Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin broke his silence after abandoning his armed uprising on Saturday night, saying his march on Moscow was a “masterclass” in what Russia’s assault on Kiev should have looked like.
Speaking in an 11-minute audio clip posted to Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels, Prigozhin said he only called off his group’s push for the Russian capital to avoid spilling Russian blood, and said that the uprising was intended to register a protest against the ineffective conduct of the war in Ukraine, not to overthrow the government in Moscow.
He described his mercenary Wagner fighters as “perhaps the most experienced and combat-capable unit in Russia, perhaps in the world”, and said his private military company had done “an enormous amount of work in the interests of Russia”.
And he claimed he started the uprising to ‘prevent the destruction of the Wagner Group’, adding that they were ordered to hand over their weapons to the Russian military and also suffered casualties in airstrikes at the hands of the Russian army. Russian Air Force.
“The purpose of the campaign was to prevent the destruction of the Wagner PMC and to bring to justice those who, through their unprofessional actions, committed a large number of errors during the special military operation,” Prigozhin said.
“We went to demonstrate our protest, not to overthrow the country’s government.”
This comes despite reports from Meduza which claimed the mercenary leader was frantically calling Putin en route to Moscow after realizing he had made a mistake, only for the Russian leader to ignore his call and serve as a chilling reminder of who remains in charge. .
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, looks on from a military vehicle on a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2023
Servicemen from the Private Military Company (PMC) of the Wagner Group board a tank marked ‘Siberia’ on a street in downtown Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, June 24 2023
Russian outlet Meduza claimed the mercenary leader frantically called Putin (pictured) en route to Moscow after realizing he had made a mistake, only for the Russian leader to ignore his call and chillingly remind him who stay in control
Prigozhin also claimed that although she showed no aggression towards the Russian forces, the Russian Air Force launched aerial bombardments on her troops, killing 30 people.
This, he says, “was the trigger” that motivated him to order Wagner’s mercenaries to seize Russian soil.
“We traveled 780 kilometers in one day. Not a single soldier on the ground was killed. We regret having been forced to strike [Russian] air assets, but they dropped bombs and launched missile strikes.
Up to 15 Russian Air Force pilots were reportedly killed by Wagner’s forces during the attacks.
Prigozhin concluded his statement by saying that he had ordered the troops to halt their push about 200 km from Moscow, acknowledging that any further progress would have resulted in armed conflict and many deaths.
“We stopped when the first assault detachment, which approached 200 kilometers from Moscow, reconnoitred the area and it was obvious that at that time a lot of blood would be shed.
‘So we felt that the demonstration of what we were going to do was enough.’
The Wagner leader also confirmed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was instrumental in brokering a deal between the Kremlin and Prigozhin that would allow the latter to escape punishment for organizing the uprising.
Lukashenko reportedly offered Prigozhin refuge in Minsk in turn for his safety and amnesty for any Wagner troops who took part in the capture of the southern city of Rosotv-on-Don and the march to Moscow.
However, several Russian media reported that a criminal investigation against Prigozhin remains open, with some lawmakers calling for tough penalties after Putin said on Saturday he would “punish traitors who betray Russia”.
Wagner’s chief also confirmed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) was instrumental in brokering a deal between the Kremlin and Prigozhin that would see the latter escape punishment for staging the uprising
Members of the Wagner Group prepare to leave the headquarters of the Southern Military District and return to their base in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023
This image captured from video shows citizens standing near military vehicles on a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023
Prigozhin has long expressed his hatred and distrust of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (centre)
Although Wagner’s armed uprising on Russian soil came as a surprise to most, Prigozhin’s hatred of Russian military command has long been established.
Prior to the uprising, he for months condemned Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian army chief General Valery Gerasimov with swear words, attacking them for not providing enough ammunition to his troops during the fight for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the war. longest and bloodiest battle.
Meanwhile, Putin held calls Monday with the leaders of Iran and Qatar, the Kremlin said, and addressed a forum of young engineers in a recorded video message that contained no mention of the mutiny. .
It is not yet clear what the cracks opened by the 24-hour rebellion will mean for the war in Ukraine, where Western officials say Russian troops are suffering from low morale. Wagner’s forces were key to Russia’s only ground victory in months, at Bakhmut.