Putin Calls Armed Rebellion by Mercenary Chief a Betrayal

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to protect Russia from an armed insurrection led by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who guided his soldiers from Ukraine to a pivotal city south of Moscow.

Putin labelled the rebellion, the largest threat to his rule in more than twenty years, as “an act of treachery.” Prigozhin’s private force is believed to be in control of the military base in Rostov-on-Don, a city more than 1,000 kilometers south of Moscow that directs Russian offensive strategies in Ukraine, according to the UK Ministry of Defense’s intelligence briefing.

As the situation in Russia escalated rapidly, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that Moscow was showing “profound weakness” and that Kyiv was shielding Europe from the “proliferation of Russian chaos and evil.”

Putin tagged the insurrection by Prigozhin, without naming him specifically, as “betrayal” and “treason.” Putin asserted, “The perpetrators of the rebellion will inevitably face punishment.” He added that orders had been issued to the armed forces and other government bodies.

Prigozhin identified himself as a patriot. He retorted, stating the president was deeply mistaken about betrayal accusations. He vowed his fighters would not surrender on Putin’s orders as they opposed a nation filled with corruption, deceit, and bureaucracy.

Prigozhin’s private military contractor, Wagner, has been operating alongside Russian forces in Ukraine. The insurrection signifies an upsurge in Prigozhin’s dispute with Russian military heads, whom he accuses of mismanaging the war in Ukraine and hindering his forces on the ground.

Prigozhin confirmed that he and his soldiers had entered Rostov-on-Don after crossing the Ukrainian border. He also announced his forces had taken control of the airfield and other military facilities in the city.

Despite the resistance, Putin censured the rebellion, especially when Russia is “engaged in the toughest battle for its future” with Western governments imposing sanctions and arming Ukraine.

Russian security services, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), demanded Prigozhin’s arrest after he proclaimed an armed rebellion late Friday. The seriousness of the threat led the Kremlin to declare a “counterterrorist regime” in Moscow and its environs, limiting freedoms and enhancing capital’s security.

Prigozhin revealed his primary aim was to retaliate against Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after Russian government forces attacked Wagner field camps in Ukraine. After Putin’s address, officials and state media personalities in Russia publicly reaffirmed their loyalty to the Kremlin and urged Prigozhin to retreat.

The confrontation could potentially hinder Moscow’s war effort as Kyiv’s forces probed Russian defenses. Moreover, if Prigozhin prevailed, it could also impact Putin and his ability to maintain unity.

The Wagner forces have played a significant role in Ukraine, capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut. However, Prigozhin has increasingly criticized the military brass, accusing it of incompetence and of withholding supplies from his troops.

Zelenskyy noted the rebellion on his Telegram channel, stating “anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself.” He added that Russia’s weakness was evident.

Prigozhin’s actions could have substantial repercussions for the war. Orysia Lutsevych, the head of the Ukraine Forum at the Chatham House think tank in London, stated that infighting between the Defense Ministry and Wagner could lead to confusion and potential division among the Russian forces.

Despite the increased military presence, downtown bars and restaurants were bustling. At one club near the FSB headquarters, people were seen dancing in the street near the entrance.

Prigozhin’s disagreement with the Defense Ministry