Putin has vowed to punish Wagner fighters who have rebelled against Russian military leadership
NEW DELHI: President Vladimir Putin has vowed to punish rebel fighters of private militia Wagner Group as authorities activated an anti-terrorist regime in capital Moscow on Saturday in a dramatic escalation of infighting.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said he had gained control of the army headquarters in the southern Russia city of Rostov-on-Don after he accused Russia military leadership of launching a rocket attack on one of the group’s camps which claimed many lives.
On Saturday morning, videos started circulating on social media showing armored vehicles patrolling the streets of Moscow and tanks, fighters and armored vehicles rolling on the streets of Rostov-on-Don.
In a video statement, Prigozhin claimed that his fighters had shot down a Russian helicopter which he said fired at civilians. However, he did not give any proof.
As the situation worsened, President Putin, in a televised address, vowed to punish those stabbing the back and emphasized that the Russian authorities will not allow a split in the country and assured the public that people will be protected.
During his speech, Putin revealed that he had held discussions with military commanders regarding the ongoing conflict, called for unity and urged Russians to put aside any discord during this critical military operation in Ukraine.
Without naming Prigozhin, the president said that “excessive ambitions” led to treason against Russia – a reference to the Wagner chief’s efforts to gain more power and clout and greater responsibility in the Ukraine war.
“any actions that split our nation are essentially a betrayal of our people, of our comrades-in-arms who are now fighting at the frontline. This is a knife in the back of our country and our people,” he said.
For months, Prigozhin has been openly ranting against Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, accusing him of depriving his troops of arms and ammunition and questioning his leadership abilities.
As per the anti-terrorist operation regime, previously planned mass events were canceled in Moscow. Security measures have been heightened in the capital city, and a criminal investigation has been launched against Prigozhin.
Meanwhile, Russia military called on Wagner fighters, who include hardened criminals and former special forces personnel, to stand down and seek assistance from the Russian defence ministry or law enforcement agencies to ensure their safe return to their points of permanent deployment.
Prigozhin’s private militia has been actively engaged in fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine and has been credited with Russia’s victory in the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.
The Russian defence ministry has refuted Prigozhin’s claims about the rocket attack, accusing him of spreading misinformation.
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