Vladimir Putin is facing a major military crisis after Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin declared war on Moscow’s own Defense Ministry.
A Report Published on Friday night, the FSB security agency said it had “legally and justifiably initiated criminal proceedings” against the Wagner Group fighter for “armed insurgent organization”.
Meanwhile, Prigozhin said he had withdrawn his forces from the Ukraine to Rostov, Russia, and declared, “If anyone gets in our way, we’ll destroy them all!” He vowed that.
POLITICO was unable to verify Wagner’s claim that troops had entered Rostov, and Prigozhin did not present evidence for his claim that massive troop movements were underway.
The feud between Prigozhin and Russia’s Defense Ministry has been brewing for months, but now appears to have boiled over.
What we know so far
- Russia’s FSB security agency said it had opened a criminal case against Prigozhin for “armed rebel organization”.
- Prigozhin said his troops had moved into the Russian city of Rostov and said, “If anyone gets in our way, we’ll destroy them all!” He vowed that.
- Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that Ukrainian forces were “taking advantage of Prigozhin’s provocation” on the front lines around Bagmut.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been briefed on the situation, Russian state media reported.
- Prigozhin’s move comes after he said 2,000 Wagner men were killed on the orders of Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
According to Russian state media, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was aware of the rapidly unfolding situation and “all necessary measures are being taken.”
“Prigozhin’s statements and actions are actually calls for the start of an armed civil conflict on Russia’s border and a ‘stab in the back’ to Russian soldiers,” officials said. was added.
This move comes after Prigogine Accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who hid “colossal” battlefield defeats from Putin, said 2,000 Wagner soldiers had been killed as a result of strikes ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry.
In response to Prigogine’s accusations, Moscow issued a strong denial and a parade of generals marched to urge the Wagner militia to stand down.
In a video appeal, Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseev, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, said Prigogine had no authority to issue orders. “This is a royal conspiracy,” he insisted, “come to your senses!”
Meanwhile, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Forces in Ukraine Sergey Surovykin – Known as “General Armageddon” – emphasized Wagner should retain its positions and not direct its own allies. “Halt the columns and divert them to permanent deployment points,” he pleaded.
Published by the Ministry of Defense of Russia Report Early on Saturday, Ukrainian forces warned that they were “taking advantage of Prigozhin’s provocation” on the front line around Bagmut, a key battleground town previously held by Wagner’s troops. Top officials in Moscow also said the 35th and 36th brigades of Ukraine’s Marine Corps were “in the starting line for offensive operations.”
Rolling the dice
Earlier on Friday, the Wagner Group founder questioned Moscow’s justification for invading Ukraine, saying that “Ukraine’s armed forces are not going to attack Russia with NATO” and that “a few scoundrels needed a war to win.” Show how strong an army they are.
In a bombshell video statement he called the Russian military leadership “evil” and vowed to march for “justice”, threatening anyone who stood in his way.
In a moment news Posted on his Telegram channel early Saturday morning, Prigozhin told Russia that “at the moment, we are entering Rostov,” adding that conscripts had been sent to withdraw the fighters of the Wagner group. However, he said the border guards welcomed his troops with open arms.
“If anyone gets in our way, we’ll destroy them all!” Prigozhin vowed.
Russian state media said Checkpoints are set up in Rostov-on-Don near Ukraine’s southern border. At the same time, the officials, who did not wish to be named, told the news agency Toss Security has been beefed up in Moscow with national security units was used keep calm Not verified videos The intention is to show armored vehicles parked on the streets of the capital.
Speaking to POLITICO, Colonel Philip Ingram, a former British military intelligence officer and former NATO planner, said it was “too early to tell” whether a coup was underway. “Obviously Moscow is concerned and has implemented a security plan — Prigozhin is trying to push one that focuses on Shoigu, but it could be a number of things.”
According to Ian Garner, a Russia expert and author of a new book on the fallout from the war in Ukraine, the Wagner leader has overplayed his hand. “Prygozhin rolled the dice and now the government is going to put him in a good position,” he said.
“I suspect Prigozhin’s chances of staging a successful coup are slim. The government can provide everything he does — money, freedom, prestige — without him. Why should Wagner fighters side with Prigozhin in a battle to the death?” Garner said.
Friday night’s chaos sounds the death knell for the Wagner Group, which an analyst says is active not only in Ukraine but also in Africa.
“Whatever it is, it’s definitely the removal of Wagner,” political analyst and founder of the R-Politics consulting firm Tatyana Stanovaya said on her Telegram channel.
“It’s Prigogine’s decision and Wagner’s decision. A critical moment: Many within the elite will say against Putin that things have come this far and the president didn’t respond soon enough. That’s why this whole story is a blow to Putin.
US National Security Council spokesman for Russia Adam Hodge said: “We are monitoring the situation and will consult with allies and partners on these developments.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin released a pre-recorded video of President Putin marking Youth Day.
This story is being updated.