Putin says Wagner chief’s attempted coup a “stab in the back” amid Ukraine war

The attempted insurrection by the chief of the Wagner private military company, Evgeny Prigozhin, amounts to a betrayal of Russia and its people, President Vladimir Putin of Russia said in an address to the nation on Saturday. He has vowed that the country’s law enforcement agencies will take decisive actions to restore order.

In a televised speech, Putin appealed to Russian service members and those “who have been drawn into this criminal gamble by deceit or threats,” without naming Prigozhin in particular.

He noted that Moscow is engaged in a historic struggle to safeguard its future while “repelling aggression from neo-Nazis and their masters” in the West.

“We are fighting for the lives and safety of our people, for our sovereignty and independence. For the right to be and remain Russia,” the president said, urging fellow citizens to join forces and put aside all the divisions that could be exploited by foreign adversaries.

“That’s why the actions that split our unity are, in fact, apostasy of our people, of our comrades-in-arms… This is a stab in the back to our country and our people,” he added.

Against this backdrop, Russia’s Armed Forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders, Putin said, also pointing out that antiterrorist measures have been introduced in Moscow, Moscow Region, and a number of other areas.

He also noted that “decisive actions will be taken to stabilize the situation in Rostov-on-Don,” in southern Russia. Earlier in the day, several media outlets shared clips of tanks moving around the city, with unidentified soldiers patrolling the streets.

The Russian president also urged those being drawn into the insurrection to “make the only right choice and stop taking part in criminal actions.”

On Friday, Prigozhin accused the Russian Defense Ministry of launching a deadly missile strike on a Wagner Group camp, vowing retaliation. The ministry, however, dismissed the allegation, describing it as “an information provocation.”

The Russian authorities later stated that they had opened a criminal investigation into the Wagner chief for allegedly calling for an armed rebellion.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has also urged Wagner Group private military company soldiers to cease their armed insurrection, urging them to return to their bases.

In a statement on Saturday, the ministry claimed that members of the PMC “have been tricked into taking part in [Wagner group chief Evgeny] Prigozhin’s criminal gamble,” adding that some Wagner fighters “have already understood their mistake” and have asked the authorities for help in safely returning to their permanent deployment areas.

“This assistance has already been provided to those soldiers and commanders who sought it,” the ministry stated, asking Wagner members to “show prudence and get in touch with representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry of law enforcement agencies as soon as possible.”

“We guarantee everyone’s safety,” the statement said.

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