Lukashenko deal is a short-term fix, not a stable solution

Following the Wagner Group's short rebellion on June 23, financier Yevgeny Prigozhin met with Belarusian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko to negotiate a deal in which he escapes criminal charges and mercenary soldiers must sign contracts with the Russian defense ministry. б

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its June 24 report that this agreement is a short-term fix that "exposed severe weaknesses in the Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defense."

"Suggestions that Prigozhin’s rebellion, the Kremlin’s response, and Lukashenko’s mediation were all staged by the Kremlin are absurd," the ISW wrote.

"Wagner’s drive also showcased the degradation of Russia’s military reserves, which are almost entirely committed to fighting in Ukraine, as well as the dangers of reliance on inexperienced conscripts to defend Russia’s borders," the ISW added.

Russia now faces deep instability, and the Lukashenko-brokered deal does not fix the core of the problem, which is that there are deep internal security weaknesses "likely due to surprise and the impact of heavy losses in Ukraine."

Russian shellуd Nikopo, 1 person  killed

Russian shelling killed a 71-year-old man in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, on June 24, Chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council Mykola Lukashuk reported.

The shelling damaged private residential buildings, a farm, a gas pipeline, and power lines were destroyed, Lukashuk wrote.

The Russian army has constantly shelled Nikopol, home to over 115,000 residents.

The city sits across the Dnipro River from the Russian-controlled Enerhodar in neighboring Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Europe's most giant nuclear power plant, located in Enerhodar, has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4, 2022.

Nikopol lies on the bank of the Kakhovka Reservoir, which has dried up after Russian forces destroyed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant's dam on June 6.

The dam breach has resulted in a large-scale environmental and humanitarian disaster in southern Ukraine and caused water supply issues in Crimea and four Ukrainian oblasts, including Dnipropetrovsk.

Russian forces hit Kherson Oblast with 500-kilogram guided bombs

Russian forces attacked southern Kherson Oblast with KAB-500 guided munition over the past day, Ukraine’s military Southern Command reported on June 25.

The attack with at least two 500-kilogram bombs targeted the villages of Kozatske and Vesele on the west bank of the Dnipro River, just north of the destroyed Kakhovka Dam.

According to the report, Russian attacks destroyed one house while damaging several others.

Russia's KAB “smart” bombs, ranging from KAB-250 and KAB-500 to KAB-1500, can be laser-guided or satellite-guided. The KAB-500L, equipped with a high-explosive warhead, is frequently used in Russia's war against Ukraine, although multiple KAB bombs have been used. No casualties were reported in the June 25 attack.

However, the military reported that Russian artillery fire killed one civilian and injured two others in the region.

Kherson Oblast Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported on June 25 that a 44-year-old man was killed as one of the Russian artillery rounds exploded just inside the living room. Russian forces shelled Kherson Oblast and the Dnipro-Buh Estuary waterfront 64 times over the past day, the Southern Command reported.

Dnipro River returns to its banks after flooding caused by Kakhovka Dam explosion

The Dnipro River in Kherson has returned to its banks after the flooding caused by the June 6 Kakhovka Dam explosion, the Environment Ministry reported on June 25.

The water level decreased by 4 centimeters, resulting in a total drop of 5.35 meters since Russian forces' destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station, located about 60 km upstream from Kherson.

The shallowing of the water continues in the Great Meadow (Velykyi Luh) National Nature Park, which may result in a drought. The ministry said the protected area of 13 islands in the northeastern Kakhovka Reservoir had been completely drained.

According to the report, the water level has decreased by approximately 13 meters in the Kamianska Sich National Park.

Russia's destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on June 6 triggered one of the largest man-made environmental disasters in Ukraine's history. The southern Kherson Oblast has suffered catastrophic floods and a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ruslan Strilets, said on June 21 that the Kakhovka dam explosion and flooding had already caused more than $1.5 billion worth of damage to Ukraine.

Over a million people in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast's Nikopol and Kryvyi Rih districts could face water shortages. As a result, Mykola Lukashuk, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk's regional council, said on June 14.

Russia reportedly killed two Ukrainian teenagers in occupied Berdiansk, Ukraine launches investigation

Russian-controlled proxies said Russian troops killed two teenagers in occupied Berdiansk. Ukraine is attempting to confirm this information.

On the evening of June 24, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian proxy in Russian-held territories of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said that a small arms fire could be heard in the southern part of the city. A day later, Rogov said the Russian troops killed “two pro-Ukrainian terrorists,” naming one of them as 16-year-old Tihran Ohannisian. He did not name the other victim.

Russian troops killed two 16-year-olds, Tihran Ohannisian, and Mykyta Khanhanov, in a shootout in the occupied southeastern city of Berdiansk, Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on June 25. His office later informed the Kyiv Independent that they are trying to confirm the information spread by Russian-controlled proxies concerning the killings.

Lubinets attached Ohannisian’s self-filmed video with a rifle in his hand, where he is saying, “(The plan is to kill) two (people) for certain. That’s it. It’s death, guys. Goodbye! Glory to Ukraine!”

Much remains unclear about the killing of two teenagers as it happened in Russian-occupied territory. According to the Ombudsman's office, Russian proxies have long persecuted the two boys and their families.

In September 2022, Russian troops abducted Ohannisian for five days, beating and torturing him to elicit a confession that he was preparing to sabotage a railway to disrupt the Russian military’s logistics. The proxies also suspected Khanhanov, but the boy managed to avoid an arrest.

On May 24, 2023, Russia's Investigative Committee charged the minors for allegedly planning sabotage, in which they would have to face up to 20 years of imprisonment. The European Parliament reacted by adopting a resolution on the case calling Russia to “end grave violations against children affected by armed conflict.”

The Parliament proposed to transfer the teenagers to Ukrainian-held territory, and Ukraine tried “different ways to bring the boys home,” according to Ombudsman Lubinets.

“The whole world must understand that human rights are violated every day in the occupied territories,” Lubinets said. “And until Ukraine returns its territories, it will continue and continue!”

Olha Reshetylova, who leads the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), a human rights organization that has been in touch with the families of the two teenagers since last fall, said that the relatives have not seen the bodies yet. According to Reshetylova, Ohannisian talked with his mother half an hour before Russian forces called her to inform the death of her son.

In the conversation, the boy told his mother that he was talking with his classmate Khanhanov about how they will celebrate Khanhanov’s 17th birthday on June 25, according to Reshetylova. The activist said that Ukrainian law enforcement has begun criminal proceedings following the alleged murder of the children.