Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian private military group Wagner, on Friday accused Russia’s military leadership of killing a “huge amount” of his mercenary forces in a strike on a camp.
And he vowed to retaliate. “Many dozens, tens of thousands of lives, of Russian soldiers will be punished,” Prigozhin said. “I ask that nobody put up any resistance.”
In a later Telegram post, Prigozhin said that his criticism of the military leadership was a “march of justice” and not a coup.
His comments prompted Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to launch a criminal case, accusing the mercenary force’s chief of calling for “armed rebellion,” the state news agency TASS reported.
Here’s the latest on the situation unfolding in Russia:
Nations monitor the infighting in Russia: President Vladimir Putin is aware “of the situation unfolding around Prigozhin,” Russian state media TASS said Friday, as well as the investigation into his comments. In Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the country’s presidential administration, tweeted “tumultuous times are coming,” while Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense concisely tweeted: “We are watching.” In the US, the White House said it was “monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments,” according to Adam Hodge, National Security Council spokesperson.
Russian officials urge Wagner fighters to detain their leader: The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) urged Wagner Group fighters not to follow Prigozhin’s orders and implored fighters to take measures to detain him. Similarly, Sergey Surovikin, Russia’s top commander in Ukraine, urged the mercenary fighters to “stop” and to “obey the will” of President Putin. “We are of the same blood. We are warriors. I urge you to stop, the enemy is only waiting for the internal political situation to worsen in our country,” Surovikin was seen saying in a video posted to Telegram by a Russian state media reporter.
Russia takes steps to control the narrative: State news TV channel Russia 24 interrupted the broadcast of a program Friday night to read out a message from the Russian Ministry of Defense, stating the claims made by the Wagner mercenary group leader “do not correspond to reality.” This statement has been widespread throughout Russia, even appearing on Telegram in a message from the defense ministry.
Russia steps up security: In the Russian city of Rostov near southeast Ukraine, military vehicles could be seen driving the streets. Posts were organized on Saturday in the area of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov where military personnel and law enforcement officers are keeping order, a TASS correspondent reported. The preparations were taking place as Prigozhin said his fighters were entering the Rostov region. In Moscow, security measures were also visible, according to TASS.