Wagner Group Storms Russia's Military Headquarter in Rostov-on-Don Led by Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as Putin Accuses Him of 'Treason' [VIDEOS]

Prigozhin, the owner and founder of the mercenary organization, has leveled accusations against Russia, claiming that his war camps in Ukraine were bombed.

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Concerns about a potential coup in Russia escalated on Saturday as forces belonging to the Wagner militia advanced towards the city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. The leader of the militia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, known for his involvement in mercenary activities, was reportedly seeking retribution for the loss of his men caused by actions from Moscow.

Prigozhin released a new statement around 2 am Moscow time on Saturday, confirming that his forces had crossed the border from Ukraine and were currently present in Rostov. According to reports, members of the Wagner Group, who were so long fighting on behalf of the Kremlin in Ukraine, are demanding the removal of the country's defense minister.

Fears of a Coup

A tank from the Wagner Group seen positioned with its weapons aimed at the Russian military headquarters while soldiers guarded the building in Rostov-on-Don Twitter

Prigozhin, the owner and founder of the mercenary organization, has leveled accusations against Russia, claiming that his war camps in Ukraine were bombed. As a result, he is now facing potential arrest on charges of mutiny due to his call for an armed rebellion.

Following reports of his men entering Rostov-on-Don, Prigozhin said that his troops faced no opposition from young conscripts stationed at checkpoints. He emphasized that his forces were not engaged in combat against inexperienced people, as he remarked, "We are not fighting against children."

"Those who destroyed our lads, who destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, will be punished. I ask that no one offer resistance..." he said in a recording of one of his notorious tirades.

"There are 25,000 of us, and we are going to figure out why chaos is happening in the country," he said, promising to tackle any checkpoints or air forces that got in Wagner's way.

"We will consider anyone who tries to resist a threat and quickly destroy them," he said.

Video footage doing the rounds on social media appears to show a tank from the Wagner Group positioned with its weapons aimed at the Russian military headquarters while soldiers guarded the building.

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin seen at the Rostov-on-Don military headquarter with members of the Wagner Group Twitter

Other videos circulating on the internet depicted significant trucks blocking highways leading to Rostov-on-Don. Convoys of National Guard trucks were seen on a nearby road, while tanks traversed through city streets.

Government officials have instructed residents to remain indoors for their safety. However, despite the advisory, some people were seen venturing out of their homes to see the unfolding events. Some even resorted to live-streaming the happenings using their mobile phones.

"The law enforcement authorities are doing everything necessary to assure the safety of the region's residents," Rostov Gov. Vasily Golubev said on Telegram at around 4 a.m. local time, according to the New York Times.

"I'm asking everyone to stay calm and not leave their home without necessity."

Kremlin on Red Alert

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who specializes in Russian defense, said: "The Telegram channel says there are soldiers in the building and there are up to 300 Wagner fighters in Rostov."

Members of the Wagner Group seen on the streets of Rostov-on-Don Twitter

Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert and former member of the National Security Council, tweeted: "Those are not Russian National Guard troops. That looks like Wagner troops entering the SMD HQ."

However, there were conflicting views among observers regarding the identity of the forces present on the streets. Some expressed uncertainty, suggesting that the deployed forces might not necessarily be from the Wagner Group but rather loyal to the Kremlin.

As of now, there have been no reports of any street clashes or fighting. However, Prigozhin has made allegations that General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of Russia's General Staff, ordered airstrikes on Wagner's convoys, which were traveling alongside civilian vehicles.

Prigozhin further claimed that his forces successfully shot down a Russian military helicopter that had fired upon a civilian convoy, although this claim has not been independently verified.

In a series of online posts, Prigozhin shared video and audio recordings, alleging that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gerasimov orchestrated an attack involving rockets, helicopters, and artillery against his camp. He claimed that around 2,000 soldiers, who were fighting on Russia's behalf in the Ukraine conflict, lost their lives in the assault.

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin has leveled accusations against Russia, claiming that his war camps in Ukraine were bombed. Twitter

"This war wasn't needed to return Russian citizens to our bosom, nor to demilitarize or denazify Ukraine. The war was needed so that a bunch of animals could simply exult in glory," he said, according to the New York Times reported.

Prigozhin declared that his group of mercenaries would take action against Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in an armed revolt and urged the military not to oppose their actions.

"The evil that the military leadership of the country brings forward must be stopped. They have forgotten the word 'justice,' and we will return it," Prigozhin said in an audio recording posted on Wagner's social media Friday, according to the Journal.

"Anyone attempting resistance will be considered a threat and immediately destroyed. This includes all the checkpoints on our path and any aircraft above our heads."

According to Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, the Russian president has been made aware of Yevgeny Prigozhin's assertions regarding a march on Moscow, and "appropriate actions are being undertaken." However, Putin himself has not been seen or made any public statements regarding the uprising.

The Moscow Ministry of Defense has refuted Prigozhin's allegations regarding the attack. State media reported that the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a division of the Federal Security Services (FSB), has initiated a criminal investigation against Prigozhin on charges of inciting an armed rebellion.

Vladimir putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin Twitter

Although the exact situation on the ground is still uncertain, the current episode seems to be the biggest internal military crisis that Putin has faced since he ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

During the 16-month-long conflict in Ukraine, Wagner's forces have notably achieved considerable success, despite Russia's overall invasion being largely halted by the Ukrainian defense forces with support from Western allies.

Wagner troops managed to capture the city of Bakhmut, which witnessed intense and deadly battles during the war. This advance represented the only significant territorial gain made by Russia in the past year.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, has been openly critical of Russia's military leadership ever since his group was contracted for combat. He has accused the military brass of incompetence and neglecting to provide his troops with sufficient weapons and ammunition.

The feud between Yevgeny Prigozhin and Sergei Shoigu has been going on for several years.

On Friday, Prigozhin's statements presented a more explicit and direct challenge to the Russian Defense Minister.

As of July 1, the Russian Defense Ministry mandated that all military contractors must sign contracts with them. However, Prigozhin chose to defy this requirement and refused to comply.

This article was first published on June 24, 2023