Putin Blasts Wagner ‘Treason, Betrayal’ As Clashes Erupt In Southern Russia ZeroHedge

In his first speech addressing the crisis of Wagner’s armed rebellion on Saturday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to crush what he called Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “betrayal”. Southern governors, for example Alexander Gusev who oversees the city of Voronezh, has since confirmed armed clashes between regular military forces and Wagner fighters within Russian territory. He described necessary “combat measures” as part of counter-terror operations in the southern city.

What was unclear by Friday night is very clear Saturday: all hell is breaking loose in this first significant moment in over two decades that Putin’s iron grip on power is threatened by armed mutiny. “Any internal turmoil is a deadly threat to our statehood and to us as a nation. This is a blow to Russia and to our people,” Putin said in the televised speech. “This battle, when the fate of our people is being decided, requires the unification of all forces.”

“What we have been faced with is exactly betrayal. Extravagant ambitions and personal interests led to treason,” Putin said, referring to Prigozhin, head of the most powerful private military firm in Russia. “All those who consciously stood on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, stood on the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment, before the law and before our people,” Putin vowed.

He further in fiery language denounced the “stab in the back of our country and our people,” after Prigozhin the day prior declared war against the defense ministry, urging all Russians to join his 25,000 fighters as they seek to “stop” and overthrow Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other top commanders.

In response to Putin’s blistering speech, Prigozhin released a Telegram statement calling the president “deeply mistaken” regarding his assessment of betrayal of the motherland, refusing to surrender. The audio message released by his press service said as follows: 

BREAKING: Putin addresses nation, responds to Wagner threats: “This is a criminal campaign. It is equivalent to armed mutiny. Russia will defend itself and repel this move. We are fighting for the life and security of our citizens.”pic.twitter.com/GNzPsNWMWB

— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) June 24, 2023

This marks the first time he’s directed criticism precisely in response to Putin, as before he appeared to carefully avoid direct references to Putin in his denunciations of military planning and Kremlin decision-making. Below summarizes fast-moving events of the last few hours:

Putin 5 min speech: accuses Prigozhin of betrayal, vows decisive action  Wagner controls facilities in Rostov & Voronezh, M4 highway disrupted. Rebellion continues  Chechen Kadyrov mobilizes to help Putin. Russia FM warns of ‘civil strife’

The Wagner PMC Group has announced that they have Captured the Southern Military District Headquarters within the the City of Rostov-on-Don in the Rostov Region of Southwestern Russia. pic.twitter.com/730rL9uetq

— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) June 24, 2023

Civilians have reportedly been ordered away from all military command centers in the now Wagner-held city center of Rostov-on-Don.

In Rostov (not sure what time) they ran from an explosion near the military district that Wagner took over. The interview following is in English. pic.twitter.com/PJfCq5qlYp

— Fertilizer Finder (@ManiacMagic1) June 24, 2023

The Wagner chief in his response harped on the familiar theme’s of the defense ministry’s “corruption, deceit, and bureaucracy” and that his own fighters are patriotic and doing their duty.

“When we were told that we were at war with Ukraine, we went and fought. But it turned out that ammunition, weapons, all the money that was allocated is also being stolen, and the bureaucrats are sitting [idly], saving it for themselves, just for the occasion that happened today, when someone [is] marching to Moscow,” he said.

It is the second time since Russian authorities (the FSB) declared Prigozhin was engaging in ‘armed munity’ that the Wagner chief declared a “march of justice” on Moscow. As for the capital (and other major cities), the military and security services have been ordered by the Kremlin to secure the streets and beef up their presence.

Wagner troops sitting at a restaurant in the centre of Rostov after they occupied the city. June 24, 2023. pic.twitter.com/tJUS9Ui2sU

— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) June 24, 2023

Crucially, Wagner has declared control of the military command center and bases in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, a claim which some emerging videos appear to give some degree of authentication to…

“Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, once a close Putin ally, said his troops had taken control of the military command centre and bases in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, the nerve centre of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, and vowed to topple Moscow’s top military leaders,” AFP is noting.

The fight is on, and could spread further north, engaging political centers of the country:

Russian police have moved against Wagner’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, where things have been largely without incident thus far:

BREAKING: Russian police have surrounded the Wagner centre in St Petersburg. It comes as Wagner fighters have taken control of Rostov, home to Russian military headquarters that oversees the fighting in Ukraine. Latest: https://t.co/X3flQUBL0r Sky 501 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/AOi4c2KXo5

— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 24, 2023

Active fighting, even including with air power, has erupted as Wagner convoys seek to make their way north, deeper into Russia…

Russian airforce targeting a convoy of Wagner equipment on the M-4 highway in Voronezh region this morning pic.twitter.com/4tpgVqjYmx

— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) June 24, 2023

Meanwhile, this will without doubt be a huge blow to the morale of both Russian troops and Wagner fighters alike along the frontlines inside Ukraine. It’s as yet unclear the degree to which Wagner has withdrawn from the theatre, though it’s now been confirmed that Wagner forces had marched into Rostov.

Kiev will smell a grand ‘opportunity’. It along with its Western backers are closely monitoring, with Ukraine officials saying this “rebellion” is a “sign of the collapse of the Putin regime.”

“The internal Russian confrontation between the leader of the so-called Wagner PMC Prigozhin and the military and political leadership of the aggressor state is a sign of the collapse of the Putin regime,” a statement by the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine said.

“First of all, we must understand that this is an internal Russian conflict and confrontation which are a direct consequence of the Putin regime’s criminal military aggression against Ukraine,” the statement cited in CNN added.

#UPDATE Incredible video showing flares from a Ka-52 helicopter deflect a Wagner anti aircraft missile https://t.co/0UsXXuDQSl pic.twitter.com/9uPpEHbnZf

— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) June 24, 2023

It must be remembered that these shocking events which threaten to unleash chaos within Russia come at a moment that by many accounts Ukraine’s counteroffensive appeared to be failing. President Zelensky himself at the start of the week had conceded a “slower than desired” start to the offensive. But now this could breath new life into it amid reports Ukraine is taking the opportunity to assault front lines. 

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelensky, told a Saturday press conference: “The launch of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has finally destabilized the Russian elites, exacerbating the internal split that emerged after the defeat in Ukraine.” Time will tell if Russian commanders can keep their frontlines unified even as things crumble with the Wagner situation.

* * *

Importance of unity

President Putin argued that “” facing off with the “” He went on to stress that “” is being directed against the country.

“” calls for national unity and consolidation, Putin said in his address. According to the president, all internal conflicts and bickering must be put aside at present as “”

The Russian head of state emphasized that any actions driving a wedge between Russians are nothing short of “”

Bitter history lessons

Putin reminded Russians that a similar scenario played out in the country in 1917, when it was in the middle of World War I. He recounted how “” led to the “” and the “”

“” the president said.

Putin vowed to prevent this from happening as well as to defend Russia and its people, “”

Nature of the threat

In his address, Putin clearly labelled the PMC coup attempt as a “” He cited “” of certain individuals as the reasons behind this “” He went on to accuse those responsible, without naming Prigozhin in particular, of turning their back on the joint military cause in Ukraine and the memory of the fallen fighters.

If successful, the coup would lead to “” resulting, in the long run, in Russia’s “” and “” according to Putin.

The president characterized “” as a death threat to the Russian state and nation. The president pledged to take “” against the mutineers, who have “” and prepared “”

Those responsible will be brought to account before the Russian people, the president assured the public.

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