The latest on the armed rebellion declared by Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin:
The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned the West against trying to take advantage of the rebellion led by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The ministry said in a statement Saturday that “we are cautioning Western countries against even a hint of using the internal situation in Russia for achieving their Russophobic goals.”
It argued that the mutiny plays into the hands of Russia’s enemies and said that the Russian public stands behind President Vladimir Putin.
The ministry said that Moscow appreciates its allies and partners voicing their understanding of the situation.
Putin calls armed rebellion by mercenary chief a betrayal and vows to punish its leaders
Prigozhin, the mercenary chief urging an uprising, has long ties to Putin
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Security in a number of Russian regions was tightened as authorities sought to thwart an armed rebellion spearheaded by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
There was tighter security particularly in areas between the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where Prigozhin’s Wagner group appeared to control military headquarters, and Moscow.
The governor of the Lipetsk region asked residents to stay at home and refrain from traveling. Governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram that Wagner had entered the province but “the situation is under control.”
In the neighboring Tambov region, mass events were canceled Saturday.
Those events included high school graduation parties. Russia’s Education Ministry said such parties were being postponed until July 1 in Moscow, the region around the capital and “a number of other regions where additional anti-terrorist measures have been introduced.”
The governor of the Kaluga region, just south of the Moscow region, said that movement on roads in areas on its western, southern and eastern borders had been restricted. Vladislav Shapsha wrote on Telegram that people should “refrain from traveling by private vehicle on these roads unless absolutely necessary.”
In the capital, traffic on the Moscow River was suspended. Police officers in bulletproof vests and with machine guns were seen near the entrance of the major highway that links Moscow with Voronezh and Rostov–on-Don.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office says he told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that Turkey was ready to help resolve the stand-off in Russia with the mercenary Wagner group.
The Turkish presidency tweeted that, in a phone call with Putin, Erdogan “underlined the importance of acting with common sense” and said Ankara could help resolve events as soon as possible. It did not specify how Turkey could help.
Turkey has retained close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv during the war
The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk province said Saturday that the Wagner mercenary group has entered the region.
The Lipetsk region is about 360 kilometers (225 miles) south of Moscow and much closer to the capital than Rostov-on-Don, where Wagner forces appeared during the night.
Authorities “are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population. The situation is under control,” governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram. He did not give details about the Wagner presence.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister says the “political crisis” in Russia provides Kyiv with a “window of opportunity.”
Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram Saturday that Moscow’s “erroneous decision” to start a war in Ukraine had brought about “the inevitable degradation of the Russian state.”
The rebellion by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin comes as Kyiv’s forces have been probing Russian defenses in the initial stages of a counteroffensive.
Speaking in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “a coup is taking place in Russia, led by Prigozhin and his Wagner troops. Any coup, any problem that emerges in enemy’s rear aligns with our interest.”
He added that “it is early to estimate consequences.”
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major industrial powers conferred Saturday on the situation in Russia after mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion.
The U.S. State Department and German Foreign Ministry gave few details of the discussion, which also included the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
The State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change.” It said that the U.S. “will stay in close coordination” with allies and partners as the situation develops.
The G7 comprises the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the U.K.
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to several foreign leaders on Saturday following the armed rebellion by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin spoke on the phone with the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and “informed his counterparts of the situation.”
Putin also spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Kremlin statement said the Russian leader informed Erdogan “about the situation in the country related to an attempted armed rebellion,” and the Turkish president “expressed full support for the steps of the Russian leadership.”
Mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claims that his troops entered the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without a single shot and says that no one was killed during what he calls a “march of justice.”
Prigozhin said in a new audio statement on Saturday that “we didn’t touch a single conscript, we didn’t kill a single person on our way.” He added that the Russian air force targeted his troops, but they still managed to seize military headquarters in Rostov “without a single gunshot.”
His claims could not be independently verified. The Russian authorities haven’t reported any casualties so far, either.
Shortly before Prigozhin released his statement, an explosion was heard near the military headquarters his Wagner group apparently controls in Rostov. It was not immediately clear where the explosion occurred, how big it was and whether it caused any damage.
Estonia and Latvian officials say their countries have stepped up border security following an armed rebellion in neighboring Russia by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Both nations are NATO members and strong backers of Ukraine, and have tense relations with Russia. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote on Twitter that Estonia is “closely following” developments and exchanging information with allies.
She wrote: “I can assure that there is no direct threat to our country. Border security has been strengthened.”
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics of neighboring Latvia wrote in an English-language Twitter post that his country’s border security also has been strengthened and “visa or border entry from Russians leaving Russia due to current events won’t be considered.”
He said there is “no direct threat to Latvia at this time.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekenskyy says it is clear that Russia is suffering from “full-scale weakness” after mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion.
Zelenskyy said in comments posted on his Telegram channel Saturday that “anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself.”
He said that “for a long time, Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it.”
“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness,” Zelenskyy said. “And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later. This is also obvious.”
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni says she is monitoring events in Russia and they underline “how the aggression against Ukraine is provoking instability within the Russian Federation.”
Meloni said in comments to reporters in Austria later Saturday that the situation in Russia is hard to evaluate.
She said that “it is a very chaotic situation inside the Russian Federation, that is out of tune with certain propaganda we have seen in recent months.”
Russian mercenary leader Yevgheny Prigozhin on Saturday denied allegations by President Vladimir Putin that he is betraying his country and called his fighters patriots.
In an audio message on his Telegram channel, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said: “Regarding the betrayal of the motherland, the president was deeply mistaken. We are patriots of our homeland.”
He said his fighters would not turn themselves in at the request of Putin, as “we do not want the country to live on in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy.”
Putin said in televised address to the nation earlier Saturday that “all those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment.” He said that “the armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders.”
Officials across Russia have rallied behind President Vladimir Putin, publicly reiterating their allegiance to the Kremlin and urging mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to back down.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, said that lawmakers “stand for the consolidation of forces” and support Putin after his address to the nation on Saturday.
He added that fighters from Prigozhin’s Wagner group “must make the only right choice: to be with their people, on the side of the law, to protect the security and future of the Motherland, to follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.”
Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a Telegram post that “we have one commander in chief. Not two, not three. One. And he urged everyone to unite.”
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechnya who in the past has sided with Prigozhin in his criticism of the military leadership, also expressed his full support for “every word of” Putin. He said that “the mutiny needs to be suppressed.”
So far, no Russian official has spoken out in support of Prigozhin.
Unexpected support for mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s endeavor came from exiled tycoon turned opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky said in a Facebook post that Prigozhin’s rebellion is “the strongest blow to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s reputation,” and that helping him get to Moscow would be “helping our country.”
He said Prigozhin had “repeated word for word what we, the anti-war opposition, have been saying since the beginning of the war” — that the “purpose of the war is theft” and no one believes in the official reason for the war in Ukraine.
Khodorkovsky wrote: “Help the devil, if he decides to oppose this regime! Help because there is no crime worse than unleashing an aggressive war. If one criminal is ready to interfere with another … we need to help, and then, if necessary, we will tackle them.”
A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that the start of his country’s counteroffensive has “finally destabilized the Russian elites” and intensified internal splits.
Mykhailo Podolyak said Saturday that events are “developing according to the scenario that we have been talking about for the past year,” Ukraine’s Interfax news agency reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday vowed to defend the country from an armed rebellion declared by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, which Putin called a “stab in the back” to Russia.
The rebellion comes as Kyiv’s forces have been probing Russian defenses in the initial stages of a counteroffensive.
Podolyak said that “the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive finally destabilized the Russian elites, intensifying the internal split that arose after the defeat in Ukraine.”
He added: “Today we are actually witnessing the beginning of a civil war.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.