A significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power was de-escalated by heavily armed Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group who had made it most of the way to Moscow. Their leader said that this action would prevent bloodshed.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime ally of Putin and the leader of the Wagner Group mercenaries, claimed on Saturday that his troops had come within 125 miles (200 km) of Moscow.
In advance of their arrival, Russian generals had sent out soldiers and ordered citizens to remain indoors. Before rushing north in a convoy, moving tanks and armored trucks and destroying roadblocks set up to stop them, the Wagner Group fighters conquered Rostov, hundreds of miles to the south.
According to a Reuters witness, they started to leave the military headquarters in Rostov that they had taken control of on Saturday night.
“In 24 hours, we travelled 200 km closer to Moscow. We didn’t spilt a single drop of our fighters’ blood throughout this time, Prigozhin claimed in a video while in full combat gear at an undisclosed location.
We are turning our columns around and returning as planned to the field camps because we “understand that Russian blood will be spilled on one side.”
The extent of Prigozhin’s mercenaries’ advance could not be independently confirmed by Reuters. In a previous video, Wagner vehicle convoys could be seen travelling less than 310 miles (500 kilometres) from Moscow.
According to a deal mediated by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin would relocate to Belarus, the criminal case filed against him for an armed mutiny would be dropped, and Wagner fighters who participated in his “march for justice” would not be prosecuted because of their prior service to Russia, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov, who referred to the day’s events as “tragic,” claimed that Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Putin’s agreement, because Prigozhin was a guy he had known for almost 20 years.
Wagner’s quick uprising seemed to proceed with minimal resistance from Russia’s conventional military forces, casting doubt on Putin’s hold on power in the nuclear-armed country even after Wagner’s march was abruptly stopped.
Prigozhin claimed before that the goal of his “march” on Moscow was to unseat corrupt and inept Russian officers whom he holds responsible for the failure of the Ukrainian War.
Putin said that the uprising threatened Russia’s basic survival in a televised speech.
Putin vowed to punish those responsible for “an armed insurrection,” saying, “We are fighting for the lives and security of our people, for our sovereignty and independence, for the right to remain Russia, a state with a thousand-year history.”
Later, while describing the Lukashenko-mediated accord, Peskov said that it had the “higher goal” of averting conflict and bloodshed.
Peskov declined to comment on whether Prigozhin received any concessions in exchange for agreeing to evacuate all of his forces. He claimed that Putin pledged to ensure the safety of both Prigozhin and his men.
The revelations, which prompted a flurry of high-level calls between Western officials, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, highlighted upheaval within Russia.
“Today, the entire world can see that Russia’s rulers have no power. And that is meaningless. Nothing except total anarchy. In his nightly video presentation, Zelenskiy described the absence of predictability.
Numerous ex-prisoners who were enlisted from Russian prisons are among the combatants under the command of former prisoner Prigozhin.
His soldiers engaged in some of the heaviest combat throughout the 16-month conflict in Ukraine, notably the assault for Bakhmut. For months, he waged a tirade against the military’s top brass, particularly Sergei Shoigu, the minister of defence, and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff. He accused them of being incompetent and depriving his soldiers of ammunition.
He disobeyed orders this month and signed a contract putting the command of his troops under the Defence Ministry.
After claiming that the military had killed many of his fighters in an air strike, he apparently started the mutiny on Friday. This was refuted by the Defence Ministry.
In Rostov, the major logistical backbone of Russia’s whole invasion force in Ukraine, he claimed to have taken control of the Southern Military District’s headquarters without firing a shot.
As Wagner fighters in battle tanks and armored vehicles took their positions, city dwellers wandered about peacefully while recording on their cell devices.
The crisis was being widely watched in Western capitals. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with G7 colleagues, US President Joe Biden held conversations with the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK. Army General Mark Milley, the highest military official in the United States, postponed a trip to the Middle East.
The rebellion put the invading force of Russia in Ukraine in danger of being disorganized as Kiev launches its most potent counteroffensive since the conflict started in February of last year.
Sixteen months after the Kremlin’s forces invaded their nation, some Ukrainians rejoiced at the thought of a rift in the Russian military. The military of Ukraine reported on Saturday that its troops had advanced south and east of Bakhmut.
Hanna Maliar, the deputy defence minister, claimed that an offensive was launched close to a collection of villages surrounding Bakhmut, which Wagner forces finally captured in May after months of conflict.
Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the commander of the southern front, reported that Ukrainian forces had seized a sector west of the Russian-controlled regional capital of Donetsk, close to Krasnohorivka.
Tarnavskiy claimed that since separatist fighters backed by Moscow took the region in 2014, it has been under Russian rule.