Situation is very fluid and uncertain, with a lot of disinformation. We will provide updates as facts are verified.
In a dramatic turn of events, head of the Russian mercenary Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin has launched a coup against the Kremlin, Russian media reports on late Friday confirm.
Prigozhin, a one-time Putin confidant, claimed the backing of 25,000 fighters as he moved his battle-hardened forces away from the Ukrainian front line and into Russia. Prigozhin-led Wagner mercenary forces have taken control of the army headquarters in southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, news reports suggest.
Yevgeny Prigozhin speaking once again from the Southern Military District Headquarters in the City of Rostov-on-Don, stating that Wagner has Occupied all of the Military Installations across the City including the Airfield to insure that the Russian Air Force is Attacking the… pic.twitter.com/S3krmZqEg6
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) June 24, 2023
Some “Wagner units are moving north through Voronezh Oblast, almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow,” The Irish Times newspaper reported citing British intelligence.
Prigozhin also made a similar claim. “Right now we have crossed all the border points,” The Wagner chief declared as he entered into Russian territory on Friday. “Now we are entering Rostov. (…) “If anyone gets in our way, we will destroy everything … We extend our hand to everyone. We move forward, we are going all the way,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports on social media show Russian armed forces hitting advancing Wagner Group columns with artillery and air strikes.
The M-4 "Don" is a major expressway that links Moscow, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don. This is the major l route, I presume, by which Prigozhin’s forces will attempt to move on Moscow, if they are strong enough. This morning a Wagner convoy was attacked on the M-4. pic.twitter.com/wDLRy3IO8H
— Mike (@Doranimated) June 24, 2023
Putin address nation, vows to quell “mutiny”
Earlier on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation, denouncing the “mutiny” and vowing to put down the revolt.
In a recorded address, Vladimir Putin says the Wagner group rebellion is a 'criminal adventuristic campaign' and ‘equivalent to armed mutiny.’
Looks like there really is a rebellion within Russia against Putin. #RussiaIsCollapsing #Prigozhin #Wagner pic.twitter.com/9TKPUTQo9A
— Paul Golding (@GoldingBF) June 24, 2023
The FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, accusing him of leading an “armed rebellion” inside Russia. “A criminal case over charges of organization of armed mutiny was initiated against Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin after his Telegram channel published his claims that the Russian Defense Ministry hit PMC units with airstrikes and his calls for supporters to rise against the national government,” the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.
The Armed Forces of russian federation launched a missile strike at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the Rostov Region. Previously, it was captured by the Wagner PMC.#Prigozhin #RussiaIsCollapsing pic.twitter.com/NwX9zctJbU
— Ukraine Front Lines (@EuromaidanPR) June 24, 2023
Kadyrov’s Chechen fighters to take on Wagner Group
The Kremlin appears to have tasked Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechen fighters to quell the rebellion. “According to Kadyrov, Chechen members of the Defense Ministry and the National Guard have already headed out to the regions where tensions are high,” Russian state-own broadcaster RT reported.
🚨COUP UPDATES: Putin Reportedly Leaves Moscow | Machine Gun Positions Around Moscow | Wagner Convoy Heads to Moscow
As the coup continues, here's the latest updates from our various sources live on the ongoing Twitter Space:
– Worries of the Russian Nuclear Warheads moved to… pic.twitter.com/kOI0r1LLFF
— Mario Nawfal (@MarioNawfal) June 24, 2023
Ukraine steps up counteroffensive
With Russia in disarray, Ukrainian armed forces stepped up their counteroffensive on Saturday. “Taking advantage of Prigozhin’s provocation to disrupt the situation, the Kiev regime is concentrating units of the 35th and the 36th marine brigades of the AFU in Bakhmut tactical direction at the initial line for offensive actions,” Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in statement on Telegram.
Update: Wagner troops halt march on Moscow
According to reports on Saturday afternoon, Prigozhin ordered his mercenary troops to stop their advance on Moscow. “The head of the Wagner force said Saturday he has ordered his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow and retreat to their field camps in Ukraine to avoid shedding Russian blood,” the Associated Press reported.
UPDATE: Prigozhin to Belarus?
Is it over?
BREAKING: The criminal case against Prigozhin will be dropped and he will move to Belarus, Kremlin says – TASS
— Faytuks News Δ (@Faytuks) June 24, 2023
NY Times reports:
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters that under an agreement brokered by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, Mr. Prigozhin would go to Belarus and the criminal case opened against him for organizing an armed insurrection would be dropped.
The Wagner fighters who didn’t participate in the uprising would be given the option of signing Russian Defense Ministry contracts, Mr. Peskov said, and the rest would avoid prosecution, considering their “heroic deeds on the front.”
“There was a higher goal — to avoid bloodshed, to avoid an internal confrontation, to avoid clashes with unpredictable consequences,” Mr. Peskov said. “It was in the name of these goals that Lukashenko’s mediation efforts were realized, and President Putin made the corresponding decisions.”
In an audio statement earlier in the evening, Mr. Prigozhin announced that his troops marching toward Moscow would turn around. His forces, which had seized the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, also appeared to be leaving in footage shared on social media.
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