Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which was previously the KGB, issued an arrest warrant for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of Russia’s feared Wagner paramilitary group, and urged his soldiers to stop him after he effectively declared on Friday that he was going overthrow Russia’s military.
The dramatic escalation of events comes after Prigozhin accused Russia’s Ministry of Defense of attacking and killing his troops that were in Ukraine fighting against Ukrainian forces.
“Prigozhin’s statements and actions are in fact calls for the start of an armed civil conflict on the territory of the Russian Federation and are a stab in the back of Russian servicemen fighting pro-fascist Ukrainian forces,” the FSB said in a statement. “We call on PMC fighters not to make irreparable mistakes, to stop any forceful actions against the Russian people, not to carry out Prigozhin’s criminal and treacherous orders, and to take measures to detain him.”
Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev urged Wagner forces to prevent an all out “real civil war” from erupting in the country and to “come back to your senses.”
Prigozhin said in a video statement on Friday that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had lied to Russian President Vladimir Putin about what was going on with Ukraine in order to stoke Putin into invading the country.
“The war was needed so that a handful of scumbags could have a blast and get PR attention showing how strong the army is,” he said. “The war was needed not in order to return the Russian citizens to our bosom and not in order to ‘demilitarize and denazify Ukraine’.”
Prigozhin shared a message on his personal Telegram channel that accused Russia of launching an attack on his soldiers.
“A missile attack was carried out on a PMC Wagner base,” the message said. “There are many casualties. According to the information of the fighters who are witnesses, the attack was carried out from a rear direction – that is, it was carried out by soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defense.”
Prigozhin said that he had 25,000 men and they were going to “figure out why chaos is happening in the country.”
“The evil that the military leadership of the country brings forward must be stopped. They have forgotten the word justice, and we will return it,” he said in an audio recording. “Anyone attempting resistance will be considered a threat and immediately destroyed. This includes all the checkpoints on our path and any aircraft above our heads.”
Russia responded to the threats by immediately deploying heavily armed military in Moscow and the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, which The New York Times reported is near the front line in Ukraine where Prigozhin’s fighters were operating.
Russia accused Prigozhin of “organizing an armed rebellion” and the situation rapidly escalated to the point that authorities started shutting down websites like Google News to prevent information from spreading to the public.
Russian State Media has announced that Security Forces in the Capital Region of Moscow have been placed into a State of High Alert with “Defensive Measures being Increased at Government and Military Sites across the City.” pic.twitter.com/2VAVa8KVMe
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) June 23, 2023
Military columns spotted on the streets of Moscow pic.twitter.com/WGNzbpOsfN
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) June 24, 2023
CENTER OF MOSCOW NOW
Prigozhin has called on the Russian National Guard to join his side to fight against the Russian Army. pic.twitter.com/lljOXj3NvH
— Jason Jay Smart (@officejjsmart) June 23, 2023
A Column of Russian National Guard Trucks reportedly spotted on the Highway just to the North of the City of Rostov-on-Don in Southwestern Russia; the Leader of the Wagner PMC Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that his Forces had Crossed the Border into the Rostov Region earlier… pic.twitter.com/9ahIQSgZH9
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) June 24, 2023
BREAKING: Heavy helicopter activity over Rostov, Russia, as Wagner Group forces advance towards it. pic.twitter.com/M2LLOUGo0o
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) June 24, 2023