Putin slams Wagner Chief, Prigozhin, over vow to topple Russian military leaders

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Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has made a public statement for the first time since Wagner mercenary organisation commander Yevgeny Prigozhin promised to “go all the way” and overthrow Russia’s military hierarchy.

Putin said in a video statement that some Russians had been “tricked into a criminal adventure” without identifying the dissident Wagner warriors specifically.

Putin stated that the fate of Russia was in jeopardy and called the conduct of the mutiniers a “stab in the back.”

Some people’s “high ambitions” have produced “high treason,” he claimed.

Additionally, the Russian president issued a warning against “inevitable punishment” for those who seek to divide the Russian society.

He said a counter-terrorism regime is now in place in the capital Moscow and several other regions.

Earlier the Kremlin accused Prigozhin of “armed rebellion”.

Prigozhin said his Wagner fighters had crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia, entering the city of Rostov, and his men would destroy anyone who stood in their way.

Read Also: Putin says Russia, Ukraine are victims of Western double-dealing

Prigozhin, 62, also vowed to topple Moscow’s military leadership saying he and his 25,000 fighters were “ready to die”, adding that his forces, who have spearheaded much of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, had entered the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and controlled its military sites.

The local governor urged citizens there to keep calm and stay indoors.

Prigozhin claimed that his forces had shot down a Russian military helicopter that “opened fire on a civilian convoy”. He did not give a location and the assertion could not be immediately verified.

A video was posted yeaterda claiming to show Prigozhin inside Russia’s southern military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don.

In one video Prigozhin says his troops will blockade the city and move on to Moscow unless Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov come to meet them.

“We have arrived here, we want to receive the chief of the general staff and Shoigu. Unless they come, we’ll be here, we’ll blockade the city of Rostov and head for Moscow,” he says.

“We are inside the (army) headquarters, it is 7:30 am (0430 GMT). Military sites in Rostov, including an aerodrome, are under control,” Prigozhin said in a video on Telegram.

The Wagner Group is a private army of mercenaries that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine.

Prigozhin had launched the most audacious challenge to Putin since the start of the offensive in Ukraine last year after accusing the Russian top brass of launching strikes against his men.

“We are dying for the Russian people. “All of us are ready to die. All 25,000, and then another 25,000,” he said in an earlier audio message.

These developments came after Prigozhin accused Moscow of targeting his forces with missile strikes that he said killed “a huge number of our fighters”.

“The council of commanders of PMC Wagner has made a decision — the evil that the military leadership of the country brings must be stopped,” he said in a series of furious audio messages released by his spokespeople.

He also warned Russians against resisting his forces and called on them to join him.

“We need to put an end to this mess,” he said, adding, “this is not a military coup, but a march of justice.”

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