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Kremlin drops Wagner charges, Prigozhin to Belarus

Published June 23, 2023last updated June 24, 2023

A deal brokered by Minsk will ensure that the private military group won't be punished for the mutiny in Russia. Wagner fighters had been heading to Moscow for a confrontation with the Kremlin.

A local resident walks past members of Wagner group in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023
Wagner forces seized Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia on Saturday before advancing northImage: ROMAN ROMOKHOV/AFP
  • Belarus says Wagner chief agrees to halt troop movement toward Moscow

  • Prigozhin offered move to Belarus; Wagner troops to face no punishment over rebellion

  • The deal follows a rapid Wagner advance from southern Russia toward the capital

  • Earlier, President Vladimir Putin vowed to punish those involved in "armed mutiny"

  • Zelenskyy speaks of Russia "chaos," says Putin is "hiding somewhere"

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Governor: Wagner soldiers quit Rostov-on-Don in mutiny U-turn

Wagner group fighters have left the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and are headed back to their field camps, the regional governor said.

News agencies cited witnesses as seeing the tanks, cargo trucks and several minivans carrying fighters leave the city.

The private military group seized Rostov's military headquarters earlier Saturday, from where the operations for Russia's invasion of Ukraine are run.

In a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin's authorities, the heavily armed Wagner fighters took control of Rostov, while some of them advanced most of the way to Moscow in a rebellion against Russia's military establishment.

Under a deal brokered by Belarus, Wagner fighters pulled out of Rostov in a move that their leader said would avoid bloodshed and de-escalate the crisis.

Wagner boss offered Belarus move in mutiny deal

Wagner mercenary force chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will move to Belarus under a deal brokered by Minsk to end an armed mutiny that Prigozhin led against Russia's military leadership, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Putin's support, because he had known Prigozhin personally for around 20 years.

"Avoiding bloodshed, internal confrontation and clashes with unpredictable results was the highest goal," Peskov said.

The criminal case against Prigozhin, which was launched Saturday, will be dropped and other Wagner troops won't face punishment for the rebellion, Peskov added.

He said the mutiny would not affect the military's assault plans in Ukraine.

Wagner forces begin pullout of Russia's Rostov-on-Don

Wagner fighters began to withdraw from Rostov-on-Don late Saturday, after seizing the southern Russian city earlier in the day.

News agencies cited witnesses as seeing the fighters leave the city, where Wagner had occupied military facilities that are controlling the country's invasion of Ukraine.

An AFP reporter at the scene saw a tank, several cargo trucks and several minivans carrying fighters leave the military headquarters.

Prigozhin could be seen leaving in an SUV, in a video posted on Telegram by the Russian state news agency RIA.

Earlier Saturday, some of Wagner's forces had begun moving north from Rostov-on-Don toward Moscow for an apparent showdown with the Russian defense establishment.

The uprising was reversed when Wagner boss Prigozhin and Belarusian leader Lukashenko agreed on a deal, with Putin's permission.

It wasn't immediately clear what concessions, if any, Putin may have made to Prigozhin.

Zelenskyy: Masters of Russia 'control nothing'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the revolt by Wagner mercenaries had revealed the "chaos" within Putin's regime.

"The world can see that the masters of Russia control nothing. And that means nothing. Simply complete chaos," he said in his nightly video address.

"In one day, they lost several of their million-plus cities and showed all Russian bandits, mercenaries, oligarchs and anyone else how easy it is to capture Russian cities and, probably, arsenals with weapons," Zelenskyy added.

He said Putin was "obviously very afraid" and was likely "hiding somewhere and "no longer in Moscow."

He warned that the next round of chaos in Russia would be "even more dangerous."

Belarus: Wagner chief agrees to de-escalate mutiny

The office of Belarusian leader Lukashenko said Wagner chief Prigozhin had agreed to deescalate his mutiny.

Lukashenko's office said the president spoke to Prigozhin with the permission of Putin to broker a deal to halt the movement of Wagner's mercenaries across Russia.

Belarus said an agreement that guarantees the safety of Wagner fighters is on the table.

The announcement was carried on the official Telegram channel of the Belarusian president.

Prigozhin quickly confirmed the deal, saying: "We are turning our columns around and going back to field camps." 

He said he understood the importance of the moment and did not want to "spill Russian blood."

Prigozhin didn't say whether the Kremlin had responded to his demand to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin, but the deal might defuse a crisis that appeared to be escalating rapidly

Earlier, the Kremlin called on Prigozhin's troops to surrender, hours after they sent a tank convoy in the direction of Moscow in an apparent act of rebellion against the Russian military.

The troops were just 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital, according to Prigozhin.

Ukrainian envoy: Collapse of Putin regime 'a matter of time'

Andriy Melnyk, a Ukrainian foreign envoy, says it is only a matter of time before Putin is ousted. 

"With the Wagner coup, the Rubicon has been crossed and a new era of power decline and instability in Russia has been ushered in," Melnyk told Germany's t-online news site. 

Melnyk said that, while Putin may succeed in bloodily putting down the uprising and "halfway restoring order," this will not "save the Kremlin from the internal chaos that is brewing."

Melnyk, who served as Ukraine's ambassador to Germany from 2015 to 2022, became well-known in the country for his frank and outspoken statements.

Putin signs off on martial law penalties

Putin has signed off on new punishments for violations of martial law, including up to 30 days in jail and fines.

The new law does not, however, list specific violations like abuse of curfews or the refusal to work.

Officially, martial law has not yet been imposed in Moscow but is in force in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine such as Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.

On Saturday, several Russian regions declared an anti-terror emergency amid the Wagner mercenary army's uprising.

White House: Biden calls European leaders over Russia crisis

US President Joe Biden spoke with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom as mutinous Wagner group forces barrelled towards Moscow after seizing a southern Russian city overnight, the White House said.

"The leaders discussed the situation in Russia. They also affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine," a readout said.

Meanwhile, the top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, canceled a scheduled trip
to the Middle East on Saturday because of the situation in Russia, his spokesperson said.

Milley, who was meant to travel to Israel and Jordan, also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Milley's office said in a separate statement.

Also on Saturday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussing the latest developments in Russia, a Turkish Foreign Ministry source said.

Putin vows punishment for mutineers: political analyst Kirill Rogov speaks to DW

Moscow mayor tells citizens to stay home, declares Monday non-working day

Moscow's Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has issued a statement telling residents in the capital to avoid unnecessary travel and also declared that Monday would not be a working day for most people — except for core services, security services, the military and so forth. 

"In order to minimize risks, I, within the framework of the operational headquarters, decided to declare Monday a non-working day," Sobyanin said on the Telegram website. 

He urged residents to refrain from unnecessary travel around the city and told them to report emergency situations to the emergency services hotline (112 in Russia) as quickly as possible. 

These steps come as Wagner troops reportedly entered the Lipetsk region some 300 kilometers south of Moscow, as they moved rapidly north along the M4 highway toward the capital. 

Erdogan offers to help find 'peaceful resolution'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone on Saturday to offer Turkey's help in finding a "peaceful resolution" to the internal conflict brewing between the Wagner Group and Russia's military.

Erdogan "underlined the importance of acting with common sense," his office said in a statement.

"President Erdogan said that we, as Turkey, are ready to do our part for the peaceful resolution of events in Russia as soon as possible," it added.

Erdogan's office also said that "it was stressed during the call that no one should take it upon themselves to take action in the face of the situation in Russia."

Russian state news agency TASS also reported the phone call, claiming that the Turkish president declared his "full support for the steps taken by the Russian leadership."

'The situation is very serious': security analyst Domitilla Sagramoso speaks to DW

Wagner mercenaries enter Lipetsk

Mercenaries from the Wagner Group have entered the Lipetsk region some 300 kilometers (250 miles) south of Moscow, the governor said on Saturday afternoon.

"Hardware of the Wagner mercenary group is moving across the territory of the Lipetsk region," Governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram.

"I remind you that residents are strongly recommended not to leave their houses or to make trips on any mode of transport."

Earlier, Wagner claimed to occupy a military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and mercenaries were also spotted further north in the Voronezh region.

Wagner unrest could be Putin's downfall: Former Russian PM

Vladimir Putin's regime could collapse if he cannot put down the Wagner Group unrest, according to former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Kasyanov, who served under Putin from 2000 until 2004 before joining the opposition, said dealing with Prigozhin's forces might negatively impact Russia's military in Ukraine.

"If, within two days, Putin doesn't settle the issue with Prigozhin, it means big problems will appear," Kasyanov told DW's Eddy Micah from Latvia.

"It means just a very quick collapse of the regime. We will be watching on," he added.

He said the internal conflict is already chipping away at Putin's rule and could see members of the "ruling elite" choose not to implement his orders.

"That means just the beginning of the end of Putin's regime," he said.

Former Russian PM Kasyanov analyzes impact of Wagner mutiny

G7 foreign ministers discuss Russia situation

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations spoke on Saturday to "exchange views" on the emerging internal conflict in Russia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"Our support to Ukraine continues unabated," he said.

After the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said that Washington will "stay in close coordination with allies and partners as the situation continues to develop."

Baerbock says Germany monitoring situation in Russia

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she has been monitoring reports that the Wagner Group is taking territory in Russia.

"We have been observing the developments in Russia very closely since yesterday evening," she said on Twitter. "German nationals in Russia should absolutely observe our adapted travel and safety instructions."

The new travel advisory released by the German Foreign Office now states that Rostov-on-Don and other affected areas should be avoided.

"In Moscow, state facilities, especially military facilities, should be avoided as far as possible. The city center should be avoided until further notice. Instructions from Russian security authorities should be followed at all costs," it reads.

Meanwhile, Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius underlined that the Wagner unrest is a domestic issue for Russia.

"This is difficult to assess, especially since we do not know how unstable Russia will become and who will ultimately have the upper hand and who will join forces with whom," he added.

Chechen troops en route to 'preserve Russia's unity'

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said Saturday his troops are heading off to support the Kremlin against the armed uprising by the Wagner Group.

"Fighters from the Ministry of Defense and the National Guard of the Chechen Republic have already left for the tense areas. We will do everything to preserve Russia's unity and protect its statehood," Kadyrov posted on Telegram. 

Earlier on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation, where he spoke of an armed "mutiny" and announced that he would punish those who rebel.

"I support every word of Vladimir Putin," Kadyrov said.

Chechen fighters are currently deployed with the Russian military in the war against Ukraine and, until recently, were fighting alongside Wagner mercenaries.

A Wagner tank in the streets of Rostov-on-Don
The Wagner Group claims to have captured parts of Rostov-on-DonImage: REUTERS

Fuel depot on fire in Voronezh, UK says Wagner has sights on Moscow

A fuel depot was on fire in Russia's southern city of Voronezh on Saturday, the local governor announced after Moscow said the army was leading "combat" in the region amid a mutiny from Wagner mercenaries. 

Voronezh authorities are "extinguishing a burning fuel depot," Governor Alexander Gusev said on Telegram. "There are 100 firefighters and more than 30 vehicles at the scene," he added, saying there were "no victims according to initial data."

Some media have published a video showing a military helicopter in the area before an explosion.

Earlier on Saturday, Britain said the Wagner Group had crossed from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine to Russia in at least two locations and had "almost certainly" occupied key security sites in Rostov-on-Don.

"Further Wagner units are moving north through Voronezh Oblast, almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow," British intelligence said.

"With very limited evidence of fighting between Wagner and Russian security forces, some have likely remained passive, acquiescing to Wagner."

Sunak urges 'all parties' to protect civilians

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called on "all parties" in Russia to protect civilians after the Wagner Group captured territory in Rostov and other regions.

"The most important thing I'd say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians," Sunak told the BBC in an interview.

"We're keeping a close eye on the situation and how it's evolving on the ground as we speak," he added.

He also said he would speak with allies about the situation later on Saturday.

Putin vows to take 'tough action' against armed rebellion

'Russia's weakness is obvious': Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that the growing unrest in Russia is a result of its invasion of Ukraine.

"Russia's weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness," he said in a statement posted to social media after the Wagner Group captured territory in several Russian regions.

"The longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later."

Zelenskyy implied that Putin was unable to stop his troops from "fleeing and betraying when life resists" in Ukraine.

Putin allies rally in support of Russian president

Some of Vladimir Putin's closest allies rallied around in support of the Russian president on Saturday in the wake of the threat posed by the Wagner Group.

Putin on Saturday spoke to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev by telephone, with the latter describing the events in Russia as an internal affair while saying the rule of law must be maintained.

The leader of Russia's Orthodox, meanwhile, Patriarch Kirill, called for "unity" and voiced support for Putin.

"Today, when our brothers are fighting and dying on the frontlines... any attempt to sow discord within the country is the greatest possible crime that has no justification," Patriarch Kirill said in a statement. "I support the efforts of the head of the Russian state, aimed at not allowing turmoil in our country."

Wagner leader hits back at Putin

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has responded to President Vladimir Putin's "betrayal" comments, suggesting in fact that the mercenary group's soldiers are Russian "patriots."

"The president makes a deep mistake when he talks about treason," Prigozhin said in an audio message.

Prigozhin also said that Wagner forces would not be "turning themselves in and confess at the order of the president, the FSB (security service) or anyone else. Because we don't want the country to continue to live any longer in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy."

Earlier on Saturday, Putin said Wagner fighters were traitors who must be punished.

Wagner assault 'unprecedented' in Russia

DW International Correspondent Roman Goncharenko said the reports of a Wagner Group mutiny could be a turning point for Russia.

"We’ve never seen anything like this in recent Russian history," he said.

"Taking control of Rostov-on-Don, or at the least part of Rostov-on-Don where the headquarters of the Russian army is, is an unprecedented move and it shows how weak the Russian military is," he added.

The Wagner Group has taken on semi-official military responsibilities since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, but in recent months Yevgeny Prigozhin has turned against Putin and blamed Russia's armed forces for losses on the battlefield.

Putin condemns 'stab in the back'

"It is a gigantic experiment that (Putin) started by invading Ukraine, and now things are developing in a very bad direction for him," Goncharenko said.

In an address early on Saturday, Putin made comparisons to how World War I led to revolution and civil war inside Russia in 1917.

"Putin is absolutely right to draw comparisons," Roman Goncharenko said. "This is where Russia is heading now, but we are not there yet."

Russia fighting for 'its future,' says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the Wagner Group's rebellion, telling the nation it was facing its "toughest battle for its future."

In an address to the country, Putin described Yevgeny Prigozhin's actions — in calling for an uprising against the Kremlin — an "armed mutiny" and told the rebels they will face "inevitable punishment" for their "betrayal."

Putin did admit the situation in Rostov-on-Don was "difficult" following Wagner's claims it had seized control of the airport and army headquarters in the city near the Ukrainian border.

"There will be decisive measures taken on stabilizing the situation in Rostov-on-Don," Putin told the nation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives an emergency televised address in Moscow
Putin vowed that those who "betray" will be "punished" in an address to the nationImage: via REUTERS

Russian military hit back: Voronezh official

The governor of Russia's southern region of Voronezh, Alexander Gusev, said Saturday that the Russian army was "carrying out necessary operational and combat measures" to fend off the Wagner Group's efforts to topple the country's senior military leadership.

Poland 'monitors' while UK says Russia facing 'most significant challenge in recent times'

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MOD) said in an intelligence update that "the coming hours" may be decisive as "to how this crisis plays out" as Russian security forces face a test of "loyalty" to the Kremlin over the "feud" between Wagner and Moscow's military.

The MOD said that Wagner units were heading north through Voronezh Oblast and were "aiming to get to Moscow." 

Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, Poland's president held "consultations" with the prime minister and defense ministry about "the situation in Russia."

"The course of events beyond our eastern border is monitored on an ongoing basis," Andrzej Duda wrote on Twitter.

Russia will 'guarantee safety' of Wagner fighters who stop rebelling

The Russian army on Saturday said it would "guarantee the safety" of Wagner mercenaries who stop rebelling against the Russian government and its military.  

"We are appealing to the fighters of assault squads of PMC Wagner. You were deceived into (Wagner chief's Yevgeny) Prigozhin's criminal venture and participation in an armed rebellion," the army said in a statement. It called on the fighters to ask for help to return to "places of permanent deployment." 

"We ask you to show reason and get in touch with representatives of Russia's defense ministry or law enforcement. We guarantee safety for all." 

Moscow declares state of emergency

The city of Moscow and the capital's region have declared a counterterrorism state of emergency against the backdrop of the armed uprising by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

"In order to prevent possible terrorist attacks in the city and Moscow region, a regime of counterterrorism operations has been established," Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee said on Saturday morning. 

Moscow ramps up security following Prigozhin criticism

Armored vehicles in front of parliament in Moscow

Armored vehicles have appeared in the center of Moscow in the wake of the power struggle between Wagner and the Kremlin. 

"Security measures have been increased in Moscow, all important objects, such as organs of state power and objects of transport infrastructure, have been put under heightened guard," the state news agency TASS reported.

Putin to 'address' nation 'soon'

Russian President Vladimir Putin will "soon" address the nation, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Saturday.

Russia is in the midst of a rebellion from the Wagner mercenary group, led by its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has vowed to topple Moscow's military. 

Wagner chief claims he's seized Rostov army HQ and airport

The head of the Wagner mercenary group says his troops have occupied key military objects in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, as Yevgeny Prigozhin ramps up his challenge to the Kremlin.

"Under our control are military objects of Rostov, including the airport," Prigozhin said in a video released on Saturday morning. 

He also claimed to have seized control of the army's headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a city with a population of over 1 million near the border with Ukraine.

Prigozhin's claims, however, could not be independently verified.

Unverified videos show soldiers in Rostov-on-Don

Following claims by Prigozhin that his Wagner forces had crossed from Ukraine into Russia and were on their way to the city of Rostov-on-Don, numerous videos began to appear on social media showing soldiers and tanks moving around inside the city.

Reuters was able to verify that the footage was of the police headquarters building, but could not say when it was taken.

Local news site 161.ru said that their correspondent has seen tanks and armored vehicles in the center of the city.

Rostov is the headquarters of the Russian Southern Military District, a key hub for Russian forces and close to the Ukrainian border.

The footage could not be verified and it was also not possible to determine whether the forces shown were Russian military or Wagner mercenaries.

Russia: Moscow mayor says 'anti-terror' measures in place in capital city

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said they were taking "anti-terrorist" measures to secure the Russian capital.

"In connection with the incoming information in Moscow, anti-terrorist measures aimed at strengthening security are being taken," Sobyanin said on Telegram.

The feud between the Wagner Group and the Russian defense leadership escalated into a confrontation after the mercenary group called on members to support an armed rebellion against the military leadership.

Wagner chief accuses Russian army of deceiving Putin

Prigozhin: Russian helicopter that fired on 'civilian column' shot down

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, said in his latest audio message that: "A helicopter just now opened fire at a civilian column. It has been shot down by units of [private military company] Wagner."

Prigozhin's short message was not independently confirmed by other sources. It was also unclear what he meant by a civilian column.

If true, fighting between Wagner mercenary forces and Russian military troops would mark a serious escalation in the clash between Prigozhin and the Kremlin.

Russia: Putin briefed on situation 'around the clock'

Russian President Vladimir Putin is receiving regular updates on the situation, the Kremlin said.

"Security services, law enforcement agencies, namely, the Defense Ministry, the FSB, the Interior Ministry, the National Guard are reporting to the president constantly, around the clock," Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Putin, was quoted as saying by Russian media outlets.

Putin has not yet made any comments on Prigozhin's rant against high-level Russian officials and the progress of the war in Ukraine.

Wagner fighters stand outside the Southern Military District headquarters
Wagner fighters stand outside the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-DonImage: Erik Romanenko/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

White House: Monitoring situation in Russia

US National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said they were "monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments."

Hodge added that US President Joe Biden had been briefed about the fast-moving situation in Russia.

Prigozhin: Ready to 'go all the way' as mercenary forces cross from Ukraine into Russia

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces had crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia and that they were ready to go "all the way" in their challenge to the Russian military.

The Wagner chief said his forces had crossed the border into the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and added his men would destroy anyone who stood in their way. 

Prigozhin's claims have not been independently verified, nor has there been any video footage of Wagner troops crossing into Russia. 

DW analyst: Russian forces may face off against Wagner troops

DW's Russia analyst Konstantin Eggert said that "it's a possibility" that Russian troops may end up facing off against Wagner mercenary forces.

Eggert said that the Kremlin has ordered the mobilization of the special police forces as well as the FSB state security agency.

"There will be forces that will, I think, eventually confront the Wagner group if they decide to go into battle," he said. "But it still remains to be seen."

Unverified reports on Telegram said that Prigozhin's Wagner forces had crossed into Russia from Ukraine without any resistance from Russian border guards.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin does not appear on television soon to address the situation, "it will look really strange, it will look like weakness and I think that it will have a lasting effect on Putin's regime no matter what the outcome of this particular crisis is," Eggert said. 

Russia: Ukraine taking advantage of spat to ready troops near Bakhmut

The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian troops of taking advantage of the infighting between the Wagner group and the Russian military to prepare its troops for an assault on Bakhmut.

"Taking advantage of Prigozhin's provocation to disorganize the situation, the Kyiv regime near the Bakhmut front is concentrating units... for offensive actions," the ministry was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.  

Russian forces declared control of Bakhmut in May, but Ukrainian forces have made it difficult for Russia to hold on to the city as they shape up a counteroffensive to take back territories.

Russia: Prigozhin could face up to 20 years in prison

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office said on Telegram that Prigozhin's actions could see him sentenced to 12 to 20 years behind bars.

The office said Prigozhin was charged under Article 279 of the Russian Criminal Code for organizing an armed insurrection. "His actions will be given a proper legal assessment," it added. 

Security expert analyses motives behind Prigozhin's open criticism

Security has been reportedly tightened in Moscow 

Security was boosted around government buildings, transport facilities and other key locations in Moscow, Russia state media TASS reported.

The new measures came after the head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, unleashed a challenge to Russia's military leadership, calling for an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia’s defense minister.

How has Ukraine reacted?

Ukraine has said it is monitoring the infighting between Prigozhin and the Russian military leadership.

"We are watching," the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said.

Russia: Prigozhin's claims not based in fact

The Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee has criticized claims by Prigozhin regarding the alleged attack on Wagner forces.

"The allegations spread in the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin have no basis in fact. That is why the FSB has initiated criminal proceedings on the basis of these statements for calling for an armed coup," the committee said.

Prigozhin, the outspoken leader of the Wagner Group, has feuded publicly with Russia's defense heads for months, accusing them of battlefield failures in the war in Ukraine.

On Friday, the Wagner chief accused Russia's military forces of striking and killing his mercenary forces.

Russia's defense ministry has denied the claim.  

Russia: FSB urges Wagner troops to ignore Prigozhin's orders

The Russian Federal Security Service or the FSB has urged Wagner troops to ignore Prigozhin's calls for resistance and urged them to detain the Wagner leader.

"Prigozhin's statements and actions are in fact a call to start an armed civil conflict on the territory of the Russian Federation and a stab in the back to Russian servicemen fighting pro-fascist Ukrainian forces," the FSB said.

Russian commander urges Wagner forces to obey military leadership

A deputy commander of Russia's war on Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, called on Wagner members to not oppose military leadership.

"I urge you to stop," Surovikin said in a video. "The enemy is waiting for the internal political situation to worsen in our country." 

"Before it is too late, it is necessary and it is needed to obey the will and order of the popularly elected President of the Russian Federation," Surovikin added.

A Russian armored personnel carrier vehicle, with the pro-war symbol 'Z,' on the roads of the southern Russian city of Rostov
A Russian tank driving through the Russian city of Rostov — Prigozhin claimed his forces had crossed into the city from UkraineImage: REUTERS

Putin aware of Prigozhin situation

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the situation regarding Prigozhin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov said "all necessary measures were being taken" after Prigozhin urged Russians to join him in resistance against Russian military leaders.

Prigozhin was a close friend of the Russian president and was once known as "Putin's chef." Although Prigozhin has been critical of the Russian military and its handling of the war in Ukraine, he has refrained from criticizing Putin by name.

Russia launches criminal probe into Wagner chief

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) launched a criminal probe into Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin on Friday, accusing him of attempting a "mutiny."

Earlier on Friday, Prigozhin accused the Russian military of attacking his forces in Ukraine

"We were ready to make concessions to the defense ministry, surrender our weapons," Prigozhin said in an audio message. "Today, seeing that we have not been broken, they conducted missile strikes at our rear camps. A huge number of our fighters, our comrades died."

Russia has denied it attacked Prigozhin's forces. Prigozhin has called on volunteers to join him after the alleged Russian attack.

"This is not a military coup. This is a march for justice," Prigozhin said. 

zc, jsi, rm, wd/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)