Prigozhin, Wagner forces launch armed uprising in Russia
Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a "march for justice" against Russian military leaders after alleging on June 23 that a missile strike on his mercenary forces in Ukraine had caused substantial casualties.
At around 8 a.m. local time on June 24, Prigozhin's press service released a video where he claimed Wagner had assumed control over all military sites in the southern Russian city of Rostov, including the airfield. There are also reports of Wagner troops moving through Russia's Voronezh Oblast to the north of Rostov.
Wagner Private Military Company’s mercenaries have seized military facilities in the Russian city of Voronezh, Reuters reports.
Later Russian media outlet Mediazona reported that military vehicles are proceeding along the M4 highway toward Moscow.
The Office of the President of the Russian Federation anticipates that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group fighters will likely reach Moscow’s outskirts in the next few hours, with fighting expected near Russia’s capital.
Meduza reports that the Office of the Russian President deemed it possible that Prigozhin was bluffing and that his goal was to obtain personal privileges as late as Friday, 23 June. However, the presidential administration appears to have realized the seriousness of the matter at hand when Wagner Group fighters seized control over Rostov-on-Don on the morning of 24 June.
A source close to the Russian government and another source close to the Kremlin told Meduza that Prigozhin "started to make a fuss" two weeks ago, after Putin announced that Wagner Group, Prigozhin’s private military company, had to sign a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence if it were to continue fighting in Ukraine. Prigozhin is known to have a long-standing feud with the Russian Defence Ministry.
A source close to the Russian presidential administration admitted that the Kremlin underestimated the scale of the conflict: "This has been discussed during meetings, but a conclusion was reached that [Prigozhin] is just a brash opportunist who does not play by the rules. The risk of a military coup was considered non-existent; it was said that only a crazy person would dare do that."
The Kremlin appears confident that the Russian army and law enforcement officers will be able to halt the advance of Wagner Group columns on Moscow. However, one of the sources told Meduza that at least some Wagner Group fighters would be able to enter Moscow.
The Kremlin also appears concerned about Putin’s [popularity] ratings in light of the 2024 presidential election. A crackdown [on opposition] is also expected.
Meanwhile, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin called Prigozhin's armed rebellion "treachery" and said he "will be held accountable."
Russian attack on Dnipro: Number of injured rises to 11, three of them children
Volodymyr Orlov, First Deputy Chairman of Dnipropetrovsk Оblast Military Administration at a briefing at the scene reported that currently, 25 houses are damaged, 4 have been destroyed. 11 people are in hospital, three of them children – two are being treated as inpatients, one is being treated on an outpatient basis. Seven people are now in hospital due to this strike.
Orlov added that it is not yet certain how many people will need to be provided with temporary housing but noted that the situation is under control. All services are working, and a special commission has been set up, he said.
Loyalty of Russian security forces 'key factor' to how Prigozhin's 'rebellion' plays out
The outcome of the Wagner mercenary group’s armed rebellion will partly depend on the Russian National Guard and other security forces’ loyalty to the state, the U.K. Defense Ministry wrote in its intelligence update on June 24.
Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin initiated what he called a "march for justice" against the Russian military leadership following his claim on June 23 that they had targeted his mercenary forces in Ukraine with a devastating missile strike, resulting in significant casualties.
Shortly before 8 a.m. local time on June 24, Prigozhin’s press service published a video online in which he claimed that all military sites in the southern Russian city of Rostov were under Wagner's control, including the airfield.
In a five-minute video address released on June 24, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said that any infighting that undermines "the unity of Russia" at such a time is "essentially treachery."
Although he did not reference him by name, Putin said the infighting between Prigozhin and the Russian military leadership was a "deadly threat" to Russian statehood, adding that "actions to defend against such a threat will be severe."
Tensions between Prigozhin and the Russian military leadership have been steadily escalating for months, with Prigozhin publicly expressing frustration over inadequate weapons and logistical support for his troops during the 10-month battle for Bakhmut.
According to the U.K. Defense Ministry, the unfolding events “represent the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.” Wagner units moving through Russia’s Voronezh Oblast are “almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow,” the ministry wrote.
Given that there is little recorded evidence of clashes between Wagner and Russian security forces, some of the latter have “likely remained passive, acquiescing to Wagner,” the ministry added.
Putin wants to kill Prigozhin and promise amnesty to Wagner Group fighters
Russian media have reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to avoid direct clashes with the Wagner Group in Moscow and has ordered law enforcement services to kill the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Vazhnye Istorii (Important Stories), an online Russian investigative journalism outlet, cites a source close to the Russian Armed Forces General Staff.
Vazhnye Istorii reported that the Russian Armed Forces do not have sufficient forces to prevent Prigozhin from entering Moscow.
The Russian Armed Forces gather all forces not deployed to the front in Ukraine, including Chechen military units, the Russian National Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Federal Security Service (FSB).