Putin addresses Russia after mutiny by ally-turned-foe Wagner militia, speaks of ‘inescapable punishment’ for betrayal

Russian President Vladimir Putin today addressed the nation on television shortly after his Ukraine war ally, the mercenary militia Wagner Group, staged a mutiny and rolled its tanks into the Russian city of Rostov.

This betrayal had come when Russia was “engaged in a fierce struggle for its future, repelling the aggression of neo-Nazis and their masters”, said President Vladimir Putin in his address to the nation. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@C_NyaKundiH

Without naming Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has brutally criticised Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu for staging a pointless war, the Russian president said that the “armed mutiny” was a “stab in the back to our country and our people”. The president said that the Russian armed forces “have been given the necessary orders” and that the government would take “decisive action” to handle the situation.

Also read: Putin faces mutiny as mercenary fighter group Wagner, his Ukraine war ally, now threatens Russia

“Anyone who consciously embarked on a path of betrayal, those who prepared an armed rebellion and resorted to blackmail and terrorist methods, will face inescapable punishment,” warned Putin. “Additional counter-terrorism methods are currently being implemented in Moscow [city], in the Moscow regions, and several other regions.”

This betrayal had come when Russia was “engaged in a fierce struggle for its future, repelling the aggression of neo-Nazis and their masters”, he said.

The Russian president, who has recently confirmed moving nuclear weapons to the ally nation of Belarus as a tactical deterrent against the West, said in the TV speech that “excessive ambitions and personal interests have led to betrayal”.

He warned, “Virtually the entire military, economic, information machine of the West is directed against us. Any strife that our external enemies can use, and use to undermine us from the inside, must be discarded.”

In his address, Putin said, “I will do everything possible to defend my country… Those who have organised and prepared the military rebellion, those who took up arms against their comrades-in-arms, have betrayed Russia, and they will answer for it. As for those who are being drawn into this crime, I urge them not to commit a fatal and tragic, irrevocable mistake. Make only the right choice: to cease participation in criminal activities.”

Calling the Wagner mutiny an act of “apostasy”, Putin said that this went against “their comrades-in-arms, who are now fighting at the front”.

Though there are completely conflicting social media posts on what exactly is going on, Putin’s address confirmed that the situation in Rostov was “challenging” for Russia: “The operations of the civilian and military authorities there are effectively blocked.”

The Wagner Group was one of the main allies of the Russian military in its invasion of Ukraine. The group had captured Ukrainian territory, including Bakhmut, and handed the control over to the regular Russian military.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@IuliiaMendel

However, Wagner chief Prigozhin has now accused Russian minister Shoigu of being a liar and a “scumbag”. He said in a video posted on Telegram that the invasion of Ukraine was undertaken “so that a handful of scumbags could have a blast and get PR attention showing how strong the army is”.

Within hours of this video going up, there were photos of Prigozhin sitting at the Rostov headquarters of the Russian military. Social media footage showed tanks and other military vehicles operated by Wagner moving around Rostov.

Some of the newer crowdsourced videos from Rostov suggest that Wagner soldiers are planting landmines in order to block the way for any Russian military action. There are multiple social media videos of aerial attacks in surrounding areas, but it is impossible to confirm who is attacking whom.