Russian Mercenary Group Launches Mutiny Against Putin & Russian Government

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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address on the occasion of Youth Day in Moscow, Russia, in this picture released June 24, 2023. © Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via Reuters

Russian President Putin Addresses Nation as Crisis Unfolds

MOSCOW – In a shocking turn of events, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a prominent Russian mercenary chief, has declared his takeover of the city of Rostov-on-Don, sparking an armed mutiny aimed at toppling the military leadership. The situation, which bears similarities to President Vladimir Putin’s previous full-scale invasion of Ukraine, poses a significant domestic crisis for Russia. This article combines the details from two separate reports to provide a comprehensive overview of the unfolding events.

Prigozhin, known for leading the Wagner private militia, has accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov of catastrophic leadership during the war in Ukraine. He demanded their presence in Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border, where he claims to have amassed 25,000 fighters to “restore justice.” Alleging that the military killed numerous Wagner fighters in an airstrike, Prigozhin vowed to seek justice and warned against resistance.

Reports suggest that Wagner fighters under Prigozhin’s command have also taken control of military facilities in Voronezh, a city south of Moscow. While these claims are yet to be independently verified, they highlight the extent of the mutiny’s reach. Prigozhin’s accusations against Shoigu and Gerasimov have been ongoing, accusing them of incompetence and withholding support for Wagner during their operations in Ukraine.

Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves a cemetery before the funeral of a Russian military blogger who was killed in a bomb attack in a St Petersburg cafe, in Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2023. REUTERS/Yulia Morozova/File Photo

Wagner Fighters Seize Military Facilities, Putin Vows to Crush Rebellion

Russian authorities responded swiftly to the mutiny, with the FSB opening a criminal case against Prigozhin for armed mutiny and labeling his actions as a potential catalyst for an armed civil conflict. The Kremlin’s spokesperson emphasized that all main security services were reporting to President Putin around the clock. In Moscow, security measures were heightened, and U.S. President Joe Biden received a briefing on the situation.

Prigozhin’s animosity towards the defense ministry escalated when he accused the military’s top brass of concocting lies to justify Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. He criticized their handling of the conflict, suggesting it was motivated by personal gain and ambition. Prigozhin’s forces claimed control over Rostov-on-Don, expressing readiness to confront the military leadership and threatened to block the city before advancing towards Moscow.

Armoured vehicles are seen on a street in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

Prigozhin denied allegations of attempting a military coup and clarified that his fighters had retreated from Ukraine to Rostov-on-Don. A video circulated on a pro-Wagner Telegram channel, showing Prigozhin conversing with two generals at the headquarters of the Southern Military District, demanding the presence of the chief of the general staff and Defense Minister Shoigu. Army Lieutenant-General Vladimir Alekseyev and Army General Sergei Surovikin issued appeals, urging Prigozhin to respect the authority of the president and cease his actions.

An unverified video emerged, claiming to show the aftermath of an airstrike against Wagner forces, alleging that it was carried out by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Defense Ministry, however, denied these allegations, stating that they were false and unfounded.

Wagner fighters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, which Wagner boss Yevgeny Progozhin says his forces now control. REUTERS

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The situation in Rostov-on-Don, orchestrated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, presents a significant challenge to President Putin’s leadership and marks a major domestic crisis. While the full extent and accuracy of the events remain uncertain, the mutiny underscores the deep divisions within Russia’s military establishment and raises concerns about the potential for further internal conflict. – Reuters