Leader of the mercenary group speaks of a “march for justice” that did not aim to “overthrow the current regime” and turned back “so as not to shed blood”. Putin said that “any attempt at blackmail to create internal unrest is doomed to failure”.
The leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, broke his silence yesterday to say that the aim of Saturday’s uprising was not to overthrow the Russian regime and that he turned back so as not to shed the blood of Russian soldiers. The “march for justice”, which was 200 km from Moscow, was a “masterclass” of what should have been the invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, he claimed in a new attack on military leaders. The 11-minute audio message was revealed on social media but did not remove doubts: where is Prigozhin and what will be the future of the Wagner Group?
In a statement earlier this evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “the vast majority” of the mercenary group’s members are “patriots” and that their retreating had avoided “a bloodbath”. He also claimed that the riot had been stopped and that the organizers realized that their actions were criminal, reiterating that “any attempt at blackmail to create internal unrest is destined to fail”. Putin’s statements, who appeared irritated, lasted five minutes.
Before retreating in his advance towards Moscow, the leader and founder of the group of mercenaries will have made an agreement with the Kremlin – negotiated with the intermediation of the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko (the opposition says that he will have served as a mere “postman” between Prigozhin and Putin). Under the agreement, the leader of the Wagner Group received an amnesty and went into exile in Belarus. In his statement, Putin seems to reiterate that members of the group who do not want to join the Russian army – as required by law on July 1st – can also go there.
Yesterday, however, there was no official confirmation that Prigozhin was in this country, only unconfirmed information that he had been seen in a hotel in Minsk. On Saturday night, he was seen getting into a car and leaving the Rostov-on-Don barracks – which his forces had conquered. Russian media reported yesterday, citing sources in the Russian attorney general’s office, that the charge against Prigozhin had not been dropped. Several Russian deputies even demand his head.
In the message, Prigozhin said that Lukashenko “offered solutions to allow the Wagner Group to continue its work in a legal manner”, without giving further explanation. According to unconfirmed information, a base for eight thousand fighters was supposedly being built in Belarus, in an area 200 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.
11 minutes from Prigozhin
“We did not aim to overthrow the current regime and the legally elected government,” Prigozhin explained in his message. “The aim of the march was to not allow the destruction of the Wagner private military company and to hold accountable the officers who, through their unprofessional actions, committed a massive number of mistakes. Society demanded it,” he said.
According to Prigozhin, the march began “because of an injustice”, in response to an attack on one of its bases, which killed 30 fighters and when the group is threatened with extinction. Regarding the idea that his men, who played a key role in the war in Ukraine – namely in the conquest of Bakhmut – will join the Russian army (they have to do so by July 1st), he said that they were not signed any contracts to that effect.
Prigozhin also revealed that the march did not cause a single death on the ground, but he expressed regret for having shot down a Russian helicopter, killing at least 15 soldiers. According to the leader of the mercenaries, they were bombing his group’s vehicles. “We turned back so as not to shed the blood of Russian soldiers”, he defended, claiming to have stayed 200 km from Moscow in a single day.
The leader of the Wagner Group also took advantage of his 11-minute message to criticize the Russian military, saying that their march towards the capital was a “masterclass” of how the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 should have been. level of organization that the Russian army should have”, he indicated, also warning of the “serious security problems that exist throughout the territory”. He also said that “the civilians welcomed us with Russian flags and the symbol of Wagner. Everyone was very happy when we passed”.
Prigozhin demands the resignation of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Yesterday, a video was released of this official on a plane with other military officials, listening to a report from the ground. It is unknown when the video was filmed. The Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, admitted that the country faced a “challenge to its stability”, defending “the union of forces” around Putin.
Read more at Diário de Notícias
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