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Russian President Putin Vows To crush Armed Mutiny

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Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has vowed to crush what he called an armed mutiny after the private army of mercenary general, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seized control of a southern city as part of an attempt to oust the military leadership.

In Russia’s first armed insurrection since the Chechen wars 20 years ago, heavily armed fighters from Prigozhin’s Wagner militia were in control of the streets of Rostov-on-Don, a city of more than a million people close to the border with Ukraine.

Prigozhin said he had captured the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District thereafter leading his forces into Russia from Ukraine. The city serves as the main rear logistical hub for Russia’s invasion force.

Residents milled about, filming on mobile phones, as Wagner fighters in armoured vehicles and huge battle tanks took up positions in the city centre.

A Russian security source told Reuters that Wagner fighters had also taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, further north on the road towards Moscow.

In Moscow, there was an increased security presence on the streets. Red Square was blocked off by metal barriers.

“Excessive ambitions and vested interests have led to treason,” Putin said in a televised address on Saturday, calling the mutiny a “stab in the back”.

“It is a blow to Russia, to our people. And our actions to defend the Fatherland against such a threat will be harsh.”

“All those who deliberately stepped on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed insurrection, who took the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment, will answer both to the law and to our people,” Putin said.

In a series of hectic messages overnight, Prigozhin demanded Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov come to see him in Rostov.

Western capitals said they were closely following the situation in nuclear-armed Russia. The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed.

“This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” Britain’s defence ministry said.

“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out.”

Prigozhin, a former convict and long-time ally of Putin, leads a private army that includes thousands of former prisoners recruited from Russian jails.

His men took on the bloodiest fighting of the 16-month Ukraine war – a protracted battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut – and he has feuded for months with the regular army’s top brass, accusing generals of incompetence and of withholding ammunition from his fighters.

This month, he defied orders to sign a contract placing his troops under the command of the defence ministry.

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