In a stunning development today, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the infamous private military contractor Wagner Group, announced that he and his forces had successfully reached the city of Rostov-on-Don. This strategic city houses the Russian military headquarters overseeing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Prigozhin’s claim was confirmed through a video he posted on social media, where he asserted his forces’ control over military facilities, including the airfield, in Rostov-on-Don. The situation remains fluid, with the exact number of troops accompanying him and the means of entry into the city still unclear.
Prigozhin’s actions come as a response to his long-standing feud with the Russian Defense Ministry, accusing military officials of depriving his troops of essential weapons and ammunition. The Wagner Group, despite its significant involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been at odds with the defense ministry, intensifying the already strained relations between the two entities.
In a series of impassioned video and audio recordings released on Friday, Prigozhin directly implicated Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, accusing him of ordering a rocket strike on the Wagner Group’s field camps in Ukraine. He denounced the defense minister as “scum” and vowed to put an end to what he called the “evil” embodied by the military leadership. Prigozhin stressed that his intent was not a military coup but a “march of justice.”
The gravity of Prigozhin’s actions has prompted the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a division of the Federal Security Services, to launch a criminal investigation against him for inciting armed rebellion. The report also confirms that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been apprised of the situation. In response to the threat, Moscow has deployed the National Guard and riot police to safeguard critical facilities, including transport infrastructure and government agencies.
The situation in Rostov-on-Don and the broader implications of Prigozhin’s rebellion remain uncertain. The city’s heightened security measures were evidently unable to prevent his entry, raising questions about potential security lapses. The defense ministry’s strained relationship with the Wagner Group adds another layer of complexity to the situation, as Russia’s military leadership now faces a challenge from within its own ranks.
As events continue to unfold, the international community watches with great interest. The outcome of Prigozhin’s insurgency could have far-reaching implications for Russia’s military operations in Ukraine and its internal power dynamics. The response from the Russian government, including President Putin, will undoubtedly shape the course of events and determine the ultimate fate of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has agreed to live in exile in Belarus after ending his mercenary group’s march on Moscow.
We asked analysts what this means for Russia’s President Putin and the immediate future of the Wagner Group ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ZdxeUWvPwJ
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 26, 2023