What is going on in Russia?

Russia is in the news everywhere and images of Wagner Group members marching on the streets of Rostov city went viral on social media.–Photo courtesy Twitter

Russia is in the news everywhere and images of Wagner Group members marching on the streets of Rostov city went viral on social media.

Here are some details of what really is going on in Russia right now:

The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary military group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, declared an armed rebellion against the Russian military, creating a civil war like situation in Russia and prompting President Vladimir Putin to deliver a detailed address to the nation about the threat.

What Is The Wagner Group?

Wagner is a Russian mercenary private military group (PMC) having more than 60,000 soldiers who have been fighting alongside Russian forces in Ukraine​. Private military companies are not allowed in Russia, but Wagner was allowed to operate in violation of the law, primarily because it was pro-government and its leader Prigozhin was closely associated with Putin.

Reports suggest Wagner has a deep footprint in Syria and many African countries. Wagner fighters supported Bashar Al Assad in Syrian civil war. Also, Wagner runs multiple mining operations in many African countries.

Who Is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Yevgeny Prigozhin, often referred to as “Putin’s chef,” is a Russian oligarch, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, (or at least until today) and the leader of Wagner. Prigozhin’s nickname derives from his early career in the food and catering industry, including providing catering services to Putin and the Kremlin.

Once a convict in the Soviet Union, Prigozhin is now one of the most influential figures in Russia. Other than Wagner, he runs many shady companies with the alleged blessing of President Putin. He is allegedly the financier behind the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll firm accused of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.

What Went Wrong?

In a video statement on his official telegram group earlier on Saturday, Prigozhin accused the Russian military of attacking his fighters who are fighting in Ukraine.

It is important to note that Prigozhin has long been accusing the Russian military of being “corrupt”. He has accused Russian generals of using Ukraine war as a “racket” to fill their pockets. In one such video, visibly angry Prigozhin showed dozens of bodies of Wagner fighters who he claimed were killed because the Russian military was not providing them enough ammunition.

Putin’s Response To Wagner’s ‘Act Of Treason’

In the wake of the attempted military coup by the Wagner Group, Putin delivered a speech on the state TV. A visibly stressed Putin labelled the Wagner Group as a “criminal enterprise” and branded their mutiny as an “act of treason”.

Putin emphasized that this mutiny poses a serious threat to Russia and promised “punishment” for all those involved. He declared the mutiny as “stab in the back of our country and our people” and promised harsh punishment for the planners of the rebellion.

Wagner Chief’s Response To Putin’s Speech

Wagner chief Prigozhin responded to Putin’s speech. He said Putin has made the “wrong choice” and now soon there will be “new President” in Russia. A Wagner linked telegram group posted that “Civil war has officially begun” in Russia after Putin decided to label Wagner as a criminal enterprise.

Wagner Group Takes Control

The Wagner Group took control of a Russian military headquarters in the Rostov region. It took control of military facilities in Voronezh, just 500KM from Moscow. When Wagner fighters entered Rostov, Russian border security guards didn’t resist. Wagner claimed that hundreds of Russian military officials have defected and joined “the people”.

A Wagner military convoy passed through Voronezh and moved towards Moscow. The Russian air force bombed the Wagner convoy on the strategically important M4 Highway. At least two military planes were shot down by the Wagner Group, including one fighter jet, as visible in the videos posted on telegram by Wagner.

Putin Flees Moscow?

A Presidential plane left Moscow and headed to Saint Petersburg. However, Russian officials claimed that Putin was still in Moscow.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced support to Putin and moved his troops to the Rostov region. Turkey’s President Erdogan spoke to Russian President Putin and expressed support to the Russian leadership.

What Is Happening Now?

Wagner troops have agreed to turn back to avoid bloodshed. Prigozhin said in an audio message, “They wanted to disband the Wagner military company. We embarked on a march of justice on June 23. In 24 hours we got to within 200km of Moscow. In this time we did not spill a single drop of our fighters’ blood.”

He added, “Now the moment has come when blood could be spilled. Understanding … that Russian blood will be spilled on one side, we are turning our columns around and going back to field camps as planned.”

Who Brokered The Deal?

The Wagner Group’s decision to halt further movement across Russia was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in return for guarantees for their safety, his office said. However, there was no immediate word on the deal from Putin.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been allowed to leave Russia for Belarus after his decision to halt his troops’ advance. The decision marks a de-escalation of a serious security crisis.

Putin vows to defend Russia amid armed mutiny by Prigozhin’s Wagner Group

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