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Putin warns of treason threat as Russian forces confront Wagner revolt

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a stern warning on Saturday, stating that treason against his rule poses a grave danger of civil war in Russia. Concurrently, Moscow’s military initiated an operation to quell a revolt staged by the Wagner mercenary group.

This unfolding crisis represents the most severe challenge Putin has faced during his long tenure as Kremlin chief, marking Russia’s most critical security situation since his ascension to power in late 1999.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner and a former close ally of Putin, claimed that his troops had seized control of the military command center and bases in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. Rostov-on-Don is a crucial nerve center for Russia’s offensive operations in Ukraine. Prigozhin vowed to oust top military leaders in Moscow..

Responding to the revolt, the governor of Russia’s Voronezh region announced that the armed forces had launched a “counter-terrorist operation” to suppress the uprising. He reported a fire at a fuel depot in Voronezh city, situated along Wagner’s potential path toward Moscow.

The FSB security service accused Prigozhin of attempting to incite a “civil conflict” and urged Wagner fighters to apprehend him.

In a televised address addressing the challenge, Putin denounced Prigozhin’s actions as a “stab in the back” that jeopardizes Russia’s very existence. He declared, “Any internal unrest poses a deadly threat to our nation and our people. It strikes at the core of Russia.”

“This battle, where the fate of our people is at stake, necessitates the unity of all forces,” Putin emphasized.

Referring to Prigozhin, who initially built his powerbase as a catering contractor for the Kremlin and now leads a private military force, Putin stated, “Extravagant ambitions and personal interests have led to treason.” He warned that all those involved in armed rebellion, blackmail, and terrorist methods would face inevitable punishment, both legally and from the Russian people.

Prigozhin swiftly responded to Putin’s accusations of treason, launching a second attack of his own. He vehemently denied betraying the motherland and rejected the president’s call for surrender. Prigozhin asserted, “We are patriots of our motherland. Nobody intends to surrender themselves upon the request of the president, the FSB, or anyone else.”

Meanwhile, inside Ukraine, emergency services reported three deaths and nearly a dozen injuries in Kyiv following an alleged overnight barrage of 40 Russian cruise missiles and multiple attack drones.

Images circulating in the news depicted armed individuals surrounding administrative buildings in Rostov, along with tanks deployed in the city center. The identity of these armed groups remains unclear.

In response to the escalating situation, the mayor of Moscow announced the implementation of “anti-terrorist” measures, and authorities have tightened security in several regions. Critical facilities are under reinforced protection.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office informed Putin about the initiation of a criminal case related to an attempted armed rebellion. The ongoing feud between Prigozhin’s faction and Moscow’s military leadership has led him to repeatedly blame Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov for the deaths of his fighters.

Amidst the infighting, the Russian Defense Ministry cautioned that Ukrainian forces might exploit the situation to prepare an assault near the volatile eastern area of Bakhmut.

A prominent Russian general, Sergei Surovikin, appealed to Prigozhin to cease his efforts to remove the leadership of the defense ministry.

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