Moscow tightens security as Wagner chief says his troops in Russia, to topple leadership

Russia accuses Prigozhin of armed mutiny

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT-WAGNER Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin | AFP

Amid escalating tensions between Wagner mercenary group and the Russian forces in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, Russia has accused Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin of armed mutiny, and called for his arrest. Responding to Kremlin's allegations, Prigozhin said his troops have crossed the border into Russia, and vowed to destroy “anyone who stood in their way”.

Russia's FSB security service opened a criminal case against him and has called on the Wagner private military company forces to arrest him.

In an audio recording posted on Telegram, Prigozhin said Wagner fighters have entered the southern Russian city of Rostov. “We are going onwards, and we will go to the very end,” Prigozhin said. The dramatic escalation of the infighting between the rival camps began with Prigozhin accusing the army of carrying out a missile strike against his forces which resulted in significant casualties among his men. The Russian Defence Ministry denied these allegations, and accused Prigozhin of inciting mutiny.

On Saturday, the Wagner boss also posted a fresh message on the Telegram claiming that his forces have shot down a Russian helicopter, BBC reported.

Security has been tightened in Moscow and the city of Rostov, which lies about 100km to the east of the Ukrainian border. Governors of Rostov and neighbouring Lipestsk regions have asked residents to stay indoors and remain calm. According to Russian media, a plan known as "Operation Fortress" has been activated in the city of Rostov, and in Moscow to ensure that critical infrastructure is protected. 

The rebellion is the most dramatic escalation between the mercenary group and Russian defence establishment, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, since the war began. President Vladimir Putin is getting round-the-clock updates, and the US is also closely monitoring the emerging situation.

On Friday, Prigozhin alleged that the Russian military deceived the public on the reasons behind the invasion. He also dismissed Kremlin’s claims that Ukraine was planning to launch an offensive on the Russian-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine in February last year.

Leading the onslaught in key territories of Ukraine, Prigozhin emerged as a crucial player in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Often referred to as “Putin's chef”, Prigozhin powered the invasion with his notorious mercenary group which recruited thousands of convicted criminals to fight the war in Ukraine. His relations with the Russian military have been strained in recent times, particularly over allegations that the defence leadership was denying them ammunition.

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