Analysis & Comment

Friday Briefing: U.S. Believes Prigozhin Was Killed

‘It’s likely Prigozhin was killed,’ Pentagon says

U.S. and other Western officials said that preliminary intelligence reports led them to believe that an explosion on board a plane linked to the Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin likely brought down the aircraft on Wednesday, killing all the passengers aboard. The Pentagon openly said yesterday that “it’s likely Prigozhin was killed.”

U.S. and Western officials said the blast could have been caused by a bomb or other device planted on the aircraft, though other possibilities, like adulterated fuel, were also being explored.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, in his first comments since the jet went down, spoke obliquely of Prigozhin’s death, referring to him in the past tense during a televised meeting. “He made some serious mistakes in life, but he also achieved necessary results,” he said.

Background: Prigozhin founded and led the Wagner private military group, which made significant battlefield gains in Ukraine, before he staged a brief mutiny against Russia’s military leadership in June.

Analysis: Prigozhin’s presumed death is a reminder of all those who have paid a heavy price for standing up to Putin, and of how quickly people can fall from his favor.

Other developments in the war:

The U.S. plans to begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets as early as September.

Norway became the third NATO country, after the Netherlands and Denmark, to pledge to donate F-16s to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s defense ministry claimed that its special forces had staged a brief raid inside the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

Six countries will join the BRICS club

Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have been invited to join the BRICS club of emerging nations, strengthening its role as a geopolitical alternative to Western-led forums.

The inclusion of the staunchly anti-Western Iran tilts the bloc — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — more in opposition to the U.S. The move was also seen as a victory for China, which pushed back against the reservations of India and Brazil, which wanted to maintain friendly ties with the West.

When the six new countries join the bloc in January, it will have six democracies, two authoritarian states, two autocratic monarchies and a theocracy.

“The group is going down an uncharted path, with new actors that have varied interests,” said Manoj Kewalramani, a China studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution in India. “It’s going to become unwieldy and, dare I say, more ineffective.”

Here’s what else to know about BRICS’s new members.

What’s next for Thailand

Thailand’s neighbors and partners are watching with apprehension as Srettha Thavisin takes over as prime minister, leading a newly formed coalition government mostly made up of parties linked to the generals involved in the last military coup.

Many Thais who voted for change in elections three months ago are now asking why the future is looking so much like the past.

Countries like the U.S. have been largely silent about the process and appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach. But analysts warn that Srettha’s unwieldy coalition could lead to more instability.


Asia Pacific

Japan began releasing into the ocean treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. China responded by suspending seafood imports from Japan.

India’s groundbreaking moon landing was accomplished with a budget that was a fraction of NASA’s, delivering a potent message about resources and achievement.

North Korea launched a ​space vehicle carrying the country’s first ​military reconnaissance satellite, ​but failed to put it into orbit.

The former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in Australia was sentenced to 15 years in jail for sexually abusing two students more than a decade ago.

As a real estate crisis ripples through its economy, China is seeing the consequences of its failure to establish robust social assistance programs.

A dissident fled China on a Jet Ski-type vehicle to reach South Korea, according to a South Korean human rights activist.

U.S. News

Donald Trump was expected to turn himself in at a jail in Atlanta to be booked on 13 felony counts for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

The political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy stole the show during the Republican presidential debate, the first to be held ahead of the November 2024 election.

No candidate laid a meaningful blow against Trump, who did not take part in the debate, Nate Cohn, our chief political analyst, wrote.

Around the World

Angry Greeks accused the authorities of failing to safeguard Mount Parnitha, a protected wildlife area near Athens, from the wildfires that continued to burn.

Large areas of southern Europe baked under extreme temperatures, the latest in a string of heat waves that have sent residents and tourists scrambling for cool shelter.

Turkey’s central bank raised interest rates to 25 percent from 17.5 percent, in a bid to curb stubbornly high inflation.

Several colonies of emperor penguins in Antarctica very likely lost their chicks late last year because of disappearing sea ice, researchers said.

Shohei Ohtani, the superstar baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels, won’t pitch again this season because of a torn ligament in his elbow.

A Morning Read

Avi Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist at Harvard University, has been on a single-minded search for extraterrestrial life. His focus has made him famous, yet many in his own field consider him a pariah.

Loeb is far from alone in hypothesizing that we may not be alone in the universe, but what sets him apart is his view that aliens from other planets may have already made their way to us.

Lives lived: Warren Hoge, a Times foreign editor and assistant managing editor who also covered wars and world crises, died at 82.


Tiny forests, big benefits

Known as tiny forests, mini forests and pocket forests, native plants crowded onto postage-stamp-size plots have been delivering environmental benefits around the world. They trace their lineage to the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, who in 2006 won the Blue Planet Prize, considered the environmental equivalent of a Nobel award, for his method of creating fast-growing native forests.

Pocket forests can grow as quickly as 10 times the speed of conventional tree plantations, enabling them to support more birds, animals and insects, and to sequester more carbon. Their creators say they require no weeding or watering after the first three years. Perhaps more important for urban areas, tiny forests can help lower temperatures in places where pavement, buildings and concrete surfaces absorb and retain heat from the sun.


Prepare oatmeal in a skillet to make it creamier and more evenly cooked.

Watch “Before, Now & Then,” about a woman caught in the upheaval of 1960s Indonesia.

Read Angie Kim’s novel, “Happiness Falls.” When a father disappears, his family cracks open.

Plan a 36-hour trip to the cobblestone lanes of Cartagena, Colombia.

Play the Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Jonathan Wolfe will be here on Monday. See you next time. — Justin

You can reach us at [email protected].

Justin Porter is an editor on the Briefings newsletter team at The Times. More about Justin Porter

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