Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly reprimanded Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner mercenary group, after he led an armed uprising on Saturday that saw the private military company advance rapidly on Moscow.
According to reports from Russian media outlets, Putin served a stern reminder of who was in charge as he ordered the Wagner mercenary leader to stop his march on the capital and handed him a criminal investigation for plotting to overthrow the government. Though the Russian leader has yet to publicly address the uprising, it has been reported that he failed to take a phone call from Prigozhin when the mercenary leader realised he‘d made a mistake and frantically called Putin en route to Moscow.
Prigozhin, the man behind the Kremlin‘s Wagner mercenaries, uploaded an 11–minute audio clip to various Telegram channels Sunday to break his silence after abandoning the movement the night before. The chief of the Wagner group claimed his forces were only marching to highlight the ineffectual conduct of the war in Ukraine, whilst simultaneously preventing the Kremlin from taking control of the private military company.
“The purpose of the campaign was to prevent the destruction of the Wagner group and to bring to justice those who, through their unprofessional actions, made a huge number of mistakes during the special military operation,” Prigozhin said, adding that they had been ordered to hand over their weapons to the Russian military and suffered casualties in air strikes at the hands of Russia‘s air force.
The Wagner mercenary leader also bragged that the ease with which it advanced on Moscow exposed “serious security problems,” claiming his soldiers did not show any aggression towards their armed forces but were still targeted by the Russian air force, killing 30 of his troops and at least 15 Russian air force pilots.
However, Prigozhin sought refuge from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and offered to abandon his coup for the Russian leader’s amnesty and his safety, though it’s believed a criminal investigation against him still remains open. That being said, it was only the threat of more bloodshed that brought the Wagner leader to end the uprising, as he described that his mercenary forces had progressed as far as 200km from Moscow.
“We stopped at the moment when the first assault detachment, which approached 200 kilometres to Moscow, reconnoitered the area and it was obvious that at that moment a lot of blood would be shed.”
“Therefore, we felt that the demonstration of what we were going to do, it is sufficient.”
Though the nature of the uprising came as a surprise to many, Prigozhin‘s disdain for Russia‘s military command has long been established, with his Wagner mercenaries one of the most experienced and combat–effective units in the world.
However, it‘s unclear just how far Putin will go to punish those involved in attempting to overthrow him.