While the general public’s attention has been captured all week by the disappearance and implosion of a private ocean submersible filled with billionaires, significant developments in the Russia-Ukraine war have unfolded.
These developments include a surprise financial aid award from the Department of Defense, an internal civil war developing within the Russian military, led by prominent warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, and an announcement by JP Morgan and Blackrock of a “Ukraine Development Fund.”
Early last week, the Pentagon revealed an accounting error that resulted in an additional $6.2 billion being freed up for assistance to Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russian advances.
In a separate incident, Russia is grappling with a massive internal military conflict. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the private military company Wagner and a former close ally of Russia President Vladimir Putin, turned against the Kremlin. Prigozhin publicly blames the Russian government for a deadly missile attack on one of Wagner’s training camps in Bakhmut, Ukraine, and he has vowed retribution.
President Putin addressed the nation in an early morning televised speech, denouncing Prigozhin’s advances as “treason” and vowing not to back down, warning of the risk of civil war and saying he will crush the mutiny by the man who started out at Putin’s chef.
The situation rapidly escalated into armed confrontations, with Wagner’s forces seizing control of a military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, and capturing facilities further north in Voronezh, located in southwestern Russia, according to the Times of London.
Prigozhin’s rebel army, estimated to consist of 25,000 fighters, is reportedly marching toward Moscow, aiming to overthrow Russia’s military leadership.
The exact arrival time of the Wagner forces in Moscow remains uncertain, with estimates ranging from four to 20 hours. Recent sightings of Wagner forces near the region of Lipetsk suggest that the rebel army is rapidly approaching the capital, according to international media outlets. Unconfirmed reports said Wagner’s fighters have passed through Lipetsk, just 300 miles from Moscow. Readers are reminded that all of the reporting on war in real time is unreliable and subject to disinformation.
Two more developments in the tension include a report that a Russian spy plane, an IL-18, was shot down by anti-aircraft forces belonging to the Wagner group. The Times of London reports that Putin may have flown out of Moscow with two private jets: “There is confusion about Putin’s whereabouts after reports that two of his private jets took off today.”
FlightRadar24, a website that tracks aircraft movement, reports that GNSS jamming is strong in and around Moscow and St Petersburg. This occurs when a radio signal is deployed that makes GPS devices unable to determine the position of an aircraft.
If there’s war, then there’s money to be made. In the financial world, Financial Times reported on June 19 that BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase are working with the Ukrainian government on a reconstruction bank that would to “steer public seed capital into rebuilding projects that can attract hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment. The Ukraine Development Fund remains in the planning stages and is not expected to fully launch until the end of hostilities with Russia. But investors will have a preview this week at a London conference co-hosted by the British and Ukrainian governments.”
But with Putin’s government and war effort in turmoil, it appears the investment opportunity, which will no doubt include taxpayer funds.
“The World Bank estimated in March that Ukraine would need $411bn to rebuild after the war, and recent Russian attacks have driven that figure higher. The Kyiv government engaged BlackRock’s consulting arm in November to determine how best to attract that kind of capital, and then added JPMorgan in February. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced last month that the country was working with the two financial groups and consultants at McKinsey. No formal fundraising target has been set but people familiar with the discussions say the fund is seeking to raise low-cost capital from governments, donors and international financial institutions and leverage it to attract between five and 10 times as much private investment,” Financial Times reported last week.