The leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says he has ordered his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow and instead withdraw to their field camps in Ukraine to avoid shedding Russian blood.
“We came out on June 23 to the March of Justice. In a day, we walked to nearly 200km away from Moscow. In this time, we did not spill a single drop of blood on our fighters. Now, the moment has come when blood may spill. That’s why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan,” Prigozhin said in an audio posted on Saturday afternoon on the social platform Telegram.
The anticipated arrival of the private army had instilled a sense of preparedness in Moscow, with President Vladimir Putin emphasizing severe repercussions. Putin called the uprising “a stab in the back,” as it was the biggest threat to his leadership in over two decades in power.
On Friday, Prigozhin called for an armed rebellion against Russia’s Defense Minister, claiming his mercenary forces had reached the Russian city of Rostov without resistance.
“We will destroy anyone who stands in our way,” he warned then. “We are moving forward and will go until the end.”
According to Prigozhin, the reason behind the retaliation was because Russian military forces, acting under the orders of Russia’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, launched attacks on Wagner convoys and field camps located in Ukraine.
Right after Prigozhin’s announcement, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to say this whole situation is “complete chaos.”
“Today, the world saw that the bosses of Russia do not control anything. Nothing at all. Complete chaos. Complete absence of any predictability,” Zelenskyy said. “The longer your troops stay on Ukrainian land, the more devastation they will bring to Russia. The longer this person is in the Kremlin, the more disasters there will be.”
The Wagner group, popularly known as Putin’s shadow army, emerged in 2014 in Ukraine, helping the seize Crimea and destabilize the eastern Donbas region, and since then has reportedly been involved in a range of global conflicts from Syria to Libya to Mali, usually assisting Russia’s military or Russian political interests.