WAGNER MUTINY LIVE: latest news on Prigozhin’s insurrection

WAGNER MUTINY LIVE: latest news on Prigozhin’s insurrection
The latest news and commentary on Wagner PMC boss Yevgeny Prigozhin's insurrection as it happens. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin June 24, 2023

The leader of the Wagner PMC (private military company) has rebelled against the Kremlin, crossed into Russia and taken control of the headquarters of Russia’s southern military district in Rostov-on-Don, causing the biggest political crisis of Putin’s presidency.

bne IntelliNews' live blog will bring you news of developments as they happen throughout the day, including reaction and commentary. You will find the latest reporting at the top of the page, which will be updated continuously, so bookmark this page.



10:30pm – Prigozhin halts advance on Moscow, agrees to withdraw to Belarus

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s coup d'état attempted lasted less than 24 hours, after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko brokered a deal to end an assault that saw the Russian regional capital of Rostov-on-Don captured by his Wagner private army.

Russian President Vladimir Putin started the day by calling Prigozhin a traitor that had "stabbed him in the back", but ended the same day saying there would be no charges brought against the founder and head of Wagner after the mercenary force's chief said he and some of his men would move to Belarus.

Prigozhin has been in a long-running dispute with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who last week ordered all of the Wagner forces to sign a contract with the regular army by July 1, effectively taking control of the forces that had fought and won the battle for Bakhmut in Ukraine.

Prigozhin refused to comply and told his men not to sign the contract, a contract that was publicly endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. In a shocking and unanticipated move Prigozhin ordered his men to cross the border into Russia at midnight on June 23 and by the morning had taken full control of Rostov, the headquarters of Russia’s southern military district and the operational command for Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.

After Prigozhin threatened to attack Moscow, Lukashenko intervened and thrashed out a deal.

Prigozhin claims to have marched a column of some 25,000 men to within 200 km of Moscow, before the Lukashenko-brokered deal brought an end to his threats. However, there was scant evidence of the advance.

The agreement must come as a great relief for Putin, as once ensconced in Rostov, the veteran and battle-hardened Wagner troops would have been difficult to expel from the city. Moreover, already hard-pressed to defend the line of contact against the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive, Russia would have struggled to commit significant forces to crush an insurrection behind its own lines. Movement of significant numbers of Russian troops from the front line to Rostov could have created a weakness that Kyiv would have been bound to exploit.


4pm – Zelenskiy says Russia’s weakness is obvious

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Russia’s “weakness is obvious” in response to the armed insurrection under way in Russia.

He also said he believed that the longer Russia kept its troops in Ukraine, "the more chaos, pain and problems it will get later,” the president said in a post on Telegram, cited by Interfax Ukraine.

"Russia's weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our soil, the more chaos, pain and problems it will get later. This is also obvious," he wrote on Telegram.

"Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos," Ukraine's leader added.

"Everyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself. He sends military columns to destroy the life of another country and cannot keep them from fleeing and betraying when life resists. He terrorises them with missiles, and when they are shot down, he humiliates himself in order to get Shaheds [drones from Iran]. He humiliates people and throws hundreds of thousands into the war in order to finally barricade himself in Moscow region from those who he armed himself," he also wrote.

"We preserve our strength, unity and power. All our commanders, all our soldiers know what to do. Glory to Ukraine!" Zelenskiy said.


3:50 – Prigozhin charged with armed mutiny but not treason

The FSB has opened a criminal case over charges of organisation of armed mutiny was initiated against Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin after his Telegram channel published his claims that the Russian Defence Ministry hit PMC units with airstrikes and his calls for supporters to rise against the national government.

The Defence Ministry debunked claims of airstrikes at Wagner PMC units. Kremlin Spokesman stated that President Vladimir Putin was informed about the situation regarding Prigozhin, adding that all necessary measures are being taken.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) press office said that the criminal action had been initiated due to the seriousness of the situation and the threat of escalation in Russia; it also called on PMC fighters not to comply with Prigozhin’s orders and to detain him.

However, it seems the Kremlin is pulling its punches to some extent. During Putin’s emergency televised address this morning he did not name Prigozhin once, although the address was clearly a response to the armed insurrection.

Moreover, while Putin mentioned treason, the crime that Prigozhin was implicitly accused of was “betrayal” of the Russian people and of the soldiers that fought with and died for Wagner.

“And what we have faced is precisely betrayal. Excessive ambitions and vested interests have led to treason: betrayal of their country, their people, and the cause for which the fighters and commanders of Wagner fought and died alongside our other units,” Putin said.


3:45 – Roads north from Rostov blocked, situation in Moscow remains calm

Security measures in Moscow have been significantly heightened, with critical facilities receiving reinforced protection, according to a source within law enforcement agencies. In response to the situation, special units of the Russian National Guard have been placed on full alert, aiming to ensure the safety of key locations within the capital, reports Tass.

However, the roads remain open, as is access to the city.

To enhance security further, car traffic has been blocked on the M-4 highway leading from Rostov-on-Don to Moscow. Vehicles travelling from Rostov-on-Don towards Aksay are being redirected back into the city, with police checkpoints strengthened to maintain strict control over the movement of vehicles.

In the vicinity of the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, additional checkpoints have been established to uphold public order. Military and law enforcement personnel are actively monitoring the situation, with military checkpoints positioned on nearby streets. Notably, a visible presence of police cars and even an armoured personnel carrier near the headquarters building has been reported. To ensure comprehensive surveillance, police cars have been deployed for patrols along the city's central streets. Residents in western parts of the city have also reported the presence of aircraft in the air. As of now, no official statements have been released by any security agencies regarding these developments.

3:30pm – Kadyrov offers to help suppress Wagner rebellion, sends troops towards Rostov

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov declared his readiness to assist in suppressing the Wagner mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, and reportedly some of his Chechen fighters are on the way to the region.

In a statement shared on Telegram, Kadyrov condemned Prigozhin's action, called it a “stab in the back” and urged Russian soldiers not to succumb to any provocations.

Kadyrov announced that Chechen units were mobilising towards the areas experiencing unrest and affirmed their commitment to safeguarding Russian forces and preserving the nation's sovereignty. This declaration marks a significant shift in Kadyrov's stance, as he was previously viewed as an ally of Prigozhin, sharing some of his criticisms of the Russian military hierarchy.

However, in recent weeks Chechen commanders aligned with Kadyrov have voiced their discontent with Prigozhin's frequent attacks on the defence ministry.

Kadyrov, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, commands substantial military forces within the Chechen region but has not been part of the active fighting recently. His pledge to counter the mutiny is designed to demonstrate his loyalty to the Russian state and his determination to protect its interests.

The Chechen forces are amongst some of the best in the Russian military, but remain primarily loyal to Kadyrov.


3:30pm – Voronezh Region governor denies troop convoys in his region

The governor of the Voronezh Region, Alexander Gusev, has dismissed rumours of convoys of military equipment and vehicles on the region’s roads, reports state-owned media Tass.

"There is a great deal of inaccurate information in the social media now about alleged movements of convoys of military equipment on the territory of the Voronezh Region," he wrote on his Telegram channel. "Dissemination of such messages is punishable under Russian legislation. The communications watchdog Roskomnadzor and the regional prosecutor's office will react to all such cases. I am sure that the Voronezh Region’s residents will not give in to information provocations by those who are interested in destabilising the situation in the country and the region."

While pro-Wagner Telegram channels have reported Wagner troops are moving north and were in Lipetsk and Voronezh, about half way to Moscow, there has been little supporting evidence. One social media posting of military trucks in Lipetsk on the road shows only two trucks on an otherwise empty road.

Moscow remains calm and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the access roads to Moscow remain open. Social media video shows some military trucks on the roads around the Kremlin, but not in large numbers and not troop transporters.

Former president Dmitry Medvedev also denied reports that he had been evacuated from the capital. Also flight trackers earlier showing Putin’s plane had departed Moscow, flying north, are now showing it has returned to Moscow without reaching the northern capital.


2:05: Putin and Mishustin planes reported left Moscow

NEXTA Telegraph channel is reporting that the planes of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin have left Moscow, headed north.

It is reported that Mishustin's plane has already arrived in St Petersburg. The flight tracker of Putin’s plane was also heading north, but has disappeared from the screens, presumably after its transponders were turned off.

In addition there are reports of several other private jets, presumably belonging to businessmen and senior Russian officials, heading towards the northern capital.

Putin's plane reported disappeared from flight trackers maps. 

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's plane has reported already arrived in St Petersburg.


1:50pm – Russia’s banks hike exchange rate on munity uncertainty

Russia’s largest banks have sharply raised the exchange rates of major currencies due to the ongoing mutiny of PMC Wagner and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The US dollar on the average offered for more than RUB90, while the euro for over RUB100.

The highest rate was recorded in Rosbank – the dollar there is sold for RUB105, while the euro sells for RUB115. The lowest exchange rate was set by Promsvyazbank that sells the dollar for RUB85 and the euro for RUB93.

Russia’s currency has always been sensitive to political and economic crises, and tends to swing wildly in the heat of the moment.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Financial Market Anatoly Aksakov has already advised Russians not to buy currency, but only to sell it for extra profit.

Russian broker Tinkoff Investments has completely suspended trading for its clients.

The broker saw a significant decline in Russian stocks in weekend trading earlier today. Over-the-counter shares of Sber and Yandex were trading lower by almost 8%, Lukoil was down 7%, while Gazprom was down 5%.

1pm – Wagner column sighted in Lipetsk on the way to Moscow

Columns of Wagner PMC trucks were spotted in the Lipetsk region moving north, according to pro-Kremlin telegram channel Rybar.

However, the footage only showed a few trucks.

With the Russian air force in complete control of the skies within the country it seems unlikely that a large column of Wagner troops would be able to make the journey of several hundred kilometres north to the well-defended capital without being attacked by Russia’s regular army.

However, Wagner channels are reporting that they have moved north as far as Voronezh, half way to Moscow, and that “everything is according to plan.” Here is a map they posted.

Russian civilian aircraft began to fly around not only Voronezh and Rostov, but also the Lipetsk region as the Wagner troops reportedly move north. A new map of the “occupied territories” has appeared on the network, but it now also includes Russian occupied territory (in purple).


10am – Russian military leadership drunk or AWOL

Russian Telegram channels report panic in Rostov and disarray in Russia’s military elite. Notably, General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, has not been seen in public since the mutiny commenced last night. Wagner channels indicate that he was present in Rostov when the city fell under the control of Wagner forces.

Russia's security forces are said to be facing disarray following the recent attempted mutiny by the Wagner Group, according to reports shared by ChrisO_wiki on Twitter. The timing of the mutiny, which occurred on a Friday night, seems to have taken advantage of the fact that many personnel were inebriated and unable to respond promptly, while others are refusing to engage with the Wagner Group. There are also reports that some military staff in Rostov have joined the insurrectionists.

Information provided by the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel sheds light on the situation within various security organisations. Reports suggest that chaos reigns at the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. "Everyone is up and running, urgently reporting in. Now all the offices are like one big after-party," the sources state.

Allegedly, approximately 80% of the staff in these organisations smell of alcohol and are barely able to stand on their feet. Friday nights are seen as opportune moments, as many of the soldiers and officers drink heavily at the end of the week.

Reluctance to confront the Wagner Group appears to be a prevailing sentiment in the reports. In Rostov, panic has taken hold, particularly among the police force, it was reported.

“Operation Fortress”, aimed at safeguarding security installations in Rostov, is facing a personnel shortage of over 40% as officers either fail to report for duty or actively switch sides, Telegram says.

According to multiple reports, Wagner forces managed to cross the border from Ukraine without facing any resistance and despite explicit orders from Moscow to prevent their passage. "Both the border service of the FSB and the Interior Ministry received instructions to stop the Wagner PMC. No one is complying, as it is not realistic," the sources reveal.

Social media shows video of Wagner tanks simply driving around ineffectual roadblock on roads at the entrance to the city while Russian MVD troops standby helplessly.

The situation is such that the Ministry of Defence has lost control over several units and formations of the South Eastern Military District. As a result, organising defence through the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) and the FSB has become challenging. Local leaders are exercising extreme caution in their statements, highlighting the delicate nature of the situation.

Efforts to counter Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, are primarily being directed through the FSB and the National Guard. The Ministry of Defence, however, has seemingly withdrawn from the conflict. Junior officers are reportedly either refusing to follow orders or openly supporting the Wagner Group, according to Telegram.


9:30am – First Ukrainian reaction: Russian civil war close

In the first reaction to the insurrection news, Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Chief of Staff, Mykhailo Podolyak, says Russia is one step away from a civil war, reports Meduza.

"What we have is a traditional internal conflict of the elites, which will undoubtedly grow into a civil war. If not today, then tomorrow; if not tomorrow, then the day after. This is an objective historical reality. Let’s keep in mind that both Prigozhin and Putin are war criminals. Last night, 49 missiles hit Ukrainian cities and its civilian population. Russia is continuing its genocidal war. And what matters for us is that Russia as we see it now should cease to exist.


9am – Russia’s regional governors rally to support Putin

Wagner Group’s banners and recruitment advertisements are being hastily dismantled and removed from view in Vladimir, Moscow and Crimea, according to social media reports, as Russia’s political elite rally to the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Social media show military convoys arriving in the Russian capital. Access to Red Square has been closed. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has tightened security in the capital, which was already tight following a drone attack in May.

The heads of Russia’s Bryansk and Kursk regions announced an increase in security measures. “Now more than ever, we need to unite around our national leader Supreme Commander Vladimir Putin,” said Kursk Governor Roman Starovoit.

Other regional heads have expressed support for the president too: Lipetsk Governor Igor Artamonov announced that “The Lipetsk region stands with the president!” while North Ossetia Governor Sergey Menyailo wrote: “I call on all my countrymen serving in Wagner Group not to obey the criminal commands of Prigozhin!

Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin has released a statement on Wagner Group’s armed insurrection on Telegram Meduza reports:

"Russia’s history makes clear: external threats and challenges have only united our society in the past. Together we can overcome any difficulty.

"Our country’s problems and sorrows have always come from betrayal, internal division, and the treachery of the elites.

"The deputies of the State Duma, who represent the interests of Russian citizens, support the consolidation of powers and President Vladimir Putin as our Supreme Commander-in-Chief.

"Wagner fighters must make the only possible right choice: they must stand with their own people, on the side of the law, defending the security of their Motherland and its future, and following the orders of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Anything else is treachery!

We are confronting a common external adversary, who is advancing the ideology of Nazism to destroy the Russian citizens, threatening the security of our country. In this situation, it’s necessary to unite even more, and to do all we can for victory.

Vladimir Putin addressed the nation this morning on TV looking shaky and angry, condemning the “betrayal” of the armed insurrection. Meduza published the full transcript in English here:

In his five-minute emergency address, Putin was careful not to mention Yevgeny Prigozhin. Not even once.

8am - first reports & commentary

Here is out initial report on the start of the insurrection and a quick reaction commentary from bne IntelliNews columnist Alexander Kabanovsky.

Prigozhin’s Wagner forces mutiny, capture Rostov

At about 2am on Saturday morning, Moscow time, 24 June, Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner PMC, posted a message saying his forces had crossed the border from Ukraine, and were in the southern Russian city of Rostov.

KABANOVSKY: From kitchen to Kremlin? Prigozhin's treacherous twist

While the Western press was fixated on the Ukrainian counter-offensive, debating whether or not it had commenced in full force and, if it had, whether or not it was succeeding, another story late on June 23 exploded into the headlines, one that may be no less important and poignant for the ultimate outcome of the Ukraine war.