As part of increased security brought on by the uprising of mercenaries with the private military company Wagner, Moscow’s mayor warned on Saturday that traffic might be restricted in some areas of the Russian city.
In light of the counter-terrorism operation that police launched earlier on Saturday in Moscow and the surrounding area, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin urged citizens to forgo using their vehicles. In addition, he announced Monday to be a day off for most people, except for governmental personnel and select industrial company employees.
Sobyanin asked citizens to report any emergencies and emphasized that all essential city services had been placed on high readiness.
A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE IS HERE. The prior report from AP is below.
The architects of an armed uprising led by mercenary commander Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led his forces out of Ukraine and into a crucial southern city, would face severe punishment, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made the threat on Saturday.
Putin called the uprising “a stab in the back” in a speech to the nation. This was the largest challenge to his authority in more than two decades in office.
According to the British Ministry of Defense, Prigozhin’s private army appeared to be in charge of the military command in Rostov-on-Don, a city 660 miles (nearly 1,000 kilometers) south of Moscow that oversees Russian activities in Ukraine.
Russia’s Lipetsk province, located roughly 360 kilometers (225 miles) south of Moscow, also saw the arrival of Wagner troops and equipment. According to regional governor Igor Artamonov through Telegram, local officials “are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population.” He didn’t go into detail.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, commented on the rapidly developing events in Russia by claiming that Moscow is experiencing “full-scale weakness” and that Kyiv is defending Europe from “the spread of Russian evil and chaos.”
In his speech, Putin referred to the conduct of Prigozhin—whom he omitted to name—as “betrayal” and “treason specifically.”
Putin stated, “All those who planned the rebellion will face inevitable punishment.” The appropriate directives have been given to the military forces and other government organizations.
As Prigozhin stated, “we do not want the country to live on in corruption, deceit, and bureaucracy.”
“The president made a grave error when he said the motherland had been betrayed. We are citizens of our country, he declared in a voice message posted to his Telegram channel.
Alongside conventional Russian forces in Ukraine, Prigozhin’s private army, known as Wagner, has been engaged in combat. Although his intentions were not immediately obvious, the uprising represents a step up in his conflict with Russian military authorities, which he accused of mishandling the war in Ukraine and weakening his men on the ground.
Prigozhin declared, “This is not a military takeover; it is a march of justice.
Prigozhin claimed his forces had taken control of the airstrip and other military installations in the city after posting a video of himself at the military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. Tanks and other military vehicles could be seen on the streets in other videos posted to social media.
In one of the numerous communications he sent out during the day, Prigozhin said, “We didn’t kill a single person on our way,” adding that his troops had taken control of the military headquarters “without a single gunshot.” Another party did not corroborate his assertions. There haven’t been any casualties recorded by the Russian authorities either thus yet.
In Putin’s words, the uprising occurs as Russia is “fighting the toughest battle for its future” and as Western nations slap sanctions on Moscow and arm Ukraine.
“The entire military, economic, and information machine of the West is waged against us,” declared Putin.
After declaring the armed insurrection late on Friday, the Russian security forces, particularly the Federal Security Service, or FSB, demanded Prigozhin’s arrest.
The Kremlin responded to the threat seriously by declaring a “counterterrorist regime” in Moscow and the surrounding area. This increased security in the city while allowing for some restrictions on liberties.
It wasn’t immediately obvious how Prigozhin entered the city in southern Russia or how many soldiers he brought.
After Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian government forces had attacked Wagner field camps in Ukraine with rockets, helicopter gunships, and artillery, Prigozhin claimed he wanted to avenge himself on the defense minister. He said, “a huge number of our comrades got killed.”
There was no independent confirmation of Prigozhin’s claim that Wagner’s forces shot down a Russian military helicopter that opened fire on a convoy of civilians.
He claimed that after consulting with Shoigu about destroying Wagner, General Valery Gerasimov, the head of the General Staff, gave the orders for the assaults.
The Defense Ministry denied attacks on the Wagner camps.
Prigozhin urged the army to refrain from resistance and claimed to be in control of 25,000 soldiers.
Former prisoner Prigozhin, 62, has a long history of friendship with the Russian president and has obtained lucrative cooking jobs at the Kremlin, earning him the moniker “Putin’s chef.”
He came to light in the United States after he and a dozen other Russian citizens were accused of running a covert social media campaign to sow dissent before Donald Trump’s 2016 triumph. He established the Wagner mercenary organization, which later dispatched military contractors to Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and many other African nations.
Following Putin’s speech, in which he advocated unity, officials tried to affirm their devotion to the Kremlin and asked Prigozhin to recuse himself.
“Wagner fighters must make the only right choice: to be with their people, on the side of the law, to protect the security and future of the Motherland, to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament.
In a Telegram post, we have one commander in chief, said Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry. Not three, not two. One.″
The strongman ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who formerly agreed with Prigozhin in his criticism of the military, likewise declared his unwavering support for Putin’s “every word.”
The commander-in-chief, who the people chose, is the best strategist and businessperson at understanding the issue down to the last detail, according to Kadyrov. “The mutiny must be put down.”
Although the result of the conflict was still uncertain, it was likely to impede Moscow’s war effort more as Kyiv’s soldiers began to test Russian fortifications in preparation for a counteroffensive. The disagreement might also impact Putin and his capacity to keep the country united, particularly if Prigozhin were to win.
The eastern city of Bakhmut, the scene of the fiercest and longest fights, was taken by Wagner forces, who had played a major part in the conflict. However, Prigozhin has grown more critical of the military leadership, charging them inefficiently and depriving his troops of ammunition.
In his Telegram channel, Zelenskyy mentioned the uprising and stated that “anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself.”
“For a very long time, Russia used propaganda to cover away its incompetence and the foolishness of its leadership. And the chaos right now is so great that no falsehood can cover it up, he continued. “Russia’s vulnerability is clear. Complete weakness. Furthermore, Russia will face greater later-life unrest, suffering, and issues the longer it keeps troops and mercenaries on our territory.
Prigozhin’s activities may significantly impact the outcome of the war. Confusion and even division among Russian forces will result from infighting between the Defense Ministry and Wagner, according to Orysia Lutsevych, the director of the Ukraine Forum at the Chatham House think tank in London.
According to Lutsevych, Russian troops in Ukraine may be working without clear military orders and a clear sense of who to heed and follow. “This gives the Ukrainian army a rare and unheard-of military opportunity.”
Early on Saturday, military trucks and armored vehicles were spotted in central Moscow, and soldiers were stationed outside the main Defense Ministry building with assault rifles. Traffic was backed up as the area around the presidential administration near Red Square was restricted.
However, despite the increased military presence, the downtown bars and eateries were packed. People were dancing in the street close to the entrance of one bar near the FSB headquarters.
Prigozhin had refused to comply with a demand that his soldiers sign contracts with the defense ministry before July 1 because of his long-standing dispute with the church. Although he was prepared for a compromise, he claimed on Friday that “they have treacherously cheated us.”
Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the deputy commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine, warned the Wagner soldiers against taking action against the army since it would help Russia’s adversaries who are “waiting to see the exacerbation of our domestic political situation.”
According to the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, “the violent overthrow of Putin loyalists like Shoigu and Gerasimov would cause irreparable damage to the stability of Putin’s perceived hold on power.”
Western nations keenly followed developments. According to his spokesperson, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his counterparts in the other G7 nations and the representative for the European Union’s foreign policy and “reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change.”
Two NATO members that border Russia, Latvia, and Estonia announced they were stepping up security at their borders.
According to the Kremlin, Putin discussed the current situation over the phone with Turkey, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan presidents.