Ukrainian official said Friday.
"There is no parity in the air. And this complicates many of the issues that exist at the front today.As soon as the F-16s appear and are used by our Armed Forces to the fullest extent possible, believe me, the situation will change radically before our eyes," said Oleksii Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, in an interview with Radio Liberty.
Norway, along with Denmark and the Netherlands, have pledged to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but they are unlikely to be in service with the Ukrainian Air Force until some time next year, according to US and NATO officials. The US announced Thursday that it will start trainingUkrainian pilots on the advanced aircraftin October.
At the moment, however, Ukraine continues its "complex operation" on the ground, maintaining its approach to keep casualties to a minimum, Danilov said.
"If anyone thought that it was a cakewalk and that we could achieve the goals we set for ourselves — the liberation of all our territories — very quickly, keep in mind that the enemy is powerful. The enemy has a certain system of defenses and protective structures that it has been able to build there," he added.