In a dramatic turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his determination to defend the country against an armed rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. The chief of the notorious private military contractor, Wagner. Putin referred to the rebellion as a “stab in the back” to Russia and promised that all those involved would face severe consequences. The President made these remarks during a televised address to the nation on Saturday.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of Wagner, confirmed reports that he and his troops had successfully crossed the border from Ukraine and reached a key Russian city. Prigozhin posted a video of himself at the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. Claiming that his forces had gained control over military facilities in the city, including the airfield. Videos circulating on social media also showed tanks and military vehicles on the streets of Rostov-on-Don.
Putin, who characterized the armed rebellion as a grave threat to Russia during a critical time when the nation is engaged in a fierce battle in Ukraine, expressed his condemnation. He noted that Russia was facing immense pressure from the combined military, economic, and information machinery of the West. In response to the armed rebellion, the Russian security services have called for Prigozhin’s arrest. The Kremlin, taking the threat seriously, declared a “counterterrorist regime” in Moscow and its surrounding areas. Leading to heightened security measures and restricted freedoms in the capital.
Prigozhin’s Allegations of Attacks and Intention to Challenge Shoigu
The circumstances surrounding Prigozhin’s entry into Rostov-on-Don and the exact number of troops he commands remain unclear. Prigozhin alleged that Wagner’s field camps in Ukraine were subjected to heavy attacks. Including rocket fire, helicopter gunships, and artillery strikes, allegedly ordered by General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, following a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Rostov-on-Don. He also claimed that his forces had shot down a Russian military helicopter targeting a civilian convoy. Although these claims have not been independently verified.
Prigozhin boasted of commanding approximately 25,000 troops and expressed his intention to challenge Defence Minister Shoigu in an armed rebellion. He called it a “march of justice” and urged the army not to resist their advance. The outcome of this confrontation remains uncertain, but if Prigozhin were to prevail, it could have significant implications for Putin’s leadership and his ability to maintain unity within the country.
Wagner’s forces have played a pivotal role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, successfully capturing Bakhmut, the site of the bloodiest and longest battles. However, Prigozhin has grown increasingly critical of Russia’s military leadership. Accusing them of incompetence and neglecting his troops’ needs for weapons and ammunition.
As tensions escalate and Kyiv’s forces mount a counteroffensive against Russian defences, the ongoing dispute, particularly if Prigozhin’s rebellion gains ground, is likely to hamper Moscow’s war effort and potentially impact Putin’s ability to maintain a cohesive front. The situation is rapidly unfolding, and further developments are awaited with bated breath on the domestic and international fronts.