Russian President Vladimir Putin says an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner Group is treason, adding that “decisive action” will be taken against them.
According to Russian media, addressing the nation on Saturday, Putin said the Russian Armed Forces have been given orders to “neutralise those who organised the armed rebellion.”
Vladimir Putin has addressed the nation, after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called for armed rebellion and reached a key Russian city with his troops.
Any unrest in the country is a “mortal threat,” he said, adding that Moscow’s actions will be “tough.”
“We will not let a civil war happen again and we will protect our people and statehood,” Putin said.
He hailed Wagner fighters in Ukraine, calling them “heroes.”
Putin added that the mutiny amounted to “a deadly threat to our statehood” and vowed “tough actions” in response. “All those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment. The armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders,” he said.
He called Prigozhin’s actions, without referring to the owner of the Wagner private military company by name, “a betrayal” and “a treason.”
Putin urged “those who are being dragged into this crime not to make a fatal and tragic, unique mistake, to make the only right choice — to stop participating in criminal acts.”
Putin condemned the rebellion at a time when Russia was “fighting the toughest battle for its future” with its war in Ukraine. “The entire military, economic and information machine of the West is waged against us,” Putin said.
“This battle, when the fate of our people is being decided, requires the unification of all forces, unity, consolidation and responsibility.” An armed rebellion at a time like this is “a blow to Russia, to its people,” the president said.
“Those who plotted and organised an armed rebellion, who raised arms against his comrades-in-arms, betrayed Russia. And they will answer for it,” Putin added.
Putin acknowledged a “difficult” situation was unfolding in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where the Wagner mercenary group has taken control of key military sites in an effort to oust Russian military’s top brass.
“There will be decisive measures taken on stabilising the situation in Rostov-on-Don,” Putin said in an address to Russians. “It remains difficult and the work of civil and military authorities in fact is being blocked.”
The authorities in Moscow and the surrounding area say they have declared a “counterterrorism” state of emergency after Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his forces were in control of military sites in Rostov.