Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin confirmed that he had ordered his mercenaries to halt their march towards Moscow and return to their field camps in Ukraine to avoid further Russian bloodshed.
An audio message on his Telegram feed said, ‘We are withdrawing our columns and moving in the opposite direction to the field camp as planned.
Prigogine’s announcement appeared to defuse a growing crisis. Moscow was bracing for the arrival of a private army led by a rebel commander, and President Vladimir Putin vowed he would face harsh consequences.
Prigogine said that while his men were only 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Moscow, he decided to turn them back to avoid ‘Russian bloodshed’.
He did not say whether the Kremlin had responded to his demands to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
The deal could lead to the replacement of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff General Valery Gerasimov, a key Prigozhin demand.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has confirmed he ordered his mercenaries to stop their march on Moscow to avoid shedding Russian blood.
A Russian police officer guards Red Square near the Kremlin as troops prepare to attack before the dramatic retreat of Prigozhin’s forces
A Russian soldier mans a machine gun post south of Moscow ahead of the expected arrival of Prigogine and Wagner troops. But Prigogine confirmed that he ordered his mercenaries to halt their march
Belarus President and key Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) said Yevgeny Prigozhin had accepted his offer to halt the Wagner Group’s advances towards Moscow.
Machine gun outposts are hastily erected on the outskirts of Moscow ahead of Prigogine’s shock statement.
Prigogine added in his audio message, ‘We set out on the March for Justice on June 23.
‘In one day we traveled 200 kilometers without going to Moscow.
‘During this time we did not shed a single drop of blood from our warriors.
‘Now came the moment when blood might be shed, so realizing all the responsibility of the fact that Russian blood would be shed, we turned our columns and returned to the opposite side of the field camp. for planning.’
The shock announcement came in a statement from the office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which said he had reached a deal with Prigogine after previously discussing the matter with Putin.
Prigogine accepted Lukashenko’s offer to halt the Wagner group’s advances and take further steps to ease tensions, Lukashenko’s office said, adding that the proposed settlement guaranteed the safety of Wagner’s troops. It does not detail.
The United States has said it wants to hold off on imposing new sanctions against Wagner amid the situation in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The US administration fears it may ‘take sides’ with the Russian leadership by imposing new sanctions against Wagner, the Journal reported. ‘Washington doesn’t want it to look like it’s on one side or the other [situation],’ the source quoted the WSJ as saying.
According to the newspaper, the US State Department planned to impose new sanctions on PMC Wagner on June 27 over his activities in Africa.
The shocking reported development comes a day after Moscow was in total chaos as troops set up outposts and military vehicles flooded the streets as the city battened down the hatches and prepared for battle.
Wagner’s force totaling 5,000 was said to be advancing towards the capital before the U-turn, and was scheduled to reach Lipetsk this evening.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, was said to have a total of 25,000 men, and another 5,000 of them were in Rostov-on-Don, the southern city in Russia’s war zone in Ukraine that Prigozhin said he had taken control of.
The convoy headed for Moscow was reportedly led by senior Wagner commander and neo-Nazi Dmitry Utkin. According to a source, Wagner’s plan for Moscow was to locate in a densely populated area.
Several restrictions were introduced around the Russian capital after a governor’s decree asked people to refrain from traveling around Moscow.
It comes after Prigogine launched a military coup against Kremlin leaders overnight, which saw the group seize key cities and threaten the president, who called them ‘traitors’.
Putin had earlier addressed the Russian public, warning that Prigogine had ‘stabbed him in the back’, as Moscow entered a lockdown, with troops digging in in preparation to defend the city.
A spokesman for the Russian president said Putin was still working in the Kremlin and had not fled Moscow despite earlier threats. However, two presidential jets were seen flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg. It reportedly switched off its transponder to avoid route tracking.
Armored vehicles are seen as security measures are taken in Moscow
The shock announcement from Prigogine came as his fearsome 25,000-strong Wagner militia took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday, saying they were ‘ready to die’ for their ‘March of Justice’, and heading north in armored vehicles. In caravans hundreds strong.
The unit had previously passed halfway through the city of Voronezh and, seeing negligible resistance, soon reached Lipetsk on its way to Moscow.
A message posted on Wagner’s Telegram channel on Saturday said: ‘Putin made the wrong choice. All the worse for him. We will have a new president soon.’
Footage on social media showed a large convoy of soldiers heading north from Voronezh, believed to be Wagner mercenaries. They are also said to be en route to other important cities, including Krasnodar and Volgograd.
Russia responded by beefing up security in Moscow, mobilizing troops ready to defend against intrusions and calling for the military to rally around President Putin.
All public events have been canceled and Monday has already been declared a non-working day, as Putin called close ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to brief him on the situation.
Moscow’s mayor has urged people not to travel across the city, saying the situation is ‘difficult’ and that ‘city services are on high alert’.
Sergei Sobyanin also told residents not to go to work on Monday to ‘minimise the risk’. This came as part of the announcement of an ‘anti-terror operation’ in the city.
A line of armored vehicles is seen as Russian forces prepare to begin defense of the capital
A traffic police officer inspects a vehicle next to an armored personnel carrier (APC).
Russian troops were seen setting up positions on a bridge over the Oka River
Pro-Putin forces on the outskirts of the city were seen digging in against Wagner’s coup forces, who were already advancing on the capital.
Russian soldiers are pictured taking up positions on a bridge over the Oka River. As military helicopters flew over the city, they deployed barrage equipment, machine guns and grenade launchers.
Other photos show soldiers building barricades and machine gun nests just outside the city, as Putin signs a law allowing people to be detained in martial-imposed areas for up to 30 days – not that that hasn’t already happened. .
Russian officials have ordered roads blocked by large, heavy trucks en route to the convoy in an attempt to slow it down.
Travel has also been restricted in the regions closest to Moscow, most recently in the Kaluga region. Traffic will be restricted on regional roads near the border regions of Tula, Bryansk, Oryol and Smolensk
Witnesses also reported air strikes on Wagner’s convoy heading north.
Shortly after it emerged, Prigogine claimed it had been hit by Russian strikes and fire from helicopters.
‘We were fired upon: first by artillery strikes and then by helicopters,’ Prigozhin said in a Telegram post. Video footage online is said to show an artillery strike on an armored vehicle at Wagner’s march.
Prigogine once known as ‘Putin’s chef’ – now seems to be waging war on Wagner boss Kremlin
Footage shows what appears to be a Russian missile hitting a civilian bus as Wagner forces enter the M-4 highway today. Prigogine claimed that the apparent shelling showed the brutality of Putin’s war commanders.
The pictures show Wagner’s forces in the Lipetsk region – less than four hours on the outskirts of Moscow.
Columns of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s coup armed forces are heading north for a showdown with troops still loyal to dictator Vladimir Putin amid rumors they have fled the capital.
Wagner’s forces were about 200 miles from Moscow – facing an evening or night showdown with Russian regular forces.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has spoken to Western allies about an armed insurgency led by Wagner’s mercenary group in Russia, which UK defense officials have described as the Kremlin’s ‘most significant challenge’ in recent times.
Downing Street said Mr Sunak spoke to US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday afternoon to ‘discuss the situation in Russia and reiterate their continued support for Ukraine’s sovereignty’.
Read Full News Here