Live Updates | Armed rebellion by Russian mercenary chief

Britain’s Ministry of Defense has described the Wagner mercenary group’s armed rebellion as the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times

The Associated Press
Saturday 24 June 2023 09:55 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The latest on the armed rebellion declared by Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin:

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Britain’s defense ministry has described the Wagner mercenary group’s armed rebellion as the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.

The ministry's intelligence update posted Saturday says that the feud between Yevgeny Prigozhin’s group and the Russian state has “escalated into outright military confrontation’’

“In Rostov-on-Don, Wagner has almost certainly occupied key security sites, including the HQ which runs Russia’s military operations in Ukraine,’’ the update said. “Further Wagner units are moving north through Voronezh Oblast, almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow."

The update says there is very limited evidence of fighting between Wagner and Russian security forces.

“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how the crisis plays out," it said.

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A video that appeared on Telegram on Saturday showed mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin meeting with Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and deputy chief of the General Staff Vladimir Alexeyev.

In the video, whose origin couldn’t not be independently verified, Prigozhin claimed that he and his troops were “saving Russia” and demanded that the Russian authorities give up Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

“We want to get the chief of the General Staff and Shoigu,” Prigozhin said. “Until they are here, we are here, we are blocking the city of Rostov and go toward Moscow.”

Yevkurov and Alexeyev in the video tried to persuade Prigozhin to withdraw his forces from Roston-on-Don, but to no avail.

Prigozhin, a billionaire with ties to the Kremlin, has a long-running feud with the Russian military leadership.

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Ukraine’s head of military intelligence says the conflict between the Russian military leadership and mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is “a frontal clash of lies and truth.”

Kyrylo Budanov told Ukrainian television on Saturday that the conflict stands out because Prigozhin, whether “you like him or not, he mainly says (the) truth” while Russia’s Defense Ministry tells “mainly lies.”

He said that the conflict “is not fake.”

Budanov said that, while senior Defense Ministry officials talk of advances with young and brave soldiers, Prigozhin points to miscalculations, poor equipment, lack of training and other problems.

He said: “This is a frontal clash of lies and truth. Even though both completely work in the interest of the Russian Federation, we need to remember this.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation Saturday and vowed to defend the country and its people from an armed rebellion declared by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Putin said the mutiny amounted to “a deadly threat to our statehood” and vowed “tough actions” in response. “All those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment. The armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders,” Putin said.

He called Prigozhin’s actions, without referring to the owner of the Wagner private military company by name, “a betrayal” and “a treason.” He urged “those who are being dragged into this crime not to make a fatal and tragic, unique mistake, to make the only right choice — to stop participating in criminal acts.”

Putin condemned the rebellion at a time when Russia was “fighting the toughest battle for its future” with its war in Ukraine. “The entire military, economic and information machine of the West is waged against us,” Putin said.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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