Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wagner troops may reach Moscow as Kremlin hurries to intercept

Wagner mercenary troops loyal to Yevgeny Prigozhin are heading north in a convoy to reach Moscow, a media report said.

The convoy of lorries, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles is hoping to take advantage of the element of surprise and reach Moscow before it is intercepted by a larger detachment of Russian regular troops, according to analysts and Russian military bloggers, The Guardian reported.

Video from the convoy showed it had broken through barricades in the Lipetsk region, which borders Moscow from the south. The Russian government has been hurriedly preparing defences, including anti-tank ditches dug into main highways, in order to prevent the convoy from reaching Moscow.

Photos and video from Moscow have shown the Russian government establishing checkpoints on the southern outskirts of the city guarded by sandbagged machine-gun emplacements, and infantry fighting vehicles patrolling the city near government buildings, including the Kremlin and State Duma, The Guardian reported.

A former defence official said Russia’s defensive forces were severely depleted, with most combat-ready units currently engaged in Ukraine. It may be difficult for law enforcement agencies to engage the Wagner detachment, the person said.

The Moscow region has suspended all mass outdoor events until July 1, the authorities announced, BBC reported.

It follows Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin telling everyone to refrain from travelling around the city. The Mayor has asked people to restrict their movements around the capital – rebels from the Wagner Group appear to be heading towards the city.

Earlier in the day, life was continuing much as normal, albeit with a heavy security presence, and with roadblocks set up to check vehicles, BBC reported.

Some bridges have also been closed.

“The situation is difficult,” Sobyanin said in his statement posted on Telegram.

He added that it’s possible some roads or neighbourhoods in the city will be closed to traffic.

Sobyanin has put out a statement on Telegram announcing that “a counter-terrorist operation regime has been declared in Moscow” and that Monday will be a “non-working day” to “minimise risks”, BBC reported.

He asked Muscovites to “refrain from travelling around the city as much as possible”.

“City services are on high alert,” he said.

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