Vladimir Putin Says Wagner Mutiny Leaders Will Be ‘Brought to Justice’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the leaders of last weekend’s Wagner mutiny of wanting “to see Russia choked in bloody strife”.

In a short speech full of vitriol, Mr Putin vowed to bring the organisers of the revolt “to justice”.

But he called regular Wagner troops “patriots” who would be allowed to join the army, go to Belarus or return home.

He didn’t directly name Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who earlier denied trying to overthrow Mr Putin’s regime.

Wagner is a private army of mercenaries that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine.

The short-lived rebellion, which saw Wagner fighters seize a major Russian city before heading north towards Moscow in a column of military vehicles, was a response to government plans to take direct control of Wagner, Prigozhin claimed in an 11-minute long audio statement published on Telegram on Monday.

In June, Russia said “volunteer formations” would be asked to sign Ministry of Defence contracts in a move widely seen as a threat to Prigozhin’s grip on Wagner.

The mercenary chief said his rebellion was also a protest over mistakes made by defence officials during the war with Ukraine.

It was Prigozhin’s first public comments since agreeing a deal to halt the rebellion, which reportedly includes him going to Belarus with all criminal charges against him dropped – though Russian state media – citing officials – reported that he remains under investigation.

He said that he brought an end to the mutiny to stop “spilling the blood of Russian soldiers”, adding that some Russian civilians had been disappointed their march had stopped.

In his own brief address to the Russian people, Mr Putin said organisers of the march on Moscow would be “brought to justice”.

But he said he would keep his promise to allow Wagner troops who did not “turn to fratricidal blood” to leave for Belarus.

“I thank those soldiers and commanders of the Wagner Group who made the only right decision – they did not turn to fratricidal bloodshed, they stopped at the last line,” he said.

“Today, you have the opportunity to continue your service for Russia by signing a contract with the [Ministry of Defence] or other military and law enforcement structures, or to go back to your family and close ones.

“Those who want can leave for Belarus. The promise that I gave, will be fulfilled.”

Mr Putin said “steps were taken to avoid a lot of bloodshed” at the very beginning of the mutiny, and that its organisers “realised their actions were criminal”.

He praised the unity of Russian society and thanked the Belarusian leader Alexsander Lukashenko, who is said to have brokered the deal to end the mutiny, for his efforts to resolve the situation peacefully.

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Image caption,Yevgeny Prigozhin

Last week’s rebellion followed months of growing tensions between Wagner and Russia’s military leadership.

Infighting came to a head on Friday night when Wagner mercenaries crossed the border from their field camps in Ukraine and entered the southern city of Rostov-on-Don – where Russia’s war is being directed from.

They then reportedly took over the regional military command while a column of military vehicles moved north towards Moscow.

Prigozhin also claimed his “march of justice” revealed “serious problems with security all around the country”.

He acknowledged that the march had resulted in the death of some Russian troops when Wagner mercenaries shot down attacking helicopters.

But he added that “not a single soldier was killed on the ground”.

“We are sorry that we had to strike the aircraft, but they were striking us with bombs and missiles,” he said.

The mercenary boss did not reveal his location during his Telegram message, but did mention the role Mr Lukashenko played in brokering the arrangement.

He said Mr Lukashenko had offered Wagner a way to maintain its “legal jurisdiction”.

Source : BBC