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Wagner chief 'humiliated' Putin, Ukraine says

Published June 25, 2023last updated June 25, 2023

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the Wagner mercenary group had "almost nullified" Russian President Vladimir Putin. Wagner fighters are said to have left Rostov-on-Don.

A Wagner mercenary sits atop in a tank in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don
Wagner mercenaries were unexpectedly called off after their chief Yevgeny Prigozhin ended the short-lived mutinyImage: AP/picture alliance
  • Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says the Kremlin has been "humiliated" by the Wagner Group
  • The governor of Russia's southern Rostov region says Wagner soldiers have left
  • Prigozhin heading to Belarus, will not face criminal charges

These live updates are now closed. For an analysis on the Wagner Group offensive in Russia please read our explainer on who's who in the Prigozhin-Kremlin conflict.

Blinken: Wagner rebellion reveals cracks in Putin's authority

The Wagner Group's armed rebellion has revealed major tensions behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's authority, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a series TV of interviews on Sunday.

"We've seen more cracks emerge in the Russian facade," Blinken told NBC.

"It is too soon to tell exactly where they go, and when they get there. But certainly, we have all sorts of new questions that Putin is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead."

US officials expect to learn more details soon about the situation in Russia, including the terms of the deal brokered by Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko.

"It may be that Putin didn't want to debase himself to the level of negotiating directly with Prigozhin," Blinken said in an interview on ABC.

He added: "I don't think we've seen the final act."

Wagner troops and their trucks in Rostov-on-Don
Wagner troops have pulled out of Rostov-on-Don, where they briefly occupied a military headquartersImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

Lithuania warns of Prigozhin on NATO's border

NATO will need to beef up its defenses if Belarus hosts Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Sunday.

"If Prigozhin or part of the Wagner Group ends up in Belarus with unclear plans and unclear intentions, it will only mean that we need to further strengthen the security of our eastern borders," Nauseda told reporters.

"I am not only talking about Lithuania here, but without a doubt the whole of NATO."

Lithuania will host a NATO summit in Vilnius next month.

Former Russian PM says it is still a 'defeat' for Putin despite Wagner deal

The situation in Russia may have calmed after an Alexander Lukaschenko-mediated deal was struck between Wagner and the Kremlin to end the rebellion but former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that even though "yesterday's deal was presented as a compromise it is in fact Putin's defeat."

"Putin's power, authority is starting to be questioned," he told DW.

And Kasyanov questioned the motives and reputations of all involved in the deal that led to Wagner backing down.

"That was a deal between two bandits, mediated by a third bandit," he said.

The prime minister of Russia from 2000 to 2004 also said that Putin will "never" forgive Yevgeny Prigozhin over the rebellion, and that now the Wagner chief's life is "at stake."

Former Russian PM Mikhail Kasyanov: 'Putin's future started to be questioned'

At least 13 Russian servicemen died in the uprising: Military bloggers

At least 13 Russian servicemen perished in the Wagner mercenary uprising, according to pro-Kremlin military bloggers.

The number may have actually been more than 20, independent commentators reported on Sunday, citing the downing of six helicopters and a reconnaissance plane by forces led by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin.

There was no confirmation of the claims by Russian authorities and the data could not be independently verified.

Late on Saturday, Prigozhin said that he had given the order to turn back because of the risk of blood being spilled.

Russia specialist warns mutiny could make Putin more dangerous

Nikolai Petrov, a Russian politics specialist who works for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told DW that the last days revealed that the Russian army and state were not as strong as had been considered and that this served as a "game changer."

Petrov said Putin's KGB background meant he would follow certain rules. 

"By those rules, it's very important to demonstrate to the elites who is the master in the house, meaning that Putin, who looks weaker now, should somehow present himself as the real master of Russia, which makes him, I would say, more dangerous than before this mutiny."

"I think it means that repressions in Russia will become even more intensive... partly due to the fact that the Kremlin now sees how vulnerable it is."

The need to demonstrate strength could also manifest itself in Putin ramping up the war in Ukraine, Petrov said. 

"In the case of Russia, there could be three different options to be considered: a status quo option, a pacifying option, and an escalation option. Putin is in a weak position, meaning that escalation option is, I think, the most probable one."

Russian reactions to Wagner mercenary group insurrection

UK ex-general warns Wagner may attack Kyiv

A former British general has warned that Wagner fighters might use Belarus as the staging point for a fresh attack on Kyiv, if enough of them follow leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Prigozhin has gone to Belarus as part of a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and has been told he and his troops will not be prosecuted for their rebellion. 

"The fact that he's gone to Belarus is a matter of some concern," former chief of general staff Richard Dannatt told Sky News.

Dannatt said it was still unclear how many of Prigozhin's fighters would follow him to Russian-allied Belarus, which was used to launch Russia's initial advance on Kyiv and Chernihiv in February last year. 

The company's armed component is estimated at some 25,000 men.

If Prigozhin has "kept an effective fighting force around him then he presents a threat again to the Ukrainian flank closest to Kyiv," Dannatt said.

Kyiv welcomes Russia's domestic troubles

Moscow received Beijing's 'support' over Wagner

The Russian Foreign Ministry says Beijing offered backing to Moscow's efforts to counter a mutiny led by the head of the Wager mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin.

"The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the leadership of the Russian Federation to stabilize the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24, and reaffirmed its interest in strengthening the unity and further prosperity of Russia," the ministry said after a meeting in Beijing between China's Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko.

Wagner forces quit Russia's Voronezh region

Fighters from the Wagner Group private military company are leaving Russia's Voronezh region — between Moscow and Rostov — after halting a rebellion against the military's top brass. 

Russia says the army was deployed and led "combat" operations in the region on Saturday, although little is known about what happened.

During the mutiny, there was a huge unexplained fire at an oil depot in the city.

"The movement of Wagner units through the Voronezh region is ending," Voronezh governor Alexander Gusev said. 

Gusev added that the exodus was running normally and without incidents, adding that travel restrictions imposed against the mutiny would be lifted once "the situation is finally resolved."

The Wagner Group: Russia's shadow mercenary organization

He said authorities would tell residents about compensation for damage and thanked them for their "endurance, firmness and reason."

The governor on Saturday called for people in Voronezh to stay at home and expressed support for President Vladimir Putin.

Rostov-on-Don calm after Prigozhin pulls out — report

Regular traffic activities resumed around the headquarters of Russia's Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday after Yevgeny Prigozhin and his mercenaries left the city, RIA state news agency reported.

The agency posted a video, which it said was taken in the city of Rostov-on-Don, of a man sweeping a street and traffic moving along another one.

Prigozhin was seen retracting from the district military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don after halting a rebellion against the Kremlin.

Russian news sources said all transport restrictions in Rostov had been lifted on Sunday, including those on highways.

"Bus and railway stations are working in normal mode. Tickets are on sale, all destinations are on schedule," said deputy minister of regional policy and mass communication Sergey Tyurin.

Highway restrictions imposed in Moscow and Tula

Taking note of the volatile situation caused by Prigozhin's mutiny against the Kremlin, authorities have placed traffic restrictions on a key highway in Moscow and Tula regions. 

The traffic curbs were imposed on the M-4 "Don" major expressway on Sunday, the Federal Road Agency said on the Telegram messaging app.

"According to earlier decisions made in the regions, the restriction of traffic along the M-4 'Don' (highway) in the Tula and Moscow regions remains in place," the agency said.

Russian police officers, traffic police officers and servicemen block part of a highway entering Moscow
Russian police officers, traffic police officers and servicemen block part of a highway entering MoscowImage: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

US spy agencies saw signs of Wagner revolt — US media

US spy agencies had predicted that Yevgeny Prigozhin was preparing to rise up against the Kremlin, the Washington Post and New York Times reported.

US intelligence officials conducted briefings at the White House, the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill a day before the unrest began.

The Washington Post said that spy agencies first began examining signs that Prigozhin was planning to move against the Russian military leadership in mid-June.

The New York Times said that the information was both solid and alarming by the middle of the week.

Germany's Baerbock shortens South Africa visit over Wagner conflict

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has shortened a trip to South Africa due to the conflict which occurred between the Wagner mercenary group and the Kremlin.

Baerbock had been scheduled to head for Cape Town on Sunday afternoon, with the foreign minister also spending Monday there.  

She will now attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday instead. Baerbock, however, is still expected to visit the South African city of Pretoria on Tuesday for talks. 

Putin 'humiliated' by Wagner Kyiv

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has "humiliated" Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

 "You almost nullified Putin, took control of the central authorities, reached Moscow and suddenly ... you retreat," Podolyak said in a tweet, referring to Prigozhin.

He called Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who mediated a deal between Wagner and the Kremlin, a "very specific intermediary with a dubious reputation."

"Prigozhin humiliated Putin/the state and showed that there is no longer a monopoly on violence," Podolyak declared.

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 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.

Russian Wagner military vehicles in Rostov-on-Don street
Wagner fighters took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, but have now leftImage: Erik Romanenko/ITAR-TASS/IMAGO

In a major challenge to Putin's authorities, the heavily armed Wagner fighters took control of Rostov. 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 their leader said would avoid bloodshed and de-escalate the crisis.

Wagner boss says his troops are 'turning back'

What happened during the Wagner rebellion?

On Friday, Prigozhin claimed that his troops had been attacked by Russia's army.

Prigozhin also criticized the rationale behind Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying Russian elites aimed to acquire "material assets" from the country.

Russian authorities then launched an investigation into Prigozhin for what they called a "mutiny."

Prigozhin led his forces into Russia, taking control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and coming into conflict with Russian troops. The Wagner chief said the move was not a "military coup" but rather a "march for justice."

Some of the Wagner members were heading toward Moscow, in a direct threat to Russia's government.

On Saturday, the Kremlin announced that it had reached a deal with the mercenary group. The deal was mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Under the terms of the deal, Russia's government would not move forward with criminal charges against Wagner members who participated in the rebellion. Prigozhin will also move to Belarus

Prigozhin had on multiple occasions in the past criticized Russia's military leadership for allegedly providing Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine with insufficient ammunition.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

zc, jsi, sdi/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)