Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation on Saturday, June 24, shortly after Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the paramilitary group Wagner, called for the overthrow of the country’s military leadership, saying he was “ready to die” with his 25,000 men to “liberate the Russian people”.
At 07:00 GMT, wearing a black suit, looking serious and taking a martial tone, the head of the Kremlin addressed, without naming him, the man who defies him: the leader of the paramilitary group Wagner Evgeny Prigozhin, who has openly rebelled against the Russian command. Vladimir Putin promised to punish “traitors” to the Russian nation.
Earlier, the head of Wagner had claimed to be holding the Russian army headquarters in Rostov, the nerve center of operations in Ukraine, and to be in control of several military sites: “We are in the HQ, it’s 07:30 in the morning” (04:30 GMT). Rostov’s military sites are under control, including the airfield”.
In response to this rebellion, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office announced the opening of an investigation for “armed mutiny” against the group that had joined the rebellion with its claimed 25,000 men, after accusing the regular army of bombing its troops.
This morning, the authorities stepped up security measures in Moscow, where the “anti-terrorist operation regime” was introduced, following Yevgeny Prigogine’s declaration: “We’re going on, we’ll go all the way” and “we’ll destroy anything that gets in our way”.
During the night, Wagner’s chief announced that he had crossed the border and entered Rostov, headquarters of the Russian army’s Southern Command, from where military operations in Ukraine are coordinated. He also claimed that his troops had shot down a Russian helicopter that had “opened fire on a civilian column”. However, he offered no proof of these claims.
In addition, the governor of the Rostov region called on the population to “stay at home”, and the governor of Lipetsk, 420 km south of Moscow, also announced “reinforced security measures”.
Images on social networks and online media, whose authenticity has not been confirmed, showed military vehicles circulating in the city, in the vicinity of the Ministry of Defense, and in position in front of the lower house of parliament, the Duma, a few dozen meters from the Kremlin.