Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wagner mercenary group seize military facilities in 2 Russian cities

Amid an alleged rebellion, the Russian Wagner mercenary group on Saturday claimed to have seized military facilities in the cities of Rostov and Voronezh, despite President Vladimir Putin’s order to neutralise the mercenaries.

In a social media post, the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he was in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia close to the Ukraine border, and that his forces have control of military facilities and the airfield, reports CNN.

He pledged to blockade Rostov and move on to Moscow if Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and top general Valery Gerasimov did not meet him in the city, where Russia’s Southern Military District is headquartered.

The Wagner group also claimed that said it had taken control of Russian military facilities in the second city of Voronezh, saying “the army switches to the side of the people”.

Earlier, the Governor of Voronezh oblast said that “a convoy of military equipment is moving along the M-4 Don Federal Highway”, which connects the city and Rostov-on-Don.

Voronezh is directly north of the Rostov region.

The simmering tensions come after Prigozhin announced that his fighters were entering the Rostov region and that Russian Guards and military police have joined the Wagner group.

Videos circulating on social media and geolocated to Rostov city show military vehicles on the streets and helicopters over the city Saturday morning.

In response to the developments, President Putin said in a televised address to the nation: “Any internal turmoil is a deadly threat to our statehood, to us as a nation. This is a blow to Russia, to our people. And our actions to protect the motherland from such a threat will be tough.

“All those who deliberately embarked on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, who embarked on the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment and answer both before the law and before our people.

“I urge those who are being dragged into this crime not to make a fatal and tragic mistake, but to make the only right choice — to stop participating in criminal acts.”

On Saturday morning, Russia’s National Anti-terrorism Committee announced that a counter-terrorist operation regime has been introduced in Moscow, the region and the Voronezh to prevent possible terrorist acts.

On Friday night, the Kremlin ordered the arrest of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin after Russian intelligence accused him of calling for an “armed rebellion”.

Late Friday night, the Federal Security Service (FSB) urged Wagner mercenaries to “stop the columns” and detain their leader after the latter vowed retaliation over the Russian military allegedly killing a “huge amount” of Wagner fighters during a strike on a camp earlier in the day, reports CNN.

Russian state TV also interrupted programming Friday night to report a Defence Ministry statement claiming Prigozhin’s comments “did not correspond to reality” and demanded him to halt “illegal actions”.

Earlier on Friday, Prigozhin had claimed that his forces crossed the border into Russia from Ukraine, but did not give any proof to back his allegation.

“Many dozens, tens of thousands of lives, of Russian soldiers will be punished. I ask that nobody put up any resistance.”

He also said the “evil” in the Russian military leadership must be stopped and vowed to “march for justice”, but the Wagner chief clarified that he was not attempting a military coup

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