RUSSIA- On Monday, Russian state television attempted to portray the ongoing battle in neighboring Ukraine as business as usual, but the atmosphere was anything but. Putin’s strongman image was certainly weakened by the brief but stunning challenge of the leader of Wagner’s mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to Putin’s power over the weekend. Prigozhin had apparently staged a mutiny and threatened to march to Moscow.
The diatribes recorded regularly on social networks by the businessman Prigozhin had been causing tension between him and the main Russian military leaders for weeks. He had called the senior generals incompetent at best and even traitors. But on Saturday, his verbal clash with senior Russian brass turned into open revolt.
CBS News has learned from US officials that Prigozhin’s private army has already begun its march towards Moscow. Chief Wagner specifically named Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov as his top targets. Rostov-on-Don, located in the southwestern region of Russia, is where the Russian Southern Military Command has taken up residence. This command is responsible for coordinating Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
Putin called Chief Wagner’s conduct a “stab in the back” on Russian state television and threatened to put down the “rebellion”. “But as Wagner’s troops advanced on Moscow, Prigozhin said he accepted a deal brokered by Putin’s ally Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, to turn his men back and arrest Prigozhin had declared his uprising against Russian military leaders in generally vague terms in a series of videos on social media.
Wagner’s troops would be pardoned and allowed to return to their bases to continue waging war in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, and criminal charges against Prigozhin would be dropped and he would remain in exile in Belarus, according to statements from Prigozhin’s office. and Lukashenko. . The Kremlin never confirmed the deal. Prigozhin and his failed mutineers were heroically expelled by the citizens of Rostov as they left the city in a caravan of vehicles. On the way out, Prigozhin was friendly enough to pose for selfies with the locals.