Wagner forces return to base after aborted mutiny humiliates Putin

Vladimir Putin records an address from his office as Wagner troops advance toward Moscow
Vladimir Putin records an address from his office as Wagner troops advance toward Moscow Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP/AFP
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A brief revolt saw Wagner Group soldiers under Yevgeny Prigozhin's command move unimpeded into the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and advance toward Moscow before abruptly turning back.

The head of the private Russian military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, will move to neighbouring Belarus as part of a deal to defuse tensions and the criminal case against him will be closed, it was announced last night.


Prigozhin's sudden move towards Moscow briefly threw the immediate future of the Putin government into question, but it was only a matter of hours before the agreement was struck and his troops turned back.


That's the end of our live weekend coverage of the ongoing - and often puzzling - events that have taken place in Russia with an apparent attempted coup that fizzled out not long after it started. Here's what you need to know, and read below to see how everything unfolded: 

  • Wagner paramilitary forces led by boss Yevgeny Prigozhin first took control of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and then began driving north on the main highway towards Moscow.
  • New security measures were put in place in the capital, and local residents were told not to travel.
  • The Kremlin accused the boss of private paramilitary company Wagner of attempting to stage a coup. Prigozhin insisted his forces were "patriots" who had the support of the Russian people because of the mishandling of the war in Ukraine
  • Before Wagner forces reached Moscow, it was announced that a deal had been struck for Prigozhin to abandon his apparent plan leave Russia for Belarus in exchange for the lifting of criminal charges against him.
  • The deal appeared to defuse a dramatically escalating crisis that represented the most significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin in his more than two decades in power.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the episode proved that in Russia there's "so much chaos, no lie can hide it."

McFaul: Russia "must have known" about mutiny in advance

Speaking on US network MSNBC this morning, former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul – one of the most-followed commentators on the Ukrainian conflict – remarked that if it is true as reported that US intelligence got wind of Prigozhin's attack months ago, it follows that Russian intelligence almost certainly knew about it too.

Here are his remarks:


When Prigozhin denied he would stage a coup

It was only a few weeks ago that Wagner's Yvgeny Prigozhin explicitly said he was not planning to overthrow Vladimir Putin, even as he continued his stream of public insults against the Ministry of Defence and its mishandling of the invasion of Ukraine. 

The US-based Institute for the Study of War reported that Prigozhin had argued his mercenary force could not topple the Kremlin because it lacked the manpower, following a claim by former Russian military commander Igor Girkin it wanted to do so. 

Here's our writeup from last month. 


Images of mutiny

Russia-watchers of the Twittersphere are sharing what clips and images they can find of yesterday's events, gleaned from various sources. Here's a sample of what's doing the rounds.


Ukraine keeping tally of Russian losses in Wagner operation


Taking down Wagner recruitment posters

The Wagner group has been recruiting heavily in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, in which it has played a crucial role – but after this weekend's events, its billboards look set to be less of a feature of Russia's urban landscape...

AP Photo

Shoigu goes to ground

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu have sunbathed together shirtless in remote Siberia, shared fishing trips and played in the same ice hockey team. The Russian Defence Minister has long been regarded not only as a political ally of the President, but also as one of his few friends among the Russian elite.

However, their relationship now faces a considerable challenge following the Wagner group revolt – as does Shoigu's long political career

Shoigu has disappeared from the public eye for the time being, going quiet as Prigozhin successfully seized the headquarters of the Russian army's Southern Command in Rostov-on-Don, the nerve centre of the invasion of Ukraine. Before the deal with Belarus was struck, Prigozhin accused Shoigu of fleeing "like a coward" and vowed that he "would be arrested". 

But even before the uprising broke out on Friday evening, Shoigu had suffered myriad public insults from Prigozhin, and was increasingly associated with the Russian military's failures in Ukraine.

On 12 June, a video of Putin and Shoigu attending a medal ceremony in a military hospital showed the Russian president turning his back on him with apparent contempt – a cruel disgrace for the man who has enjoyed unrivalled longevity in post-Soviet Russia, and whose presence at the heart of power in Moscow predates even Putin's. (AFP)


Blinken: Wagner coup reveals fissures in Russian power structure

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been doing the media rounds on the American Sunday morning news shows, and is naturally answering questions about the meaning of yesterday's action by the Wagner group. Here's the assessment he gave to CNN:


Belarusian opposition leader decries Prigozhin deal

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been exiled from Belarus since she ran against and quite possibly defeated Alexander Lukashenko in the country's 2020 election, has weighed in on the deal that will see her country hosting Yvgeny Prigozhin in return for the dropping of Russian charges against him:


Russia says it fought off new Ukrainian assaults

Russia claimed on Sunday to have repelled several assaults by Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv announced yesterday evening that it had launched new offensives and was making progress.

The Russian army "successfully repelled" attacks in four areas of the front, notably in the Donetsk region, but also in Zaporizhzhia, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement, adding that ten of these attacks had been repelled near Bakhmut.

Zaporizhzhia is of particular importance because it is host to Europe's largest active nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian troops and which Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russia may be planning to sabotage with potentially disastrous consequences. (AFP)

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