'Farewell ceremony' held for Wagner boss Prigozhin; UN says Ukrainian children showing learning loss

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on Aug.29, 2023.

A man lays flowers at the makeshift memorial in honor of Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently "not envisaged" to attend the funeral of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. The former ally-turned-traitor died in a plane crash on Wednesday.

The Vatican has meanwhile said Pope Francis did not intend to glorify Russian imperialism following backlash from a speech that the religious leader delivered on Friday. The Pope did not intend "to exalt imperialist logic," the Vatican said, after the spiritual leader told a group of Russian youths that they were "the heirs of the great mother Russia."

Heavy fighting continued in Ukraine's Kherson overnight, while Russian forces downed drones over the regions of Tula and Belgorod, according to official channels of each country.

Farewell ceremony held of Wagner's Yevgeny Prigozhin, spokespeople say

A member of private mercenary group Wagner pays tribute to Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin after their apparent deaths in a plane crash on Aug. 23, 2023.
Vladimir Nikolayev | Afp | Getty Images

A farewell ceremony for Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last Wednesday, was held behind closed doors Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

"Those who wish to bid their farewell" to the 62-year-old mercenary leader should go to the Porokhovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, his hometown, AP cited his spokespeople as saying in a statement on social media.

It wasn't clear from the statement if Prigozhin had already been buried or if it was yet to happen.

The Kremlin said earlier Tuesday that is was "not envisaged" that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend the funeral of his ally-turned-traitor.

— Karen Gilchrist

Three dead after FSB helicopter crash in Russia

Three people died after an FSB security services helicopter crashed in central Russia, regional officials said Tuesday.

"The Mi-8 helicopter crashed near Krasnoye Pole in the Chelyabinsk region," Governor Aleksei Teksler posted on Telegram. He did not disclose the cause of the incident.

There was no damage to people or buildings on the ground, he added.

— Karen Gilchrist

Ukrainian children are showing 'widespread learning loss,' UNICEF says

The language, reading and numeracy skills of children across Ukraine have deteriorated following Russia's full-scale invasion, the United Nations Children's Fund said Tuesday.

Up to 57% of teachers reported a drop in students' Ukrainian language abilities, up to 45% said mathematics skills had reduced and up to 52% said foreign language skills were down.

"Attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn," Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia said in a press release.

A pair of girl's shoes are seen among the rubble at Kurakhove Gymnasium School N2 damaged in a Russian rocket attack, Kurakhove, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine.
Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

"Not only has this left Ukraine's children struggling to progress in their education, but they are also struggling to retain what they learnt when their schools were fully functioning," she added.

Only one third of children enrolled in primary and secondary schools are learning entirely in person, with a third studying remotely and a third learning from a combination of the two formats.

Compounding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, children in Ukraine are now facing a fourth year of disrupted learning, UNICEF assessed.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Pope Francis did not intend to glorify Russian imperialism, Vatican says

Pope Francis had no intention of glorifying past Russian imperialism when he spoke to Russian youths last week, the Vatican said in a statement.

"The Pope intended to encourage young people to preserve and promote all that is positive in the great Russian cultural and spiritual heritage, and certainly not to exalt imperialist logic and government personalities," a Vatican spokesperson said in an address, Reuters reported.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church faced criticism after he told a group of young people to remember they are the heirs of past czars, some of whom President Vladimir Putin had referred to in his justification of the invasion of Ukraine.

Pope Francis in the Vatican on Aug. 25, 2023.
Tiziana Fabi | Afp | Getty Images

"You are heirs of the great Russia - the great Russia of the saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, the great Russian empire, cultured, so much culture, so much humanity. You are the heirs of the great mother Russia. Go forward," Pope Francis said in the speech Friday, as translated and transcribed by NewsFromUkraine.

"And thank you. Thank you for your way of being Russian," he added.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Kremlin 'welcomes' Pope Francis' comments on Russia's legacy, state media reports

The Kremlin "welcomes" Pope Francis' recent comments on Russia's legacy, spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in his daily update, as reported by state media agency Tass on Telegram and translated by Google.

"The Kremlin welcomes the words of the Pope of Rome about the legacy of great Russia, it is good that the pontiff knows Russian history," the post said.

The comments from Peskov come after the leader of the Roman Catholic church made controversial references to Russia's imperialist past during a speech to a group of young Russians Friday.

"You are heirs of the great Russia - the great Russia of the saints, of kings, the great Russia of Peter the Great, of Catherine II, the great Russian empire, cultured, so much culture, so much humanity ... Thank you for your way of being Russian," Pope Francis said in the speech Friday, as translated and transcribed by NewsFromUkraine.

The Vatican apologized Tuesday following the comments, saying the pope did not intend to glorify Russian imperialism.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Putin 'not envisaged' to attend Prigozhin's funeral, Kremlin says

A view of site after a private jet, allegedly carrying Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and other passengers crashed in Russia's northwestern Tver region, Russia on August 23, 2023.
Wagner Telegram Account | Handout | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently "not envisaged" to attend the funeral of former ally-turned-traitor Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The Moscow administration has no details regarding the funeral arrangements, Peskov added in Google-translated comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass on Telegram.

Russia says Prigozhin was killed in a fatal plane crash last week, on the two-month anniversary of the failed insurrection of his forces against Moscow.

Prigozhin's Wagner contingent fought on behalf of Russia on the Ukrainian frontline, as well as in Africa — before relations with Moscow's top brass soured. Prigozhin and Wagner were offered amnesty in exile following the short-lived rebellion, in a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia unlikely to meet military volunteer targets, despite increasing salaries, UK defense ministry says

Russia is "unlikely" to meet its targets for recruiting volunteers to its armed forces, according to Britain's Defense Ministry, despite salaries having increased since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Serving in Russia's armed forces has become increasingly lucrative as the country's war in Ukraine has continued, according to an update by the U.K. Defense Ministry.

On February 2022, President Vladimir Putin said that a serving lieutenant received 81,200 rubles ($850) each month. By October 2022 he announced that lower ranking, mobilized private soldiers would receive 195,000 rubles every month.

Now many junior soldiers are earning more than 200,000 rubles a month, which is more than 2.7 times the average Russian salary, the ministry of defense wrote.

It is "highly likely" that the salary and benefits are a "strong incentive" for people to join the Russian forces, the ministry said.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russian who worked at U.S. consulate accused of collecting information for U.S. diplomats

Russian domestic security agency FSB said Monday it detained a former U.S. consulate employee, accusing him of having collected information about Russia's actions in Ukraine for U.S. diplomats, as reported by Russian state media outlet Tass.

Robert Shonov, who previously worked at the U.S. consulate in the Russian city of Vladivostok, said he was approached by U.S. embassy employees seeking information about the war in Ukraine and the upcoming presidential election, the report said.

"I had to collect negative information about these events, find protest sentiment among the population and report those," Shonov said, according to Tass.

Shonov was first reported as having been arrested in May, but no additional details were provided. The U.S. embassy condemned the arrest at the time.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia downs Ukrainian drones over Tula and Belgorod, Kremlin says

Russian forces downed a series of drones over the regions of Tula and Belgorod overnight, according to a Google-translated post on the country's Ministry of Defense Telegram account.

The Ukrainian drones were "destroyed," according to the ministry. It made no reference to causalities or damage caused.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Ukraine is against further grain restrictions from neighbors, foreign minister says

Ukraine opposes any further restrictions on the import of its grain by neighboring countries, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday.

Kuleba said he was "adamantly against" extending the bans currently in place on a trip to Prague in the Czech Republic, as reported by Reuters.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a joint press conference with his Czech counterpart on Aug. 28, 2023 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Michal Cizek | Afp | Getty Images

Five European countries banned Ukrainian grain imports over the summer on concerns that the glut in produce unable to be exported would damage the livelihoods of their domestic farmers. The European Union allowed the move, but the current bans expire on Sept. 15.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Heavy fighting continues in Ukraine's Kherson; one person killed

Ukraine was struck by 61 attacks Monday, according to Ukrainian official Oleksandr Prokudin.

The bombardments comprised 275 shells from mortars, artillery, tanks, drones and aircraft, with much of the firepower targeted at residential areas in Kherson, Prokudin wrote on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

A kindergarten damaged by Russian shelling on Aug. 28, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine.
Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

One person died and another four were injured, he wrote.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

South Korea announces almost $400 million Ukraine aid package for 2024

South Korea announced it would be supplying Ukraine with a financial aid package worth 520 billion won ($394 million) for Ukraine next year, an increase of more than 800% on its assistance this year.

The package comprises 130 billion won for reconstruction, 260 billion for humanitarian aid and and 130 billion won through international organizations, according to South Korea's 2024 budget, as translated and reported by Reuters.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Putin expected to meet with Turkey's Erdogan soon, Kremlin says

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in October 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to hold in-person talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan soon, as Ankara seeks to mediate a return to the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow exited last month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday in a briefing with reporters that the time and location of the meeting is currently being finalized.

"We usually synchronize announcements of such visits with our partner countries. We will announce shortly when and where it will take place. The meeting is being prepared, and is being prepared very thoroughly," he said, in comments reported by Reuters.

— Karen Gilchrist

Speculation that Putin killed Prigozhin is an 'absolute lie,' Kremlin says

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that an investigation into Wednesday's plane crash that President Vladimir Putin said had killed Prigozhin was ongoing, according to a Reuters translation of a call with reporters.
Getty Images

The Kremlin on Friday rejected what it said was Western "speculation" that Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin had been killed on its orders, calling it an "absolute lie."

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that an investigation into Wednesday's plane crash that President Vladimir Putin said had killed Prigozhin was ongoing, according to a Reuters translation of a call with reporters.

Peskov added that it's impossible to say whether Putin would attend the funeral of Prigozhin, citing the president's "very full schedule."

— Karen Gilchrist

U.S. to train F-16 pilots in October, Pentagon says

F-16 fighter jet flying during a military parade in Warsaw.
Nurphoto | Getty Images

The United States will begin flight training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets in October, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The training is set to take place at the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, once the pilots receive English-language training.

Norway on Thursday said it would donate F-16s to Ukraine, becoming the third country, after Denmark and the Netherlands, to pledge to fulfill Kyiv's longstanding request for jets which it says will strengthen its air defenses against Russia.

— Karen Gilchrist