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The private military company, the Wagner Group, with anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 troops are in the middle of attempting a coup in Russia and turned against military leadership.
An arrest warrant has been issued by Russian authorities for Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group, being charged with mutiny.
Prigozhin, once a close advisor to President Vladimir Putin, says he is demanding retribution following what he claims to be a catastrophic loss of his forces in a series of strikes by the Russian military targeting his Wagner troops on Friday.
The Russian military, however, disputes the occurrence of such strikes, and there are no independent verification of his claims – which would be difficult to discern given the command and control of Russian and Wagner forces.
In a dramatic turn of events, Prigozhin is leading his forces on a so-called “march for justice” into Rostov, a southern Russian city with 1 million people, known to be the military hub overseeing operations in Ukraine.
He reported that local young conscripts offered no opposition, although a Russian helicopter allegedly attacked his battalion and some reports are saying the Russian helicopter was shot down, inside of Russia.
These statements have yet to be independently confirmed.
In an audio recording broadcasted on Wagner’s social media on Friday, Prigozhin declared, “The malevolence that the country’s military leadership propagates needs to be eradicated. They have lost sight of justice, and we will ensure its return.” He added, “Those who dare to resist will be perceived as threats and promptly eliminated. This includes all checkpoints obstructing our path and any aircraft hovering overhead.”
In the face of an apparent mutiny, heightened security measures are being enforced across Moscow, with the spotlight shining on Yevgeny Prigozhin.
As Moscow’s key facilities are secured by Russian soldiers aboard armored personnel carriers, high-ranking military officials with prior Wagner affiliations have appealed to the group’s soldiers, urging them to reconsider their actions. “The last thing we need is to unleash a real civil war inside the country. Come back to your senses,” urged Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev, the deputy chief of Russian military intelligence.
Witnesses captured footage of armored vehicles positioning across central Moscow, notably near the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, and the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Founded by Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian military intelligence officer, the Wagner Group has been implicated in numerous conflicts worldwide. This, however, marks the first time the group is accused of attempting to subvert the government of its own country.
According to multiple sources, members of the Wagner Group launched a calculated offensive in the early hours of June 23, 2023. Their goal: to seize control of key governmental installations within Moscow and, ultimately, the Kremlin itself.
As a private military group, the Wagner Group operates outside the purview of the Russian military and is said to report directly to Russia’s President. This incident puts the complex and secretive relationship between the Russian government and the Wagner Group in the limelight, triggering a heated debate within and outside Russia.
The Russian government, as expected, has vehemently denied the claims of an attempted coup. Instead, it has labeled the incident a “terrorist attack,” laying the blame on unspecified “foreign agents”. Nevertheless, the alleged coup has exposed vulnerabilities in the Russian power structure, raising questions about the stability of the Putin administration.
Many political analysts are now questioning the impact this event will have on Russia’s already volatile political landscape.
Internationally, the news of the attempted coup has caused alarm, particularly among NATO member states. The EU, UN, and other international bodies are closely monitoring the situation.
The coup attempt, if confirmed, could constitute a significant turning point in Russia’s political history, potentially leading to considerable shifts in power dynamics. It also underscores the growing influence and unpredictability of private military companies in global politics.
As Russia grapples with this shocking turn of events, the world waits to see how the government will respond to the internal challenge posed by the Wagner Group.