Wagner chief hails march on Moscow as ‘masterclass’ but denies coup bid

The top of the Wagner militia has denied making an attempt to overthrow the Russian authorities however redoubled his criticism of the nation’s defence institution in his first public feedback since Saturday’s abortive march on Moscow.

However Russian president Vladimir Putin, talking publicly on Monday for the primary time for the reason that abortive Wagner rebellion, stated its organisers had betrayed their nation. He known as a lot of the group’s fighters “patriots of Russia” who had been “used” by their command.

Yevgeny Prigozhin stated in an 11-minute voice recording posted on Telegram on Monday that his objective had been to protest in opposition to a current choice to disband Wagner and exhibit the weak point of Russia’s home defences.

“We didn’t have the objective of toppling the present regime, which is lawfully elected, as we’ve stated many occasions,” stated Prigozhin, who didn’t consult with Putin by title.

As a substitute, he needed to “stop the destruction” of the paramilitary group and to carry to account those that, “with their unprofessional actions, made an enormous quantity of errors” throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He stated that if the common military had obtained the identical degree of coaching and morale as Wagner, the invasion of Ukraine, which started on February 24 final yr, “might have taken not more than a day”.

“We demonstrated the extent of organisation that the Russian military ought to have,” Prigozhin stated, claiming that his forces crossed a complete of 780km and stopped simply 200km wanting Moscow. “It was a masterclass in how February 24 2022 ought to’ve appeared.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin delivers his deal with to the nation on Monday © AP

Putin, in the meantime, in an deal with on state TV, requested Wagner paramilitaries to signal contracts with Russia’s defence ministry, go residence, or depart the nation for Belarus.

The Russian president’s indignant five-minute speech insisted the Wagner revolt had been doomed to fail from the outset, however he prompt the Kremlin had not but absolutely resolved it.

In his attraction to Wagner’s rank-and-file, Putin stated the mutiny’s organisers had “betrayed the nation and those that have been with them” however stated a lot of the group’s fighters have been “patriots of Russia” who had been “used”.

Till his personal message on Monday afternoon, Prigozhin had additionally not been heard from since he introduced that his convoy would flip again slightly than persevering with on to Moscow. He was final seen at the back of a automobile driving away from the southern military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a metropolis that his army had taken over on Saturday earlier than additionally pulling again.

“Our choice to show round got here from two essential components,” he added. “The primary was that we didn’t wish to spill Russian blood. The second, we have been marching to exhibit our protest, to not unseat the federal government.”

Nevertheless, Prigozhin’s tried rebellion on Saturday has been extensively seen as essentially the most severe menace to Putin’s rule since he took workplace 23 years in the past.

“This was a part of a battle inside the Russian system,” US president Joe Biden stated on Monday, whereas additionally saying: “We had nothing to do with it.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, described Prigozhin as “the monster appearing in opposition to his creator” and stated the weekend’s chaos proved that Putin’s “army energy is cracking”.

However Ben Wallace, UK defence secretary, performed down the influence on Putin’s authority, sustaining that “we shouldn’t essentially over-credit the destabilisation, that one way or the other this can be a large derailment of the Kremlin”.

Talking to the Royal United Providers Institute think-tank, Wallace emphasised that the warfare in Ukraine was nonetheless being prosecuted by Valery Gerasimov, chief of employees, and Sergei Shoigu, defence minister, Prigozhin’s foremost hate figures inside the Russian system.

Nevertheless, the UK defence minister added that Prigozhin’s capacity to advance on Saturday with “solely about 2,500 folks” had uncovered how “threadbare” and “stretched” Russia’s reserves have been.

The Kremlin stated on the weekend that the authorized case in opposition to Prigozhin “will probably be ended” and claimed he had agreed to go away for Belarus. Nevertheless, on Monday state media reported that he nonetheless confronted prosecution.

Prigozhin has railed in opposition to Gerasimov and Shoigu for a lot of months, accusing them of killing tens of hundreds of Russian troopers by corruption and poor planning.

The long-running feud got here to a head in June after legal guidelines have been handed to make all irregular forces — of which Wagner is the biggest and most outstanding — pledge allegiance to the defence ministry whereas subsuming them into its construction.

Prigozhin stated Wagner would have been disbanded by July 1. However commanders and fighters, he claimed, had not been eager to cross over to the common military, contemplating its poor efficiency and the danger this posed to their very own survival.

But Wagner was prepared to proceed as ordered, Prigozhin claimed, and was packing up its army gear final week, planning to go to Rostov-on-Don in convoy on June 30 at hand every thing over to the military.

Then on Friday, he claimed, Wagner base camps had been hit with air strikes by the Russian army, killing over two dozen of its troops. An identical account was denied by the defence ministry on Friday night.

“This was a set off for us to resolve to maneuver out instantly,” Prigozhin stated.

He stated the militia not solely managed to grab Rostov-on-Don, a foremost southern metropolis and army HQ, but additionally managed to disarm the army obstacles positioned in its means, and take over all of the bases and airfields that lay in its path.

Residents, furthermore, had been joyful to see Wagner go, Prigozhin claimed. “Civilians met us with Russian and Wagner flags . . . A lot of them proceed to jot down phrases of help, and others are disillusioned that we stopped.”

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