Russia-Ukraine war latest: Kremlin reportedly threatened Wagner families as soldiers marched to Moscow
Mon, June 26, 2023 at 3:05 PM GMT+1
The leader of the Kremlin’s shadowy private army, the Wagner Group, rebelled against top military officials over the weekend after a Russian rocket attack killed dozens of his soldiers.
In a dramatic show of force against his own government, Yevgeny Prigozhin led his soldiers toward Moscow on a “march for justice” to remove what he labeled as Russia’s incompetent and corrupt senior military leadership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Prigozhin’s “armed mutiny,” accusing him of “treason.” Hours later Prigozhin, just 125 miles from the capital, announced he was going to turn around. “Russian blood will be spilled on one side, we are turning our convoy around and going back to our base camps, according to the plan,” he declared in an apparent deal to end the insurrection.
Here are the latest developments.
Russian intelligence threatened Wagner families, say U.K. security forces
British security forces told the Telegraph on Monday that Russian intelligence services had threatened harm to the families of Wagner leaders who were participating in the mutiny. This new information could be a potential explanation as to why Prigozhin called off the march to Moscow.
Insights from British intelligence also claim that Putin is now looking to absorb Wagner soldiers into the country’s military and dismiss all top Wagner commanders. The report cited a British intelligence assessment that about 8,500 Wagner fighters were involved in the mutiny, contradicting public reports that the number was closer to 25,000.
Sergei Shoigu makes 1st public appearance since Wagner mutiny
Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, was seen for the first time since the weekend insurrection. The appearance is notable, as a key plank of Prigozhin’s uprising was the removal of Shoigu, the Associated Press reported.
The video, published to the Telegram social media platform, shows the military chief inspecting soldiers in Ukraine — clearly meant to suggest that Russia had moved past the Wagner conflict.
Following Shoigu’s public appearance, Prigozhin released a statement where he defended his 24-hour-long uprising. In the 11-minute long audio clip, the Wagner chief claimed the march was due to an “injustice” that was carried out – referring to Friday’s attack on a Wagner camp killing an estimated 30 soldiers.
Prigozhin to move to Belarus under deal to end mutiny
According to Reuters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Prigozhin is to move to Belarus after its president, Alexander Lukashenko, brokered a deal between Putin and the mercenary chief. Lukashenko had offered to mediate the deal, with Putin’s approval, as he has known Prigozhin personally for two decades.
Peskov added that Prigozhin would receive amnesty despite orchestrating the armed mutiny and that the soldiers who had taken part would also not face any criminal action.
Russia’s political situation past ‘tipping point,’ says Chinese commentator in deleted tweet
A well-known Chinese journalist stated that Russia would not be able to return to what it was before the armed mutiny, the Telegraph reported.
Hu Xijin, the former editor in chief of the Chinese-government-affiliated Global Times, had been commentating on Prigozhin’s insurrection and Russia’s political situation. In the now-deleted tweet, Hu wrote: “[Prigozhin’s] armed rebellion has made the Russian political situation cross the tipping point. Regardless of his outcome, Russia cannot return to the country it was before the rebellion anymore.”
Hu’s comments were a stark contrast to the Chinese government’s neutral stance on Russian politics. In what appeared to be a backtrack, Hu later posted: “Prigozhin quickly stopped and the rebellion was stopped without bloodshed, which obviously narrowed the impact on Putin’s authority, although not to zero.”