Following the capture of a crucial military base on Saturday, rebel mercenaries have advanced northward toward Moscow. This development coincides with Vladimir Putin’s determination to quell the rebellion and prevent the outbreak of a civil war.
These rapidly intensifying events represent the most significant challenge to Putin’s leadership and the gravest security crisis faced by Russia since he assumed power in late 1999.
In response to concerns that Putin had fled Moscow, his spokesperson affirmed that he remained present in the Kremlin and engaged in his duties.
Meanwhile, regular forces initiated a “counter-terrorist operation” to impede the rebel progression in the Voronezh region, which lies on the path toward the capital city along the Wagner force’s route.
The governor of the Lipetsk region, situated approximately 420 kilometers (260 miles) south of Moscow, cautioned residents against leaving their homes, as the private military force led by Wagner was reported to be traversing the area.
Amidst the turmoil, Ukrainian leaders welcomed the internal discord among their Russian adversaries. A deputy defense minister regarded this situation as a favorable “window of opportunity” for Kyiv’s latest counteroffensive, aiming to remove Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner and formerly a close ally of Putin, declared that his troops had seized control of the military command center and airbase in Rostov-on-Don, a pivotal location for Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. He vowed to overthrow Moscow’s highest-ranking military officials.
“We got to Rostov. Without a single shot, we captured the HQ building,” he said, in an audio message on social media channels, claiming that local civilians had welcomed the operation.
“Why does the country support us? Because we went on a march of justice,” he said, claiming his men had not killed any soldiers despite having been hit with strikes from army “artillery and after that from helicopters.”
In a televised speech addressing the emerging challenge, Putin denounced Prigozhin, whose private military force had previously supported Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, for orchestrating a treacherous act that endangered Russia’s existence.
“Any internal turmoil is a deadly threat to our statehood and to us as a nation. This is a blow to Russia and to our people,” Putin said, demanding national unity.
“Extravagant ambitions and personal interests led to treason,” Putin said, referring to Prigozhin, who built his powerbase as a catering contractor to the Kremlin and now runs a private military force.
“All those who consciously stood on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, stood on the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment before the law and before our people,” Putin vowed.
The FSB security service leveled accusations against Prigozhin, claiming that he sought to initiate a “civil conflict” and called upon Wagner fighters to apprehend him.
Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Putin and the influential leader of Chechnya, announced that he had deployed his units to assist in suppressing the Wagner rebellion.
“Defence ministry and National Guard fighters of the Chechen Republic have already left for the zones of tension,” Kadyrov said on Telegram.
“The rebellion must be put down, and if harsh measures are necessary, we are ready!”
“Any provocation, any internal conflict in military or political circles, in the information field or in civil society is a gift to the collective West,” the Belarusian foreign ministry said.
Latvia declared an increase in security measures along its border with Russia and declared its decision not to accept refugees seeking refuge from the turmoil.
Within Ukraine, emergency services reported three fatalities and nearly a dozen injuries in Kyiv. According to authorities, the casualties resulted from an overnight onslaught involving 40 Russian cruise missiles and at least two attack drones.
Following Putin’s accusations of treason against him, Prigozhin launched another scathing attack.
“On treason of the motherland: the president is deeply wrong. We are patriots of our motherland,” Prigozhin said. “Nobody plans to turn themselves in at the request of the president, the FSB, or anyone else.”
The headquarters, located in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, serves as a vital logistical hub for its military offensive in Ukraine.
Observing the unfolding events within Russia while his own forces engage in a deliberate counteroffensive, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine remarked that the uprising demonstrated Russia’s failure.
“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness,” he said.
“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 that Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos.”