, Putin Vows To Fulfill Promise To Wagner Fighters

, Putin Vows To Fulfill Promise To Wagner Fighters

June 27, 2023, 6:45 a.m.

Mercenaries have challenged Russian authorities by marching toward Moscow. But the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says he had no intention of seizing power.

Officials in the Kremlin said Prigozhin called off his forces on Saturday in exchange for an offer to go into exile in Belarus. He has not been seen in public since. But, on Monday, he released an audio message, saying he and his men acted in "protest."

"The goal of the march was to avoid the destruction of the Wagner Group and bring to justice those persons whose unprofessional actions caused a huge number of mistakes during the special military operation," Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin blamed Russian regular forces for triggering the march. He said they attacked a Wagner camp with missiles and helicopters, and killed about 30 fighters. He said some of his men came within 200 kilometers of Moscow then turned around.

According to Russian media, President Vladimir Putin said the mercenaries wanted Russians "to fight each other." "Civil solidarity has shown that any blackmail, any attempts to create internal unrest are doomed to fail," Putin said in a nationwide address.

Putin says Wagner fighters made the "right decision" in halting their advance. He said they can sign on with the regular forces, relocate to Belarus or return to their families.

Putin gathered his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and other security officials together to respond to the crisis.

Some Russian leaders have suggested Ukrainian or Western spy agencies could have been involved. They have promised to get to the bottom of the "mutiny, reports Russian news agency TASS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered another televised address to the nation, thanking Russians for their unity amid the June 24 mutiny attempt. He stressed that from the very beginning, prompt measures had been taken to avoid bloodshed, lauded the courage of military servicemen and law enforcement officers and vowed to fulfill his promise to members of the Wagner private military company.

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