Wagner storms Rostov-on-Don and tanks set up blockade: Prigozhin vows to march on Moscow to take out ‘evil’ military top brass as Putin says he’s inciting CIVIL WAR and Kremlin charges him with armed mutiny
- Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin on Friday declared that his 25,000-strong force is marching into Rostov-on-Don, and is ‘unopposed’
- Video shared on social media appeared to show troops entering the Interior Ministry building, and tanks and troops on the streets: it is unclear on which side
- Prigozhin made the move in fury at what he claimed was Moscow’s attack on his men, and said he intends to march to Moscow to take on defense chiefs
Fears of an attempted coup in Russia were growing on Saturday as troops from the Wagner militia were marching on the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, led by the furious mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin set on revenge for Moscow killing some of his men.
Prigozhin issued a new message at about 2am on Saturday, Moscow time (2300 GMT), saying his forces had crossed the border from Ukraine, and were in Rostov.
Residents have been told to stay in their homes by government officials, but some were seen out observing what was happening, even live-streaming the action on their cell phones.
Prigozhin, who was once a confidant of Vladimir Putin before declaring war on Moscow’s military leadership, said in a video that he and his troops have reached Rostov-on-Don.
New photos showed Wagner fighters walking through the streets of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday morning, one picture featured a member flashing the v for victory sign.
Footage shared on social media showed troops outside the Southern Military Headquarters – which plays a crucial role in managing the Ukraine war – while more were seen less than half a mile encircling the Rostov office of the Interior Ministry.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who specializes in Russian defense, said: ‘The Telegram channel says there are soldiers in the building and there are up to 300 Wagner fighters in Rostov.’
Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert and former member of the National Security Council, tweeted: ‘Those are not Russian National Guard troops. That looks like Wagner troops entering the SMD HQ.’
But some said it was not clear that the forces on the streets were Wagner, and they may have been forces loyal to the Kremlin.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson said the Russian president had been informed of Prigozhin’s claims of a march on Moscow, and that ‘necessary measures are being taken.’
Putin has yet to be seen, or publicly comment on the uprising.
Prigozhin claimed to have also shot down a Russian military helicopter in the city – home to the Kremlin’s headquarters for the war in Ukraine – which ‘opened fire on a civilian column’.
But there was no proof of his claim.
Prigozhin launched his extraordinary action after calling for the ousting of the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and vowing to punish Russian military leaders – whom he accused of killing ‘hundreds’ of his mercenaries in an air strike.
The private army boss also claimed the Russian military leaders are lying to Putin and hiding the bodies of a further 2,000 soldiers to conceal losses in Ukraine.
As his Wagner forces closed in on Rostov on Friday night, 1,000 miles from Moscow, Prigozhin said they would take ‘all necessary steps’ to topple the country’s military leadership.
He declared: ‘We will destroy anyone who stands in our way… we are moving forward and will go until the end’.