Russia: Wagner group confronted by public in Rostov
Russian residents have been seen squaring off with Wagner mercenaries after they seized “all military facilities” in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, made the announcement hours after he threatened to topple Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. President Vladimir Putin said this was “a stab in the back” and pledged to punish those who had “betrayed” Russia.
Putin said the situation in Rostov remained difficult and more security has been introduced in Moscow following the news.
The Wagner Group is a private army of mercenaries that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine.
Tension has been growing between them over how the war has been fought, with Mr Prigozhin launching vocal criticisms of Russia’s military leadership in recent months.
It comes after Mr Prigozhin accused Russian military of hitting his group’s base in Ukraine. This has been denied by sources in Moscow.
According to reports, Mr Prigozhin has said this is not a military coup but an attempt to topple Russia’s military leadership.
The video, shared on social media, showed residents squaring off with Wagner mercenaries after their city was seized.
Mr Prigozhin said his fighters had entered Rostov-on-Don in a telegram on Saturday after crossing the border from Ukraine. He added that his men would destroy anyone in their way.
He said his forces had shot down a Russian military helicopter that “opened fire on a civilian convoy” – no location was given and that assertion could not be immediately verified.
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The local governor has urged residents to keep calm and stay indoors to avoid conflict.
But, it appears some locals have decided to confront the mercenaries from footage appearing online.
Wagner forces are also said to be in control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, north of Rostov and are believed to be on route to Moscow.
Putin addressed the nation on Saturday (June 24) as he described the action as a “betrayal” by people putting personal ambitions above the interests of Russia.
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The Russian president blasted those responsible and urged Wagner mercenaries not to follow their bosses.
Mr Prigozhin and President Putin used to have a close relationship.
But this has added an extra strain on Putin who is already dealing with the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has not been going to plan.
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