Vladimir Putin vowed to bring “rebellion organisers to justice” while addressing the uprising in Russia for the first time.
The Wagner Group mercenaries, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, marched on Moscow over the weekend.
Prigozhin issued a defiant 11-minute statement earlier today denying that he sought to overthrow Putin and defending the Wagner uprising.
READ MORE: Wagner boss 'should stay away from windows and not accept tea' as Putin wants him dead
The whereabouts of Prigozhin remain unknown – although it's believed he has been banished to Belarus.
Speaking on Russian State TV today (June 26), Putin began his speech by thanking the Russian people for their “patriotism, support and solidarity”.
He said: “This is criminal activity, which is aimed at weakening the country. This was a colossal threat.”
The Russian leader said that the organisers of the rebellion betrayed Russia and played into the hands of the “neo-nazis” in Kyiv and the West by pitting Russian against each other.
He insisted any “armed rebellion would have been put down anyway”.
In saying the "rebellion organisers" would be brought "to justice", Putin appeared to dispel rumours of an amnesty for Prigozhin.
Putin added that "the overwhelming majority" of the Wagner mercenaries are patriots of Russia – thanking commanders and soldiers of Wagner who "made the right decision".
Ex-Wagner mercenaries told to 'fight for Moscow' just 24 hours before group was axed
"By turning back they avoided further bloodshed," Putin said
He then issued an ultimatum to Wagner soldiers, saying they can either join the Russian army, leave the country for neighbouring Belarus, or simply "return to your family and friends".
Minutes after it was confirmed that Putin would speak from the Kremlin, his close ally Alexander Lukashenko shared his own message.
The press service for the Belarusian President wrote on Telegram: "A lot of questions, stuffing, versions and assumptions… The first one will TELL everything, ANSWER everything. Very soon! Follow the agenda!"
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