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Putin condemns Wagner mercenary group’s armed uprising as treachery, pledges to safeguard Russia

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Putin Vows to Defend Russia Against Mercenary Rebellion: The Threat to his Leadership

President Vladimir Putin made a solemn declaration on Saturday, vowing to protect Russia from an armed rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of a mercenary group. Prigozhin and his troops had crossed into a key city south of Moscow after leaving Ukraine. The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk province confirmed the entry of the Wagner mercenary group into the region and assured the public that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure their safety. This rebellion, which Putin described as a betrayal, posed the most significant threat to his leadership in over two decades.

It was reported that Prigozhin’s private army had taken control of the military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a city located 660 miles south of Moscow, which oversees Russian offensive operations in Ukraine. Putin denounced the uprising as an act of treason and vowed that those responsible would face severe consequences. He assured the armed forces and other government agencies that they had received the necessary orders to deal with the situation.

Prigozhin, on the other hand, proclaimed himself a patriot and declared that his fighters would not surrender. He expressed his opposition to the presence of corruption, deceit, and bureaucracy in the country. Prigozhin denied the accusation of betraying the motherland and stated that he and his forces were patriots of their homeland. He dismissed the idea of turning themselves in, reiterating his determination to fight against anyone who obstructed their path.

The Wagner mercenary group, led by Prigozhin, had been involved in the conflict in Ukraine, fighting alongside Russian troops. While their exact motives remained unclear, the rebellion marked an escalation in Prigozhin’s ongoing struggle with Russian military leaders, whom he accused of mishandling the war in Ukraine and impeding his forces on the ground. Prigozhin claimed that the uprising was not a military coup but a march for justice.

 

Prigozhin’s Armed Uprising: A Challenge to Putin’s Authority and Russia’s Future

Videos posted on social media showed Prigozhin at the Russian military headquarters in Rostov, proclaiming control over the airfield and other military facilities in the city. He asserted that his forces faced no resistance from young conscripts as they entered Russia, emphasizing that they were not fighting against children but were prepared to eliminate anyone who stood in their way.

Putin condemned the rebellion at a time when Russia faced significant challenges from Western governments, including sanctions and support for Ukraine. He described the situation as Russia’s toughest battle for its future, with the entire military, economic, and information machinery of the West seemingly against them. Russia’s security services called for Prigozhin’s arrest after his armed rebellion was declared. The Kremlin responded by tightening security at crucial facilities and implementing anti-terror measures in various regions.

The circumstances surrounding Prigozhin’s entry into the southern Russian city and the size of his forces remained unclear. Prigozhin claimed that his objective was to hold Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accountable for the attack on Wagner field camps in Ukraine by Russian government forces. He accused the military leadership of treachery and claimed to have 25,000 troops under his command.

Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef” due to his ties to the Russian leader, gained notoriety in the United States for his involvement in a covert social media campaign aimed at sowing discord ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He formed the Wagner mercenary group, which deployed military contractors to various conflict zones, including Libya, Syria, several African countries, and eventually Ukraine.

In response to Putin’s address, officials and state media personalities publicly expressed their allegiance to the Kremlin and urged Prigozhin to reconsider his actions. The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament called for unity and support for Putin, emphasizing the need for Wagner fighters to stand on the side of the law and protect the security and future of the country.

Although the outcome of the confrontation remained uncertain, it had the potential to impede Moscow’s war efforts as Ukrainian forces were probing Russian defenses in a counteroffensive. The outcome of this dispute, particularly if Prigozhin were to prevail, could have far-reaching consequences for Putin’s ability to maintain a united front and hold onto power.

The Wagner forces had played a significant role in Ukraine, notably capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut, where the bloodiest battles occurred. However, Prigozhin increasingly criticized Russia’s military leadership, accusing them of incompetence and neglecting his troops’ needs for weapons and ammunition.

The presence of heavy military trucks, armored vehicles, and armed soldiers in central Moscow indicated heightened security measures. Despite this, bars and restaurants in downtown areas remained bustling with customers, and people even danced in the streets near the headquarters of the FSB.

Prigozhin’s feud with the Defense Ministry, which spanned several years, led him to refuse to sign contracts with the ministry. He claimed that a rocket strike had been carried out on their rear camps, resulting in the loss of many comrades, while the Defense Ministry denied responsibility for the attack. Prigozhin called for an end to what he deemed the evil embodied by the military leadership.

The deputy commander of the Russian group of forces fighting in Ukraine urged the Wagner forces not to take any action against the army, warning that it would play into the hands of Russia’s enemies who sought to exploit the domestic political situation.

Experts from the Institute for the Study of War in Washington warned that the violent overthrow of Putin loyalists like Shoigu and Gerasimov would irreparably damage the stability of Putin’s hold on power. The White House’s National Security Council expressed its intention to monitor the situation and consult with allies and partners regarding the developments.