Thursday, June 20, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 486: Wagner head orders his fighters to return to their field camps to avoid bloodshed

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Prigozhin orders his fighters to turn back from Moscow to avoid bloodshed

Wagner boss Prigozhin said he has ordered his fighters, who had been advancing on Moscow, to turn around and return to their bases in order to avoid bloodshed.

Prigozhin added his fighters had advanced 200 km (124 miles) towards Moscow in the last 24 hours.

Putin likely ‘very scared’ of mutiny and ‘hiding’: Zelensky

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is likely “very scared” and hiding someplace as rebel mercenaries advance on Moscow.

“The man from the Kremlin is obviously very scared and is probably hiding somewhere,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation, adding that Putin has “created this threat himself.”

Lukashenko, in agreement with Putin, held talks with Wagner head: Minsk

The office of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko just announced that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted a proposal to “stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company on the territory of Russia and take further steps to de-escalate tensions,” the president’s office said, with similar reporting in Russian news outlets.

The statement added that Vladimir Putin briefed Lukashenko in the morning and, with his approval, Lukashenko held negotiating talks with Prigozhin.

“Negotiations continued throughout the day. As a result, they came to agreements on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloody massacre on the territory of Russia,” the statement read.

Wagner nor Prigozhin has not commented on the negotiations.

5,000 men are in Wagner convoy approaching Moscow

A convoy of mutinous Wagner fighters approaching the outskirts of Moscow by road contains about 5,000 men led by senior Wagner commander Dmitry Utkin, a source close to the leadership in the Russian-held part of Ukraine’s Donetsk province said on Saturday.

The source, who has proved reliable in the past, added Wagner chief Dmitry Prigozhin had fewer than 25,000 men at his disposal in total, and that around 5,000 of them were in Rostov-on-Don, the southern city key to Russia’s war in Ukraine that Prigozhin said he had taken control of.

The source stated Wagner’s plan for Moscow was to take up positions in a densely built-up area.

Biden speaks with leaders of France, Germany and UK

US president Joe Biden has spoken with the leaders of France, Germany and the UK on Saturday as mutinous Russian mercenaries barrelled towards Moscow after seizing the southern city of Rostov overnight.

“President Biden spoke today with president Emmanuel Macron of France, chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, and prime minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom. The leaders discussed the situation in Russia. They also affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine,” a White House readout said.

Ukraine tells US its counteroffensive ‘going according to plan’

Kyiv’s military commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny has told the US chairman of the joint chiefs General Mark Milley that Ukraine’s counteroffensive against invading Russian troops “was going according to plan”.

“We discussed in detail the situation along the entire frontline,” Zaluzhny posted on official social media on Saturday.

“I told him about the offensive and offensive actions of our units. I informed him that the operation is going in accordance with the plan,” he continued.

“I also told him about the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in certain types of weapons and demining assets,” he added.

Ukraine claims to have reclaimed territory from Russia prior to Wagner rebellion

Ukraine claims it has taken back territory in the east that was held by Russia since it annexed Crimea in 2014.

According to military officials in Tavria in southeastern Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have captured “territories near Krasnohorivka in Donetsk” and are continuing to advance, state media Ukrinform reports.

Another Ukrainian official claimed that Russian forces had been pushed out of the area about a week ago, but the information was not made public for “tactical reasons.”

Ukrainian forces claim to have taken the area prior to the Wagner insurrection but only announced it Saturday

Russian Foreign Ministry warns West against taking advantage of Wagner’s rebellion

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned Western countries against using Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion to achieve what it called “Russophobic goals.”

“Such attempts are futile and will not find a response either in Russia or among sensible political forces abroad,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It added the insurrection “prompts sharp rejection in the Russian society” and claimed that it “plays into the hands of Russia’s external enemies.”

“The adventuristic aspirations of the conspirators, in fact, are aimed at destabilizing the situation in Russia, destroying our unity, and undermining the efforts of the Russian Federation aimed at ensuring reliable international security,” the statement read.

“We are convinced that in the near future the situation will find a solution worthy of the age-old wisdom of the Russian people and the Russian State,” it continued.

US and Western officials caught off guard by escalation with Wagner chief: Sources

United States and Western officials are being careful not to weigh in on the events unfolding in Russia because of how Russian President Vladimir Putin could weaponize any perceived involvement by the West in the escalating crisis, sources familiar with US President Joe Biden administration’s thinking told CNN.

Officials across the administration convened emergency meetings on Friday night to assess the events, which unfolded so quickly that they caught US and European officials off guard, the sources said.

While tensions have been steadily rising over the last few months between Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russia’s Ministry of Defense, US and European intelligence officials did not predict that Prigozhin would move to storm the Rostov region with his forces, sources familiar with the intelligence told CNN.

“It’s so hard to tell how much was talk and how much was real,” said one of the sources, adding, “The tension had been building for so long without anything actually happening.”

A European intelligence official told CNN that the “temperature had obviously been building,” but few could have predicted what Prigozhin was planning.

The official added the West will be watching how this plays out over the next 24 to 48 hours, after which supply shortages will likely start kicking in for Wagner forces.

It is not clear to US or European officials how far in advance Prigozhin was planning the attack.

One source familiar with Western intelligence stated it appeared that it must have taken at least several days to organize; another source, however, noted that Rostov is very close to the front lines in Ukraine, so it may not have required much forethought

Authorities in Kaluga region south of Moscow introduce travel restrictions

Russian authorities in the Kaluga region south of Moscow have introduced travel restrictions as Wagner mercenary units marched on the capital to remove the country’s military leadership.

“Please refrain from travelling by private vehicle on these roads unless absolutely necessary,” Governor Vladislav Shapsha said in a statement on social media on Saturday, referring to transport arteries between his region and several others, including those bordering Ukraine.

Medvedev warns of catastrophe if nuclear weapons fall into wrong hands

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said the whole world will be on the brink of catastrophe if Russian nuclear weapons fall into the hands of ‘bandits’.

“The history of mankind hasn’t yet seen the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons under control by bandits,” Medvedev stated, noting, “Such a crisis will not be limited by just one country’s borders, the world will be put on the brink of destruction.”

He stressed: “We won’t allow such a turn of events.”

Medvedev added that Russia will not allow the Wagner mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin to turn into a coup or a global crisis.

Medvedev earlier called on Russians to rally around President Vladimir Putin amid a mutiny by the Wagner Group.

Moscow mayor urges people to stay home

The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, has said in a statement that Moscow residents should refrain from trips around the city as far as possible given a counter-terrorism operation has been declared and said the situation was “difficult”, Reuters reports.

Sobyanin also added in the statement, released on Telegram, that Monday would be a “non-working day” in order “to minimise risks”.

The Moscow region has also suspended mass events outdoors and at educational institutions until 1 July, authorities have announced.

Wagner mercenaries enters Lipetsk province: Russian governor

The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk province says the Wagner mercenary group has entered the region.

The Lipetsk region is about 360 kilometers (225 miles) south of Moscow and much closer to the capital than Rostov-on-Don, where Wagner forces appeared during the night.

Authorities “are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population. The situation is under control,” governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram. He did not give details about the Wagner presence.

Authorities in the area, which is in Russia’s south-west earlier urged residents to stay at home on Saturday after the Wagner mercenary group vowed to take up arms to topple the country’s military leadership.

Wagner forces are already in control of Rostov after an overnight rebellion. It appears they have now travelled around 500 miles north as they barrel towards Moscow.

Reuters journalists earlier saw troop carriers and a flatbed truck carrying a tank careening past the city of Voronezh more than half way to Moscow, where a helicopter fired on them. But there were no reports of the rebels meeting any substantial resistance on the highway.

US secretary of state calls G7 allies about Russia situation

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the “ongoing situation in Russia” on a call with his G7 and European Union counterparts, according to a brief statement released Saturday.

The foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, plus the EU’s top diplomat, participated in the call.

A State Department spokesperson said that Blinken “reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change” and that the US “will stay in close coordination with Allies and partners as the situation continues to develop.”

Head of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service denounces “attempted armed rebellion”

Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), condemned what he described as an “attempted armed rebellion” in Russia.

Naryshkin stated the rebellion is a crime “that cannot be justified by any prior achievements.”

“At the moment, it is clear that the attempt to rock society, awaken the darkest aspirations in it, kindle the fire of a fratricidal civil war, has failed,” Naryshkin said in a statement on Telegram.

“The Russians have demonstrated civic maturity, the ability to distinguish truth from lies,” he added.

Naryshkin, who is also chairman of the Russian Historical Society, said the society “calls on fellow citizens to unite around the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – the guarantor of the Constitution, rights and freedoms – and to support our Army, which, no matter what, holds back the onslaught of the enemy.”

Pro-war nationalists in Russia say will publish action plan to protect country

Pro-war Russian nationalists led by a former FSB security service officer say they will soon publish a plan of action to respond to an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

The Russian nationalist group, known as the “Club of Angry Patriots”, announced in a statement that a civil war could lead to a humiliating military defeat for the Russian army in Ukraine and warned that Russia was on the brink of catastrophe.

Wagner chief says his forces gained control of Russian military headquarters in Rostov “without firing a shot”

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed Saturday that Wagner private military contractors entered the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and took control of the Southern Military Headquarters without opening fire.

“Without firing a shot, we captured the headquarters building. We have not interfered with the work of a single person,” Prigozhin said in Telegram post.

“Why does the country support us? Because we went with a march of justice. We were attacked from the beginning by artillery and then by helicopters, and we passed without a single shot. We did not touch a single conscript. We didn’t kill a single person along the way,” Prigozhin added.

However, Russian state media reports that several gunshots and an explosion were heard outside the headquarters of the Southern Military District.

Vladimir Rogov, a senior Russian-appointed official in occupied Ukraine, said on Telegram: “The sounds of explosions and shooting at the headquarters of the Southern Military District, most likely, were either a firecracker or an explosive package, they (Wagner) blew it up to scare civilians away from the cordon zone.”

Rogov stated Wagner detachments had demanded civilians move 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) away from the cordoned-off headquarters.

Rogov also added that in Rostov, the first detachments of Chechen special forces had been seen, “which were transferred to suppress the rebellion.”

There is no independent confirmation that Chechen units have arrived in Rostov.

Putin working in the Kremlin as mutiny ongoing: Spokesman

President Vladimir Putin is working as normal in the Kremlin, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, after Wagner units claimed to have captured military installations in southern Russia.

The Russian president earlier accused Wagner of treason in a national televised address, after the paramilitary fighters crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia, entering the city of Rostov-on-Don.

Wagner uprising marks beginning of civil war in Russia: Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky aide claims Ukrainian counteroffensive intensified internal divisions between Moscow and paramilitaries.

Glued to their mobile phones, millions of Ukrainians spent a sleepless night on Friday, after the head of the Wagner mercenary group declared war against his rivals in the Russian military, sparking unprecedented political turmoil in Moscow.

“Events are developing according to the scenario we talked about all last year,’’ said Mykhailo Podolyak, a key adviser to President Zelensky.

“The start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive finally destabilised the Russian elites, intensifying the internal split that arose after the defeat in Ukraine. Today we are actually witnessing the beginning of a civil war,’’ he added.

Authorities in Russia’s Lipetsk region tell people to stay at home

Authorities in Russia’s Lipetsk region asked people to stay inside their homes for security reasons.

They issued the warning amid reports that mutinous Wagner mercenaries were transiting the region en route to Moscow.

Russian-backed leaders in occupied Ukraine voice support for Putin

The Moscow-installed leaders in four Ukrainian regions that Russia claimed to have annexed reiterated their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday as he faces opposition from Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“The only true solution to achieve our victory is to consolidate around the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,” Denis Pushilin, the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said in a statement on Telegram.

The heads of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, expressed similar support for Putin.

Pushilin said this “difficult stage for Russia” was “particularly painful” for him, given Wagner’s role in capturing “Artemivsk,” the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine.

“Wagner’s guys sometimes did the impossible,” Pushilin added.

But, he stated, “confrontations of any kind, both before and now, will never be able to lead to the achievement of our goals.”

The Russian-backed leaders in occupied the Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions reassured their followers on Telegram that the situation in their regions remains “stable.”

Moscow river navigation temporarily suspended

Navigation on the Moskva River, which runs through the Russian capital Moscow, has been temporarily suspended, the state-owned TASS news agency reported, citing the authorities.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin stated in a separate statement that no restrictions had been put in place for cars and lorries coming in and out of the city, but said security checks had been stepped up.

Ukraine calls on international community to “abandon false neutrality” to “put an end to evil of Putin’s regime”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister has called on the international community to “abandon false neutrality” and give his country the weapons it needs to “put an end to the evil” of Putin’s regime.

Posting on Twitter, Dmytro Kuleba said: “Those who said Russia was too strong to lose: look now.

“Time to abandon false neutrality and fear of escalation; give Ukraine all the needed weapons; forget about friendship or business with Russia. Time to put an end to the evil everyone despised but was too afraid to tear down,” he added.

Witness: Wagner military column passes Voronezh

A Wagner mercenary military column of vehicles drove past the Russian city of Voronezh on Saturday afternoon, a Reuters witness said.

One of the vehicles was a flatbed truck carrying a tank.

Governor Alexander Gusev had previously informed residents via Telegram that the army was taking “necessary military measures in the region” as part of a counter-terrorist operation in the area.

Zelensky says “no lie can hide” Russia’s “full-scale weakness” amid mutiny

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated “no lie can hide” Russia’s chaos and said the armed mutiny showed “full-scale weakness” in the country.

Posting on Twitter, Zelenskyy said: “Everyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself. Who sends columns of troops to destroy the lives of another country and cannot stop them from fleeing and betraying when life resists.

“Who terrorizes with missiles, and when they are shot down, humiliates himself to receive Shahed drones. Who despises people and throws hundreds of thousands into the war, in order to eventually barricade himself in the Moscow region from those whom he himself armed,” he stated.

“For a long time, Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it. And all this is one person, who again and again scares by the year 1917, although he is able to result in nothing else but this,” he continued.

“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later. It is also obvious. Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos. We keep our resilience, unity and strength,” Zelensky added

“All our commanders, all our soldiers know what to do. Glory to Ukraine!” the president continued.

Fuel tank at oil depot on fire in Russia’s Voronezh region: Governor

Emergency services are working to put out a fuel tank fire at an oil depot in Voronezh, the regional governor has said.

Alexander Gusev wrote on Telegram: “More than 100 firefighters and 30 pieces of equipment are working at the site.” He added that there were no currently no reported casualties.

Mr Gusev had previously informed residents that the army was taking “necessary military measures in the region” as part of a counter-terrorist operation in the area.

Reuters cited a Russian security source as saying on Saturday that Wagner fighters had taken control of all military facilities in the city of Voronezh, located approximately 500km from Moscow.

UK PM says he will be speaking to allies about armed rebellion by Wagner Group

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he will be speaking to allies about the armed rebellion by the Wagner Group in Russia as he urged all parties involved to protect civilian lives.

The Prime Minister told the BBC: “We’re keeping a close eye on the situation as it’s evolving on the ground as we speak.

“We’re in touch with our allies and, in fact, I’ll be speaking to some of them later today,” he continued, adding, “But the most important thing I’d say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians, and that’s about as much as I can say at this moment.”

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence: Actions of Wagner group in Russia are a “continuation of intra-Russian conflicts”

In a comment to Ukraine’s state news agency Suspilne, the spokesman of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, Andriy Yusov said that the actions of the Wagner group in Russia are a “continuation of intra-Russian conflicts” that are a consequence of the military aggression of the Russian authorities against Ukraine.

“This is a sign of the collapse of the ruling regime, and such processes will intensify’’, he added.

President of council of European Union: European and G7 leaders in touch over unfolding crisis in Russia

European and G7 leaders are in touch over the unfolding crisis in Russia, the president of the council of the European Union has said.

In a tweet Charles Michel said they were “closely monitoring” the situation this morning.

“Closely monitoring the situation in Russia as it unfolds. In touch with European leaders and G7 partners. This is clearly an internal Russian issue. Our support for Ukraine and [President Volodymyr Zelensky] is unwavering,” he added.

Prigozhin directly speaks out against “deeply mistaken” Putin for first time

Commenting on President Vladimir Putin’s televised address, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group, in an audio note said that the president “was deeply mistaken” in calling him a traitor.

“No one is going to turn themselves in at the request of the president…We don’t want the country to continue to live in corruption and lies,” he added.

“We are patriots, and those who are against us are the ones who gathered around the bastards,” Prigozhin concluded

The audio message marks the first time that Prigozhin has directly spoken out against the Russian president.

NATO ‘monitoring situation’ in Russia

NATO is “monitoring the situation” in Russia, a spokeswoman for the transatlantic military alliance said via email on Saturday.

The spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, had no further comment.

Italian PM says Wagner rebellion shows Russian invasion of Ukraine is backfiring against Putin

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Saturday that the rebellion by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is backfiring against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meloni’s office announced that she “is following closely the events unfolding in Russia, which show how its aggression against Ukraine is causing instability within the Russian Federation.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman calls on Russians to rally around Putin

The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a call for unity in Russia in order to prevent the potential threat of “civil strife.”

“We have one commander in chief [Vladimir Putin]. Not two, not three. One. And he urged everyone to unite,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Telegram post, echoing sentiments expressed by other government officials.

“The enemy is just waiting for our civil strife,” she added.

Zakharova urged the men of Russia to unite despite their differing views. “Behind you are children, women, your parents! Behind you is the country. Behind you is everything that you defend with weapons in your hands. Behind you are the graves of those who did not spare themselves. You are future generations. Hold on and don’t give in.”

Zakharova concluded her message by urging Russians to stand strong.

“Today we are all being tempted, our strength tested. Don’t give in! Together with the President! May God keep us!” she added.

Her words of defiance come as Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed Saturday to have seized control of key military facilities in Rostov and Voronezh, pledging to move on to Moscow if Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and top general Valery Gerasimov did not meet with him.

Voronezh governor: Russia’s army taking “necessary military measures” in region

The governor of Russia’s Voronezh region said on Saturday that the army was taking “necessary military measures” in the region as part of a counter-terrorist operation declared after an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

Earlier on Saturday, a Russian security source told Reuters that Wagner fighters had taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500 km (310 miles) south of Moscow.

Wagner forces ‘ready to die’ in uprising: Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin said the members of his Wagner group, who have launched an armed rebellion, were “ready to die”, in a message posted to Telegram on Saturday morning.

In a string of audio messages, the leader of the mercenary fighters vowed to topple Russia’s military leadership.

“All of us are ready to die. All 25,000, and then another 25,000,” he stated, adding, “We are dying for the Russian people.”

“We are saving Russia,” he continued.

France and Germany monitoring situation in Russia closely: Governments

French President Emmanuel Macron is following the situation in Russia closely, the presidential palace has announced.

The Elysee said: “We stay focused on the support to Ukraine.”

The German government has also noted that it is “monitoring events in Russia closely”, according to a spokesman from the government press office.

Russian state now facing greatest challenge of recent times: UK

Britain’s defence ministry announced that the Russian state was facing its greatest security challenge of recent times, following what it said appeared to be a move by Wagner Group forces towards Moscow.

“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” Britain’s defence ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

Putin says those on a path of treason or preparing armed rebellion will be punished

Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed to Wagner forces in an address Saturday.

“I appeal to those pushed into the provocation of a military rebellion,” he said, adding that at this time, “we require unity, consolidation, and responsibility.”

“Those who carry deliberately on a path of treason, preparing an armed rebellion when you were preparing terrorist attacks, will be punished,” Putin continued.

The Russian President stated, “any internal turmoil is a deadly threat to our statehood for us as a nation; it is a blow to Russia for our people and our actions to protect our homeland. Such a threat will face a severe response.”

“The situation in Rostov-on-Don remains difficult during the armed uprising,” Putin said, adding, “In Rostov, the work of civil and military administration is basically blocked.”

He stated that Wagner’s “betrayal” and “any actions that fracture our unity,” are “a stab in the back of our country and our people.”

“What we are facing is precisely betrayal. Excessive ambition and vested interests have led to treason. Betrayal of one’s country, one’s people, and the cause for which the soldiers and commanders of the Wagner group had fought and died, side by side with our other units,” Putin added.

Putin called Wagner actions “internal treachery,” saying that “all kinds of political adventurers and foreign forces, who divided the country and tore it apart, profited from their own interests. We will not let this happen again. We will protect both our people and our statehood from any threats, including internal treachery.”

Moscow declares counterterrorism state of emergency

The authorities in Moscow and the surrounding area say they have declared a counterterrorism state of emergency against the background of the armed uprising by Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“In order to prevent possible terrorist attacks in the city and Moscow region, a regime of counterterrorism operations has been established,” Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee said.

Security has been tightened in Moscow.

The counterterrorism state of emergency allows the Russian authorities to increase controls and facilitate the arrest of citizens. Telephone calls can also be tapped more frequently.

Wagner claims it has taken control of military facilities in Voronezh

The Wagner paramilitary group claimed Saturday it had taken control of Russian military facilities in the Russian city of Voronezh.

“Military facilities in Voronezh are taken under the control of the Wagner PMC. The army switches to the side of the people,” read a short statement from Wagner’s Telegram channel.

Earlier on Saturday, Wager chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said he was at the military headquarters in Rostov and that the local airfield was under his force’s control.

Russian security forces have cordoned off Wagner Center in St. Petersburg

Russian security forces have cordoned off the building of the Wagner Center in St. Petersburg, according to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

Videos circulating on Telegram channels of the Wagner group show security personnel at the headquarters in St. Petersburg and a cordon around the building.

Russia warns Wagner fighters against taking part in ‘armed coup’

The Russian Ministry of Defense has 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.

Prigozhin says Rostov military headquarters and airfield are under Wagner control

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his forces have control of military facilities in Rostov-on-Don and control of the airfield there.

“We are at headquarters at 7:30 a.m. Military facilities in Rostov, including the airfield are under [our] control,” Prigozhin said in a video posted on the Wagner official Telegram channel.

“Planes that leave for combat work leave as usual no problems. Medical flights are leaving as usual. All we did was to take control so that the attack aviation would not strike us but strike in the Ukrainian direction,” he added

Prigozhin stated he is in Rostov-on-Don and his men are not stopping the officers from carrying out their duties.

“The main headquarters, the main control point is working as normal, there are no problems. No officers have been cut off,” Prigozhin continued.

Putin to give televised address soon

Russian President Vladimir Putin will give a televised address soon, the TASS news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

Earlier, the Kremlin announced Putin was being given regular updates on the unfolding tensions between the mercenary group Wagner and the defence ministry.

“Security services, law enforcement agencies, namely the defence ministry, the FSB, the interior ministry, the national guard are reporting to the president constantly, around the clock,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

Prigozhin demands military chiefs come to him

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has demanded Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general Valery Gerasimov come to meet him in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

In a video posted on social media, Prigozhin said he was now at the headquarters of the Southern Military District, which is in Rostov-on-Don.

“We have arrived here, we want to receive the chief of the general staff and Shoigu,” Prigozhin continued, adding, “Unless they come, we’ll be here, we’ll blockade the city of Rostov and head for Moscow.”

Prigozhin says Russian military are joining Wagner as they greet their convoy

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that Russian Guards and military police are joining the Wagner group.

In an audio recording from Prigozhin Saturday, he claimed that, “Where soldiers meet us, the Russian Guards and military police, they wave their hands cheerfully.”

The Wagner chief claimed in the recording that between 60 and 70 soldiers from the Russian military have joined Wagner forces.

“Many of them are saying: “We want to join you.” Already 60 to 70 people have joined us, although we have gone a little way yet. I think half of the army is ready to join us,” he added

Prigozhin says inside Russian army HQ in Rostov-on-Don

Wagner chief Prigozhin has claimed to be inside the Russian army headquarters in Russia’s southern Rostov-on-Don city and that his fighters were in control of the city’s military sites.

“We are inside the (army) headquarters, it is 7:30 am (04:30 GMT),” Prigozhin said in a video on Telegram.

“Military sites in Rostov, including an aerodrome, are under control,” the Wagner chief added.

Prigozhin says his units were hit by a helicopter on a highway

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday his units were hit by a helicopter on a highway and threatened to “destroy everything” in his way, in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel.

It’s unclear exactly where the units were.

“One of the assault squads came under fire from the helicopters. The Wagner units are intact, the helicopter is destroyed and is burning in the forest,” Prigozhin stated, adding “we will take it as a threat and destroy everything around us.”

Prigozhin also said his units are “ready to die.”

“Because we are dying for the Russian people, that must be liberated from those people who are striking at the civilian population, which they just hit in Rostov from helicopters,” he added.

This comes as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said Saturday in a Telegram post that “in connection with the incoming information, antiterrorist measures are being taken in Moscow aimed at strengthening security measures.”

“Additional control on the roads has been introduced. Limitations on holding the public events are possible,” Sobyanin added.

Moscow mayor says “anti-terrorist measures” are being carried out in city

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin stated that “anti-terrorist measures” are being carried out in the city as a result of “incoming information,” according to an update on his Telegram group.

“In connection with the incoming information, antiterrorist measures are being taken in Moscow aimed at strengthening security measures,” Sobyanin said.

The measures include “additional control on the roads” and “limitations on holding public events.”

At least 2 dead in Kyiv attack: Ukrainian military official

At least two people were killed and eight others injured when debris hit a tall building in Kyiv’s central Solomyanskyi district, a Ukrainian military official said.

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv region military administration, stated that the debris hit a 24-story building. Previously, the Kyiv mayor reported it was 16 stories.

“Clarification of information regarding the consequences of debris hitting a 24-story building in the Solomyanskyi district. At the moment, two dead have been identified. Injured — eight people. Two were hospitalized, the rest received medical assistance on the spot. About 40 cars parked in the parking lot were damaged,” Popko said on Telegram Saturday.

The Kyiv city military administration says air defense systems destroyed more than 20 missiles in airspace around Kyiv overnight.

Rostov region governor asks residents to stay calm

Rostov region Governor Vasily Golubev asked residents to stay calm and to not leave their homes.

“Dear fellow countrymen! The current situation requires a maximum concentration of all efforts to maintain order. Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of the region’s residents. I ask everyone to stay calm and do not leave your homes unless it is necessary,” Golubev said in a Telegram post Saturday.

The warnings come after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin stated his fighters were entering the Russian Rostov region, which neighbors Ukraine. Prigozhin earlier vowed retaliation after accusing Russia’s defense ministry of killing a “huge amount” of his mercenaries in a strike on a camp.

Videos posted to social media purport to show military helicopters flying over the Russian city of Rostov and a number of armored vehicles on city streets on Saturday morning.

Prigozhin claims a helicopter fired at civilians and was downed by his forces

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military group Wagner, said a helicopter fired at a civilian column and was downed by his forces.

Prigozhin did not give any further details. The claim is one of many accusations made by the Wagner boss.

The mercenary group leader, who was accused Friday by Moscow of calling for “armed rebellion,” said earlier that his forces were entering the Rostov region, which is close to the Ukraine border.

Explosions reported in Kyiv: Mayor

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were explosions early Saturday in Kyiv’s central Solomyanskyi district.

“In Solomyanskyi district, fragments of a rocket hit the upper floors of a 16-story building. There is smoke on the upper floors. One victim was treated at the scene, another was hospitalized. There is no fire in the building. Rescue services are working at the scene,” Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

The Kyiv City Military Administration wrote on Telegram that air sirens had been sounded.

Prigozhin accuses Russia’s military chief of ordering aircraft to fire “in middle of civilian cars”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military group Wagner, accused the Russian military’s chief of staff Valery Gerasimov of ordering an aerial attack “in the middle of civilian cars.”

“The Chief of the General Staff has just given the order to raise the planes and open fire on the columns that are moving among civilian vehicles and trucks,” Prigozhin said.

“He doesn’t care who he kills. They have been killing their civilians for a year and a half instead of fighting the enemy,” he added.

Prigozhin praised the Russian pilots for “refusing to carry out these criminal orders.”

Wagner chief says his fighters are entering Rostov region

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military group Wagner, said his fighters are entering the Russian Rostov region, which neighbors Ukraine.

“Now we are entering Rostov. The units of the Ministry of Defense, or rather the conscripts, who were thrown to block our road, stepped aside,” Prigozhin stated, adding that at the moment his units “have crossed the state border in all places.”

“The border guards came out to meet and hugged our fighters,” he continued.

Prigozhin also accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov of “making a decision to destroy the disobedient units (of Wagner PMC) that are ready to protect their Motherland.”

Prigozhin warned against anyone obstructing him: “We will destroy everything that gets in our way,” he stated.

The Wagner chief’s statement comes as Russian state media TASS reported a stepped-up police presence in Rostov late Friday.

Russia’s defense ministry accuses Kyiv of taking advantage of Prigozhin’s “provocation”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said early Saturday that Kyiv is concentrating several brigades for an offensive in the Bakhmut direction, taking advantage of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “provocation.”

“Taking advantage of Prigozhin’s provocation to disrupt the situation, the Kyiv regime is concentrating units of the 35th Marine Brigade and the 36th Mechanised Brigade of the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) in Bakhmut tactical direction at the initial line for offensive actions,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

Russia announced its forces are fighting back.

“The servicemen of the Yug Group of Forces are defeating the enemy with air and artillery strikes,” it added.

Security measures have been stepped up in Moscow

Security measures have been stepped up in Moscow on Friday following explosive comments from Wagner private military leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to Russian state media TASS.

“Security measures have been strengthened in Moscow, all the most important facilities, state authorities and transport infrastructure facilities have been taken under increased protection,” Russia’s law enforcement agencies told TASS.

According to law enforcement, the Special Purpose Police Unit and Special Rapid Response Unit of the Russian Guard were raised on alarm as well, TASS reported.

Russia’s FSB announced it was investigating Prigozhin for “armed rebellion” after he vowed retaliation after accusing the Russian military of bombing his mercenary camp.

Russian security service urges Wagner fighters to ignore Prigozhin’s orders and detain him

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) urged Wagner Group fighters not to follow their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s orders and also implored fighters to take measures to detain him, according to a Friday statement from the group.

“We call on the PMC fighters not to make irreparable mistakes, to stop any forceful actions against the Russian people, not to carry out Prigozhin’s criminal and treacherous orders, and to take measures to detain him,” said the statement from the public relations center of the FSB.

“Prigozhin’s statements and actions are in fact calls for the start of an armed civil conflict on the territory of the Russian Federation and are a stab in the back of Russian servicemen fighting pro-fascist Ukrainian forces,” the FSB statement added.

The agency reiterated that the widespread statements about the strikes of the Russian defense ministry on Wagner PMC “do not correspond to reality and are a provocation.”

“Due to the seriousness of the situation and the threat of an escalation of the confrontation in the Russian Federation, the FSB initiated a criminal case on the fact of a call for an armed rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin,” the statement added.

“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation reports that all the information disseminated on social networks on behalf of Evgeny Prigozhin about the missile and bomb attacks allegedly inflicted by the Russian Defense Ministry on the rear units of the Wagner PMC is untrue and is an informational provocation,” it noted.

“The Russian Armed Forces continue to carry out combat missions on the line of contact with the armed forces of Ukraine in the area of the Special Military Operation,” it said.

“Prigozhin’s statements are in fact calls for the start of an armed civil conflict on the territory of the Russian Federation, and his actions are a ‘stab in the back’ to Russian servicemen fighting pro-fascist Ukrainian forces,” it added.

“Due to the seriousness of the situation and the threat of an escalation of confrontation in our country, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case on the fact of Evgeny Prigozhin’s call for an armed coup,” the statement read.

“We call on the PMC fighters not to make irreparable mistakes, to stop any forceful actions against the Russian people, not to carry out the criminal and treacherous orders of Prigozhin, and to take measures to detain him.” it continued.

US officials say they’re closely watching Russian situation following Wagner chief’s comments

The White House is “monitoring the situation” in Russia following threats from Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against Russia’s military leadership, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

President Joe Biden has also been briefed on the developing situation in Russia, National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said.

“We are monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments,” Hodge said in a statement.

Officials view Prigozhin’s latest comments — in which he called Russia’s military leadership “evil” and said they “must be stopped” — as something more than his usual rhetoric, a US official told CNN. And unlike some of Prigozhin’s previous statements about Russian defense ministry ineptitude, these comments do not appear to have followed a Ukrainian military breakthrough or tactical success.

“This is real,” said the official, though it’s unclear if the US has any expectations about how or what Prigozhin intends following his calls for Russian citizens to stay in their homes.

Two administration officials stated national security officials at the White House are being cautious not to weigh in further until they have a clearer sense of what is happening.

Russian military vehicles driving near State Duma

Several social media accounts appeared to show Russian military vehicles driving on the main streets of Moscow in the early hours of Saturday. One video from a local Russian website showed two vehicles driving by Moscow’s State Duma.

In the Russian city of Rostov near southeast Ukraine, military vehicles could also be seen driving the streets.

According to Russian state media TASS, posts were organized on Saturday in the area of ​​the headquarters of the Southern Military District (SMD) in Rostov where military personnel and law enforcement officers are keeping order, a TASS correspondent reported.

There was an armored personnel carrier, military posts, police cars and uniformed people adjacent to the headquarters, according to TASS.

Police were patrolling the central streets with “flashing beacons on” and “in the west of Rostov, the sounds of flying aircraft are heard,” TASS reported.

It’s not terribly unusual for military vehicles to be seen in Rostov. In Moscow, there is not a massive presence, but a few vehicles can be seen here and there.

Prigozhin’s actions will be given proper assessment in criminal case: Prosecutor’s office

The actions of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group leader, “will be given a proper legal assessment in the framework of the criminal case,” the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation said, according to state media RIA Novosti.

On Friday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, after he vowed to retaliate after accusing Moscow’s military leadership of killing a “huge amount” of its mercenaries in a strike on a camp.

Russia’s defense ministry denied Prigozhin’s claim.

“On June 23, 2023, the Investigative Department of the FSB of Russia lawfully and justifiably instituted criminal proceedings against E.V. Prigozhin under Article 279 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for organizing an armed insurrection,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“There will be an appropriate legal assessment of his actions. This crime is punishable by imprisonment for 12 to 20 years,” it added.

“We are watching”: Ukraine’s defense ministry tweets in response to Russian infighting

Ukraine’s defense ministry reacted to the frenzy on Friday surrounding Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and the infighting in Russia.

“We are watching,” a concise tweet from the ministry, written in English, read.

Russia investigating Wagner chief over call for “armed rebellion” and Putin is aware of situation

President Vladimir Putin is aware “of the situation unfolding around Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Russian state media TASS said Friday, referring to the leader of the Wagner Group.

He is also aware that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) initiated a criminal case accusing the mercenary force’s chief of calling for “armed rebellion” on Friday, TASS reported.

According to TASS, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the allegations spread by Prigozhin “have no basis.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Putin is aware of the situation and “all necessary measures are being taken,” according to state media RIA Novosti.

Prigozhin on Friday accused Russian military leadership of striking a Wagner military camp and killing a “huge amount” of his mercenary forces. Prigozhin claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense tricked Wagner and he vowed to “respond to these atrocities.”

Prigozhin and Wagner have played a prominent role in the Ukraine war, and the leader has repeatedly and publicly feuded with Russia’s defense heads over what he said was a lack of ammunition, at one point recording a video of him lashing out while standing in front of what he claimed were dead bodies of his fighters.

Wagner chief accuses Russian military leadership of killing “huge amount” of his fighters in strike on camp

The chief of the Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Friday accused Russian military leadership of striking a Wagner military camp and killing a “huge amount” of his mercenary forces.

Prigozhin claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense tricked Wagner and he vowed to “respond to these atrocities.”

“They sneakily deceived us, trying to deprive us of the opportunity to defend our homes and instead hunt down Wagner PMC. We were ready to compromise with the Ministry of Defense to hand over our weapons and find a solution how we will continue to defend our country. But these scumbags did not calm down,” Prigozhin said in a voice note posted on Telegram.

“They saw that we weren’t broken and they launched strikes on our camps. A huge amount of our fighters were killed, our comrades in arms. We will make a decision about how to respond to these atrocities. The next step is ours,” he continued, alleging that “they wiped out dozens.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied the allegation in a Telegram post Friday, calling the messages and videos spreading on social networks on behalf of Prigozhin about the event “untrue” and “an informational provocation.”

Prigozhin claimed that the “evil that is being carried out” by Russia’s military leadership “must be stopped” following the alleged attack.

“They disregard the lives of soldiers, they have forgotten the word ‘justice’,” Prigozhin said in the voice recording.

“The details started to appear; Minister of Defense arrived to Rostov especially to conduct an operation to destroy Wagner PMC. He used artillerymen and helicopter pilots undercover to destroy us,” Prigozhin added.

“Many dozens, tens of thousands of lives, of Russian soldiers will be punished,” Prigozhin stressed, adding, “I ask that nobody put up any resistance. Those who show such resistance, we will consider it a threat and destroy them immediately. This includes any roadblocks standing in our way, any aircraft seen over our heads.”

He asked people to stay at home and “remain calm, not to be provoked.”

In a later Telegram post, Prigozhin said that by criticizing Russian military leadership, he is carrying out a “march of justice” and not a “military coup,” alleging that a majority of Russian service members support Wagner.

“Finally, you will make them supply us with ammunition and make them stop using us as cannon fodder,” Prigozhin added.

The chief of mercenary group Wagner stated he had 25,000 troops under his command and urged others to join to resist Moscow’s military brass.

“There are 25,000 of us and we are going to look into why there’s total lawlessness in the country,” Prigozhin said in an audio message, urging Russians to join his forces.

Earlier on Friday, Prigozhin – who has frequently criticized Russia’s traditional military hierarchy – furthered his ongoing dispute with defense leaders in a highly critical video interview where he said Moscow invaded Ukraine under false pretenses devised by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and that Russia is actually losing ground on the battlefield.

Earlier this month, the Wagner boss said he won’t sign contracts with Russia’s defense ministry, rejecting an attempt to bring his force in line. His comments came after an announcement by the defense ministry that “volunteer units” and private military groups would be required to sign a contract with the ministry.

Wagner has played a prominent role in the Ukraine war, and Prigozhin, so far, has faced few consequences for his public feud with Russia’s military leadership during which he accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov of not providing ammunition to his forces.

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