Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group in Russia, has declared his determination to oust the country’s military leadership, shortly after the Kremlin accused him of “armed rebellion.”
Prigozhin stated that his Wagner fighters had crossed the Ukrainian border into Russia and entered the city of Rostov-on-Don, where they planned to eliminate anyone who impeded their progress.
In response, the local governor urged citizens to remain calm and stay indoors.
Prigozhin alleged that his forces had successfully downed a Russian military helicopter that had opened fire on a civilian convoy.
However, he did not provide specific details regarding the incident, and the claim could not be immediately verified.
The Wagner Group is a private army of mercenaries that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian forces in Ukraine. Recent months have witnessed escalating tensions between the Wagner Group and Russia’s military leadership, with Prigozhin openly criticizing their strategies.
On Friday, Prigozhin, aged 62, accused the military of launching a fatal missile strike against his troops and pledged to exact revenge, although he did not offer any evidence to support his claim.
The authorities denied carrying out the strike and demanded that he cease his “illegal actions.”
Prigozhin characterized Russia’s military leadership as “evil” and emphasized the need to bring them to justice.
In an audio message posted on Telegram, he declared that those responsible for the deaths of his troops and numerous Russian soldiers in the Ukraine conflict would face punishment.
He urged people not to resist, warning that anyone who did so would be considered a threat and dealt with accordingly. He emphasized that the actions of the Wagner Group did not interfere with the regular troops.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia is receiving constant updates on the situation, according to his spokesperson.
Security measures were heightened in Moscow on Friday night, particularly around key locations such as government buildings and transportation facilities.
The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk region also advised residents against traveling south.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence stated that it was closely monitoring the situation, while the White House pledged to remain informed and consult with its allies.
General Sergei Surovikin, the deputy head of Russian forces in Ukraine, whom Prigozhin had previously praised, appealed to him to halt the convoys and return them to their bases, emphasizing their shared identity as warriors.
Another high-ranking commander, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev, condemned Prigozhin’s actions as a betrayal of the country and the president.
According to Russian state media, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has initiated a criminal case against Prigozhin, accusing him of inciting armed rebellion and attempting to instigate civil conflict within Russia.
The FSB has reportedly called on Wagner fighters to disobey his orders and take measures to apprehend him.
The Russian Ministry of Defence issued a statement dismissing Prigozhin’s claims of Russian strikes on Wagner camps as false and provocative information.
This latest development follows Prigozhin’s video message in May, where he berated Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov for failing to provide sufficient ammunition to his troops.
Prigozhin asserted that the war in Ukraine was orchestrated to facilitate Shoigu’s ascent to the position of Marshal. He accused the Ministry of Defence of deceiving the public and the president by promoting a false narrative of Ukrainian aggression and a planned attack by Ukraine and NATO.