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Russian military leaders urge Wagner boss to stop his 'march for justice' as Moscow beefs up security

by Olena Goncharova and Liliane Bivings June 24, 2023 2:14 AM 2 min read
Sergei Surovikin, deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, at a meeting of Russian President with top military officials in Sochi on Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo by Mikhail Metzel/ AFP via Getty Images)
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Check out our LIVE UPDATES on the Wagner Group’s armed rebellion in Russia.

Russian military leaders appealed to the Wagner Group in the early hours of June 24 to stand down following a video statement in which Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin called the Russian military leadership "evil" and vowed a "march for justice."

In a video message, Deputy Commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, holding what appears to be a rifle, urged Wagner troops to obey the president and not to turn on the Russian military. "You need to stop your columns and return them to their positions," he pleaded.

In another video appeal, Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseev, first deputy chief of the general staff of the armed forces, called any actions against the Russian state a "stab in the back of the country and president" and a "coup d'etat," saying "come to your senses!"

"It is impossible to think of a bigger blow to the image of Russia, such a provocation could only be done by the enemies of the Russian Federation," Alekseev said.

Russia's Prosecutor General also released a statement late on June 23 that the Federal Security Service had "legally and reasonably initiated criminal proceedings" against Prigozhin for "organizing an armed insurrection," adding that the charge carries a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years.

Meanwhile, Russian media outlet Vazhnyye Istorii reported, citing Russian state-controlled news agency TASS, that Moscow had strengthened security measures in the capital and put police forces and government agencies on high alert. Transportation infrastructure have also been "taken under increased protection," Russian law enforcement told TASS.

Russia's OMON, or the Special Purpose Police Unit, and Special Rapid Response Unit of the Russian Guard were also put on high alert, TASS also reported.

Videos circulated on Russian social media accounts of military vehicles in Moscow after midnight on June 24.

In the evening of June 23, Prigozhin claimed that the Russian military had launched a missile strike at the Wagner Group's rear camps, resulting in many casualties, he said, vowing to send his "25,000" troops to go to Russia to "figure out why there is chaos in the country."

Prigozhin, at one time the Kremlin's caterer and long-time confidant of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, has come into conflict with the regular Russian army several times since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In early May, Yevgeny Prigozhin published a video on his Telegram channel showing dozens of dead Russian soldiers, lashing out at the Russian military for what he claimed was its failure to provide his forces with ammunition.

Over the course of Russia's war against Ukraine, the Wagner Group has taken a leading role in Russia's offensive efforts in eastern Ukraine, particularly around the eastern city of Bakhmut, where brutal fighting has claimed heavy casualties on both sides.

Prigozhin accuses Russian army of attacking Wagner, threatens to respond
Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner Group mercenaries, said Russian Defense Ministry attacked the group’s bases in the rear. “We have 25,000 (soldiers), and we’re going to respond,” he said.
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