Russia orders arrest of Wagner chief for ‘armed mutiny’

Russian military has called on Wagner mercenaries to stand down as it introduces a anti-terrorist operation regime in Moscow

NEW DELHI | Updated: 24 June, 2023 1:12 pm IST
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin (file photo)

NEW DELHI: Russian officials have increased security measures in capital Moscow and launched a criminal investigation against private militia Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on charges of inciting an armed mutiny.

Prigozhin, whose mercenaries have been fighting alongside Russia troops in Ukraine, has been at loggerheads with Russia defence minister Sergei Shoigu for months over a range of issues. In a video statement, he announced to cross into Russia and overthrow the military leadership.

As per reports, Prigozhin has also criticized President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine – an unprecedented move considering he was his chef and long-time loyal associate. During the months of bickering over allocation of arms and ammunition to his fighters, he never targeted President Putin.

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He announced to overthrow Russia military leadership after claiming that Russia troops launched a rocket a Wagner camp, killing and injuring a large number of his mercenaries. He also claimed to have shot down a Russia helicopter.

On its part, the Russia defence ministry accused Prigozhin – who is said to control more than 50,000 fighters and credited for Russia’s victory in the Ukraininan town of Bakhmut – of spreading misinformation regarding the rocket attack.

President Putin being regularly updated on the situation, so is US President Joe Biden. The ongoing situation not only holds significant implications for the Ukraine war amidst the Ukranian counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, unverified videos circulating on social media show tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military equipment in motion in parts of Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, a southern city in Russia.

Videos from the city depict armed men in military uniforms and Russian main battle tanks and armored personnel carrier patrolling the streets.

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The escalation follows the announcement by Russia’s anti-terrorism committee that the Federal Security Service (FSB) had initiated a criminal investigation into Prigozhin for alleged calls to stage an armed rebellion.

In a video released on Saturday, Prigozhin claimed he was inside the army headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, and that his fighters controlled the city’s military sites.

Meanwhile, the local governor urged citizens of Rostov-on-Don to remain calm and indoors.

The Wagner Group, considered a private army of mercenaries, has been actively involved in the conflict alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine. Previously sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for alleged interference in the 2016 and 2018 US presidential elections, Prigozhin has been a prominent figure in Russia’s political and military landscape.

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