RUSSIA – Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said in his first speech since a band of dissident mercenaries marched on Moscow over the weekend that the country had come together to oppose the uprising. Putin appeared to repeat an agreement he had reached to stop the battle in a brief speech that lasted only five minutes. This agreement resulted in the banishment of Evgueni Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner group, in Belarus.
Even though Putin didn’t specifically mention Prigozhin by name, he was quite angry and called the rebellion organizer a traitor. Prigozhin, often known as “Putin’s leader”, is responsible for the mercenary force that has been essential to some of Russia’s battlefield victories in Ukraine and elsewhere. These victories were significant for Russia. For a time, he was the Russian president’s closest confidant.
Prigozhin claimed in his own speech earlier in the day that Wagner’s forces had marched on Moscow to protest the failures of Russian military leadership in Ukraine and to postpone the planned disbandment of the Wagner Group. Prigozhin’s speech was delivered earlier today.
Prigozhin said the Wagner group did not hit any Russian soldiers “on the ground”, but he admitted they fired back at military forces who allegedly assaulted Wagner’s fighters from the air. Prigozhin maintained that the Wagner group did not target any Russian soldiers “in the air”. Putin said a number of Russian pilots were killed in the conflict. Prigozhin said in the past that there were deaths of thirty Wagnerian fighters.
Additional principles of the deal to end the weekend rebellion were also confirmed by Putin. He praised the Wagnerian warriors who prevented any bloodshed and told those who had not taken part in the uprising that they could sign contracts with the Russian armed forces. Putin said any mercenary who did not want to take part in the operation could return home or go to Belarus with Prigozhin. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said earlier in the day that Vladimir Putin’s speech would be the one to determine Russia’s future.