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Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said in a video address on June 24 that Wagner leaders "will be held accountable" for organizing a rebellion and raising arms against the Russian Defense Ministry, calling it "a crime."
During the address, Putin never mentioned Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin by name, but implied he was talking about him.
In the five-minute address, Putin presented Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine as Russia's war for survival, and said that any infighting that undermines "the unity of Russia" at such a time is "essentially treachery."
Putin went on to call the infighting between Prigozhin and the Russian Defense Ministry a "deadly threat" to Russian statehood, adding that "actions to defend against such a threat will be severe."
"All those who plotted rebellion will face inevitable punishment. The armed forces and other state institutions have received the necessary order," Putin said.
Prigozhin's press service released a video shortly before 8 a.m. local time on June 24 in which Prigozhin claimed that all military sites in Rostov were under Wagner's control, including the airfield.
Allegedly filmed at 7:30 a.m. local time in the southern district military headquarters, Prigozhin said in the video that staff at the main military headquarters in Rostov were continuing to work as usual "without problems." Rostov, or Rostov-on-Don, is a city of 1.15 million people in southern Russia, 90 kilometers away from Ukraine's eastern border.
The Kyiv Independent was not able to verify these claims.
Prigozhin also said that Wagner troops were not impeding the work of the Russian Defense Ministry and that the situation on the front line was collapsing for different reasons.
After Wagner troops took control of military sites in Rostov they learned "a lot of new things" about the state of the war, according to Prigozhin.
A "huge amount" of territory has been lost, Prigozhin claimed. The number of casualties is allegedly three-to-four times higher than what is officially being reported to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The losses reported on television are also 10 times less than real ones, Prigozhin added.
Earlier Prigozhin said that his troops had entered Russia's Rostov Oblast and shot down a helicopter that was firing on what he referred to as a "civilian column."
"Now, we are entering Rostov. Defense Ministry units, or rather their conscripts, who were thrown to block the road, stepped aside," Prigozhin said in a voice message posted to his press service's Telegram channel.
Prigozhin's apparent rebellion started when he claimed late on June 23 that the Russian military had launched a missile strike against his fighters in Ukraine, inflicting a high number of casualties. Following the alleged attack, which couldn't be confirmed, he vowed to take revenge and said he was starting a "march for justice" against the Russian military leadership.
For months, tensions have been steadily escalating between Prigozhin and the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry. These tensions gradually become more public as Prigozhin voiced his frustration with the lack of weapons and logistical support provided to his troops during the 10-month battle for Bakhmut.
In the wake of Prigozhin's comments on June 23, Russian military leaders pleaded with Wagner troops to hold their positions and not "turn against their own" and Moscow stepped up security measures in the capital.
Russian state media outlet TASS reported on June 24 that an "anti-terrorist operation" had been introduced in Moscow and that mass events in the city would be canceled as a result.
TASS reported that city services were continuing to work "in full" and that moving around the city was "not difficult," thanking locals "for their understanding and calm attitude to what is happening."