Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has declared war on the Russian Ministry Defense and said he would march on Moscow in what appears to be a coup attempt. After footage showed Wagner troops occupying the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, a column of Wagner armored vehicles was hit by airstrikes as it pushed deeper into Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the dramatic rebellion with a nationwide televised speech, where Putin appeared livid.
“The actions that split our unity are, in fact, apostasy from our people, from our comrades-in-arms who are now fighting at the front, this is a stab in the back to our country and our people,” said Putin, adding that Wagner troops were betraying the country.
“We will protect our people and our statehood from any threats, including internal betrayal. And what we are facing is betrayal. Exorbitant ambitions and personal interests led to treason. The betrayal of our country, our people, and the task, for which, side by side with our other units and subunits, the fighters and commanders of the Wagner group fought and died, the heroes who liberated Soledar and Artyomovsk (Bakhmut), cities and towns of the Donbass, fought and gave their lives for Novorossiya and the unity of the Russian world. Their name and glory were also betrayed by those who are trying to organize a rebellion, pushing the country toward anarchy and fratricide.”
Putin also vowed to “punish” anyone involved in the rebellion, saying, “All those who deliberately embarked on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, embarked on the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment, will answer both to the law and to our people.”
Although events are fast-moving, Wagner appears to have already forced the surrender of numerous Russian units close to Rostov-on-Don, but Wagner units have reportedly also run into airstrikes as the fighters advance towards Moscow.
Maps of the regions Wagner occupies and its potential path toward Moscow have been posted online, although it is unclear how far Wagner has advanced. Authorities in Moscow are reportedly putting up barricades and taking down Wagner recruitment posters.
As Remix News has reported in the past, Prigozhin and the Russian Ministry of Defense have been locked in a vicious feud for months, with Prigozhin claiming the generals running Russia’s armed forces and the country’s political class are cowards and incompetent. He has also claimed the Russian military is restricting ammunition and supplies to Wagner forces and conducting the entire war in a manner that is killing tens of thousands of Russians.
However, Prigozhin is reported to have begun his coup attempt after Russian missiles struck the Wagner base camp, killing an “enormous” amount of Wagner soldiers.
“We have come here, and we want to get Chief of the General Staff (Valery Gerasimov) and (Russian Defense Minister Sergei) Shoigu. Until they are here, we are staying here, blocking Rostov and going to Moscow,” said Prigozhin in a video recorded from inside Rostov-on-Don.
During his address, he said that Wagner is not interfering with Russian military operations in Ukraine but is taking control of air bases to ensure jets are not used against his own forces.
“We are in the (Southern Military District) headquarters. It’s 7:30 a.m. (0430GMT). Rostov’s military sites are under control (by Wagner fighters), including the air base. Jets that leave for combat, depart in normal mode, there are no problems. Medical flights are departing, there are no problems. Everything we do is to take control so that fighter jets do not strike us, but strike Ukrainians.”
Photos posted to Telegram allegedly show dozens of Russian soldiers surrendering to Wagner forces; however, it is not possible to verify their authenticity. Media reports indicate that an anti-terrorist operation was introduced in the Voronezh region.
According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense: “We are addressing the fighters of the ‘Wagner assault squads.’ They tricked you into Prigozhin’s adventure and participation in the armed rebellion. Many of your comrades from several detachments realized the mistake and asked for help to return to their permanent deployment points. Such help from our side has already been provided to those who turned, fighters and commanders. Please be reasonable and contact the representatives of the Ministry of Defense or the security forces as soon as possible. Everyone will be guaranteed safety.”