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Wagner mutiny

Wagner mutiny
AP - Photo

Fighters from the Wagner group begin to pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don [Stringer/Reuters]
Russia was plunged into crisis when the 62-year-old head of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, launched an armed coup. Prigozhin has criticized Russia's defense chiefs in recent months and vented his anger on his Telegram channel.

Prigozhin said he had taken control of the headquarters of Russia's southern military district of Rostov-on-Don, near the border with Ukraine. His forces began to advance north along the 1,100 km (680 mi) highway toward the Russian capital, Moscow.

A counter-terrorist state of emergency was declared in Moscow and the southwestern region of Voronezh as Wagner's forces advanced. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said "anti-terror" measures had been stepped up in the Russian capital and some armored personnel were seen on the streets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a televised emergency address to the nation, called the coup a 'treason'. He promised that "decisive action" would be taken against anyone who took up arms against the Russian military. Prigozhin, sometimes known as "Putin's chef," knew the Russian leader in St. Petersburg in the 1990s when Putin was deputy mayor and Prigozhin owned a restaurant business.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said his forces were ready to help crush the insurgency and called the provocation's behavior a 'stab in the back'.

According to the official Russian news agency "Tass", Putin had a phone conversation with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Uzbekistan Shaukat Mirziyoyev and the President of Kazakhstan Kasim Jomart Tokayev.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he has also spoken with Putin and that Turkey is ready to help for a peaceful resolution of the rebellion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wagner's move showed Russia's weakness and that the longer Moscow continued the war in Ukraine, the more chaos it would invite. Russia's weakness is obvious. "Total weakness," Zelinsky wrote on Twitter.

According to the White House, US President Joe Biden discussed the situation in Russia with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz, and British Prime Minister Rashid Sonik. He also reiterated his unwavering support for Ukraine.

Russian military helicopters fired on a convoy of troop ships in Wagner and at least one tank that was advancing from the city of Voronezh.

Governor Igor Artamonov said Wagner's mercenaries were "on the move" in the Lipetsk region, about 400 kilometers south of Moscow, and urged residents to stay indoors.

According to Russian media, Wagner's troops shot down several helicopters and a military communications plane during the short-lived coup. The Kremlin did not respond to questions about the losses and referred questions to the Defense Ministry.

After meditating with Belarusian President Lukashenko, Prigozhin ordered his fighters to turn back and return to their bases. He said mercenaries had advanced to within 200 kilometers (125 miles) of Moscow. Wagner troops were also seen leaving Rostov.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that under the Lukashenko deal, the prerogatives would move to Belarus and that neither Wagner's chief nor his forces would face prosecution for treason. He added that Wagner soldiers who would not join the coup would get contracts from the Ministry of Defense. Peskov said the deal reflected Putin's desire to 'avoid bloodshed and internal confrontation with unpredictable consequences.'

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