The Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) controls military facilities in Rostov-on-Don, including an airfield, the group’s proprietor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on Saturday, June 24. According to him, the PMC intends to “block the city of Rostov” and “advance on Moscow.”
In Prigozhin-affiliated Telegram channels, his recorded video address from the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don was shared. “We are in the headquarters. It is 7:30 in the morning. Military facilities in Rostov, including the airfield, are under control. Aircraft departing for combat operations are leaving as scheduled with no issues. Medical evacuation flights are departing without problems. All we are doing is taking control to ensure that the strike aircraft do not target us but target the Ukrainians. The main command headquarters and the command post operate normally, and no officer is detached,” stated Prigozhin.
Previously, a video of Prigozhin’s communication with Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defence Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and General Vladimir Alexeyev, who had previously urged the Wagner PMC to cease its actions, had been released. “We came here; we want to meet with the Chief of the General Staff and Shoygu. Until they are present, we are here, blocking the city of Rostov and heading to Moscow,” said Prigozhin to Russian Ministry of Defense representatives. During the conversation, he also stated that the Wagner PMC had shot down three military helicopters and that the military had attacked a civilian vehicle.
During the night of Prigozhin’s rebellion, several events transpired. According to his statement, Prigozhin accused the Russian regular troops and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu of attacking Wagner PMC camps the previous evening, resulting in the deaths of “many” people. Apart from Prigozhin’s claims, there is no other evidence of this attack. The video footage disseminated on Telegram channels, purportedly from the camp, lacks evidence of the strike or casualties.
The Russian Ministry of Defence refuted all of Prigozhin’s claims almost immediately. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stated that Vladimir Putin is aware of the situation and that “necessary measures” are being implemented.
The FSB (Federal Security Service) later reported that Prigozhin had been charged under Article 279 of the Russian Criminal Code for organising an armed rebellion. Prigozhin announced that the Wagner PMC had departed without specifying their precise destination to “stop the evil being perpetrated by the country’s military leadership.” At two o’clock in the morning, Moscow time, he announced that the Wagner PMC had entered Rostov. By morning, footage of military personnel surrounding the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don was released, followed by footage of Prigozhin inside. His statement indicates that 25,000 soldiers are involved in the rebellion.
In regions of Russia, security measures have been strengthened. The Governor of Rostov Oblast, Vasily Golubev, requested that residents of Rostov-on-Don refrain from travelling to the city centre and, if feasible, remain at home. According to Voronezh Oblast Governor Alexander Gusev, all mass gatherings have been cancelled.
Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, stated that “counter-terrorism measures” are being implemented in the city. According to Governor Andrey Vorobyev, security measures have been strengthened in the Moscow region, and “counter-terrorism measures” are also being implemented.
According to “Fontanka,” law enforcement authorities conducted searches at the “Wagner PMC Centre” in St. Petersburg. Additionally, individuals donning masks and carrying firearms arrived near the Blagoveshchensky Bridge, where Prigozhin-affiliated hotels and restaurants are located, according to “Fontanka.”
On the rebellion, only Russian President Vladimir Putin has commented. Shoygu and Gerasimov have not made any statements about Prigozhin’s actions.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, while addressing the Russian people, compared Prigozhin’s actions to the events of 1917 and termed them a “backstab.”
Putin began his speech by reiterating that the West is conducting a comprehensive military, economic, and informational campaign against Russia. “Therefore, actions that undermine our unity are essentially a betrayal of our own people, a betrayal of our comrades who are currently fighting on the front line. It is a stab in the back of our country and our people.” Putin did not mention Prigozhin by name during his entire address but compared his rebellion to the civil war of 1917.
“It was precisely this kind of blow that Russia suffered in 1917 while it was engaged in the First World War. Its victory was stolen. Intrigues, conflicts, and politics behind the army’s back and the people’s backs resulted in the greatest upheaval, the destruction of the army, the disintegration of the state, and the loss of vast territories. Ultimately, it led to the tragedy of the civil war,” said the president.
Putin described the rebellion as “treachery” and “betrayal” driven by “excessive ambitions and personal interests.” He stated that the actions taken to protect the homeland from such a threat would be severe. “Those who consciously embark on the path of treason, who prepared for armed rebellion, who resorted to blackmail and terrorist methods, will face inevitable punishment. They will be held accountable before the law and before our people,” Putin said, emphasising that the armed forces and other state bodies have received the necessary orders.
Putin confirmed that the activity of Rostov-on-Don’s civil and military authorities is effectively obstructed. He characterised the city’s circumstances as “difficult.” “Additional anti-terrorism measures are presently being implemented in Moscow, the Moscow region, and several other regions,” stated the president.