Russia Latest: Prigozhin Turns His Forces Away From Moscow

Russia Latest: Prigozhin Turns His Forces Away From Moscow

Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin dramatically halted his advance toward Moscow and ordered his fighters to return to their bases, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

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(Bloomberg) — Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin dramatically halted his advance toward Moscow and ordered his fighters to return to their bases, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

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Prigozhin, once an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has become a fierce critic of the Russian military for its failures during Moscow’s war on Ukraine. His advance toward the capital triggered the biggest crisis for Putin since he invaded Ukraine last year, and a significant challenge to his decades-long leadership.  

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Latest Coverage

  • Prigozhin Turns His Forces Back from Moscow, Avoids Showdown 
  • Russia’s Descent Into Chaos Marks a ‘Good Day’ For Ukraine
  • Prigozhin Says Wagner Won’t Surrender After Putin’s Address
  • Raw But Ready to Fight: Ukraine Sends National Guard to Front
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All times are CET

Prigozhin Turns Military Column Away From Moscow (7:36 p.m.)

Wagner is turning its forces away from Moscow and returning to field camps, Prigozhin said in an audio file posted in his Telegram channel. It is unclear if this is a full withdrawal or a temporary move.

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Lukashenko Had Talks with Prigozhin, Belta Says (7:30 p.m.)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had talks with Prigozhin, Minsk-based state-owned news agency Belta reported. The talks lasted the whole day with approval from Putin, Belta said, citing Lukashenko’s press service.

Belta said Prigozhin accepted Lukashenko’s proposal to halt movement of Wagner mercenary group’s troops in Russia and agreed to further steps to de-escalate. 

Biden Talks to Allies About Russia Events (6:20 p.m.)

US President Joe Biden spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of France, as well as Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the latest events in Russia. They reiterated their support for Ukraine, the White House said in a statement. Biden will keep getting updates as the day goes on.

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Belarus Opposition Calls on Army to Stay Out of Spat (5:30 p.m.)

Opponents of Belarusian President Lukashenko urged the armed forces not to get entangled in Russia’s internal turmoil. “Neither Putin not Prigozhin are friends of Belarus,” exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said in a video statement posted on Telegram.

Moscow Mayor Declares Monday a Day Off (5:24 p.m.)

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the non-work day won’t apply to authorities and strategic enterprises, including the military industry, and city services. Sobyanin urged people to refrain from commuting around the city as road blocks are possible and city services are on high alert, he said in a Telegram post.

The governor of the wider Moscow region also banned mass outdoor and educational events through July 1.

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Prigozhin Says His Troops Head to Moscow (4:14 p.m.)

“We are all ready to die,” Prigozhin said in an audio message earlier in the day, claiming Wagner’s force stood at 25,000 troops with another 25,000 ready to join. Those claims couldn’t be independently confirmed. It’s also unclear how many of his forces he may have left behind in Rostov-on-Don in the far south.

The governor of Lipetsk, around 350 km (218 miles) south of Moscow, said the Wagner column was moving through his region. Officials announced a “counter-terrorist regime” in Moscow and surrounds as well as in Voronezh region, which lies along the main road about midway from Rostov-on-Don to the capital.

US, Allies Coordinate on Russian Turmoil (3:33 p.m.)

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with counterparts from allied nations, including key NATO members, on the situation in Russia. 

Blinken said that US support “for Ukraine will not change,” during a call with foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK, as well as the EU’s foreign affairs envoy, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. The US “will stay in close coordination” with allies and partners, he said.

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Iran Calls Events in Russia Internal Affair (3:30 p.m.)

Iran issued its first official reaction to events in Russia, calling them “an internal affair.” In remarks published on Telegram, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said the Islamic Republic “supports the rule of law” in Russia but provided no further comment.

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Throughout the war against Ukraine, Russia has become reliant on Iranian-made drones to strike Ukrainian cities and installations. Iran has also emerged as an increasingly important trading partner as Russia’s economy came under international sanctions after the February 2022 invasion.

Chechen Leader Kadyrov Backs Putin, Sends Fighters (3:01 p.m.)

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denounced the Wagner actions and claimed he’d sent Chechen fighters currently serving with Russian Defense Ministry and National Guard units to Rostov.

“We will do everything to preserve the unity of Russia and protect its statehood!” Kadyrov, one of Putin’s staunchest supporters, said in his VK post. Russian social media posted unverifiable video clips of Chechen forces riding armored personnel carriers.

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Kremlin Says Erdogan Backs Putin (2:50 p.m.)

The Kremlin said Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his “full support” to Putin for the steps taken by Russian authorities in response to an insurrection by the Wagner mercenary group.

The telephone conversation was initiated by the Turkish side, according to a Kremlin statement. Putin informed Erdogan of the latest developments in what the Kremlin called an “attempted armed rebellion.”

Russian Fuel Depot Ablaze in Voronezh (2 p.m.)

A fuel storage site caught fire on the outskirts of the southern Russian city of Voronezh, according to regional Governor Alexander Gusev. No casualties were reported. 

More than a hundred firefighters are battling the blaze at the depot, Gusev said on Telegram. While the governor gave no cause for the fire, videos circulating on social media showed military helicopters flying over the site before it was rocked by an explosion.

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Germany Taken by Surprise by Fast-Moving Events (1:30 p.m.)

The German government was taken by surprise by events in Russia, according to officials there. As recently as Friday, a senior government official shared the assumption that Wagner’s Prigozhin was acting on behalf of Putin, and that even his violent outbursts toward defense chief Sergei Shoigu were part of Putin’s larger plan of cementing his power by letting  military leaders fight among themselves. There’s currently no force with the Russian apparatus which would dare to challenge Putin, the official said.

Russian Communication Watchdog Gives Internet Warning (1:20 p.m.) 

Roskomnadzor warned of possible restrictions to Internet access in areas where Russia is conducting a counter-terrorist operation, RBC newswire reported, citing the watchdog’s press service.

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Russian Telegram users reported slowdowns to the service, one of the most popular source of information since Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Regulators blocked access to Google’s news aggregator on major platforms in Russia overnight, according to NetBlocks, an Internet-monitoring group.

Zelenskiy Says Events in Russia Disclose ‘Full-Scale Weakness’ (12:15 p.m.) 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia has used “propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government,” according to a Twitter post. 

The latest events are a sign of “full-scale weakness” in Russia, he added in his first public comments on overnight events. “Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos,” Zelenskiy added. 

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Prigozhin Says Wagner Won’t Surrender (11:40 a.m.)

The Wagner paramilitary group won’t surrender to demands from Putin or the security services, Prigozhin said in an audio message in his Telegram channel.

Putin Speaks With Allies in Belarus, Kazakhstan (11 a.m.) 

Russia’s president called his close ally, Belarusian President Lukashenko, to inform him of the situation, the state-owned Belta news agency reported. 

Putin also held a phone call with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Tokayev’s press-service said. Tokayev noted “the current events are Russia’s internal affair.”

Russian State Faces ‘Most Significant Challenge,’ UK Says (10 a.m.)

Reflecting on the evolving situation in Russia, the UK defense ministry said that the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially its National Guard, “will be key to how the crisis plays out.” 

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“This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” the ministry said in a regular intelligence update on Twitter. 

Three Dead in Kyiv After Latest Russian Missile Barrage (8 a.m.) 

Russia launched 51 missiles and two Shahed drones at Ukraine including two cruise Kalibr missiles, Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram. Air defense intercepted 40 cruise missiles, one Kalibr and both drones.  

At least three people were reported killed and 10 or more injured by debris from a missile early Saturday in Kyiv that struck a multi-story apartment building. Explosions were also heard in Kharkiv in the northeast. 

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‘Counter-Terror Regime’ Declared in Moscow: IFX (8 a.m.)

A counter-terrorist operation regime was declared in Moscow, the Moscow region and the Voronezh region amid the “armed uprising” of the Wagner private military company, Interfax reported, citing the National Anti-Terrorist Committee.

(An earlier version corrected the spelling of the Russian missile)

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