Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his fighters were not involved in a military coup but a ‘march of justice’.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, claimed that his forces had entered Russia to remove the country’s military leadership.
Russian security services said they had opened a criminal investigation into Prigozhin on Friday for what they described as rebellion.
Prigogine has long accused Russia’s top military leaders of failings in the war in Ukraine and is known for his long-standing conflict with the Russian Defense Ministry.
Here’s what we know about Prigogine’s stated intentions:
What did Prigogine say?
- Prigozhin posted a series of angry videos and audio recordings on Friday in which he accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering rocket attacks on Ukraine’s Wagner Field Camp, where his troops are fighting on Russia’s side.
- Prigozhin said his troops would now punish Shoigu in an armed uprising and called on the Russian army not to offer resistance.
- “This is not a military coup, but a march of justice,” Prigogine declared.
- Russia’s Defense Ministry denied launching the rocket attack.
- Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, which is part of the Federal Security Services, or FSB, said Wagner’s chief would be investigated for allegedly calling for armed insurrection.
- The FSB on Friday called Prigozhin’s statements a “stab in the back of Russian soldiers” and said they provoked armed conflict within Russia.
- The FSB urged Wagner’s fighters to arrest Prigogine and told them to refuse to follow “criminal and treacherous orders”.
- Riot police and Russia’s National Guard have been scrambled to beef up security at key installations in Moscow, including government agencies and transport infrastructure, the state-run TASS news agency reported.
What is the basis of Prigogine’s conflict with the Russian military?
- Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine recorded a video cursing General Valery Gerasimov, the General Staff of the Russian military, and accusing him of failing to deliver ammunition.
- Prigogine also singled out Shoigu for criticism, accusing Russian military leaders of incompetence.
- A once shadowy business figure with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prigogine has increasingly raised his public profile, bragging almost daily about Wagner’s alleged triumphs, taunting his enemies and indicting Russia’s military leaders.