Putin Says Russia’s Military Had Crucial Role In Stopping Wagner Mutiny: Admits Group Funded By State


(RFE/RL) — President Vladimir Putin on June 27 sought to gloss over the Russian authorities’ lack of immediate reaction to the Wagner mercenaries’ short-lived mutiny over the weekend, praising the military as the country’s savior from civil war.

Wagner mercenaries on June 24 took over the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don and covered some 780 kilometers toward Moscow before abruptly aborting their march some 200 kilometers away from the Russian capital in a move that the group’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said was meant to “prevent shedding Russian blood.”

However, during their march toward Moscow, Wagner mercenaries shot down several military aircraft, killing at least 10 pilots, and Putin opened his June 27 meeting with military personnel with a minute of silence to honor the pilots and said they “fulfilled their duties with honor.”

“You defended the constitutional order, lives, security, and freedom of our citizens, saved our motherland from shake-ups, actually stopped a civil war,” Putin told some 2,500 military personnel gathered in the Sobornaya Square inside the Kremlin.

In a display of unity at the top of Russia’s leadership, Putin then appeared flanked by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu while meeting members of security forces after his address.

The dismissal of Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was one of Prigozhin’s chief demands that triggered the mutiny.

Prigozhin, a former close associate of Putin’s, had said the aim of his troops’ march toward Moscow was not to overthrow the elected Russian government, but to highlight the incompetence of Russia’s military leadership in its war against Ukraine.

The chief of the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, who was present at the event, told journalists that Wagner’s “mutiny was prepared and inspired by the West’s special services, because they knew about it and talked about it several weeks before [it happened],” without providing any details to back up his claim.

Zolotov also said that Rosgvardiya may be equipped with tanks and armored vehicles from Wagner mercenaries following their failed uprising.

“We have no tanks or long-range heavy weapons. We will supply our forces with those depending on funding,” Zolotov said, according to Interfax.

Putin admitted during his meeting with the military that Wagner was financed solely by the Russian state. He said Russia funded Wagner with 86 billion rubles ($1 billion) from May last year until last month. Furthermore, Putin said Prigozhin personally earned almost the same amount of money via his catering business.

Prigozhin’s longtime catering business has earned him the monicker “Putin’s chef.”

In his first public statement since abruptly renouncing the mutiny, Prigozhin on June 26 said his action was a “master class” on how Russia’s army should have carried out its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, highlighting what he said were multiple holes in military security that allowed his group to easily take control of cities as it proceeded toward Moscow.

Prigozhin did not reveal his current whereabouts, nor did he mention any details of a reported agreement brokered by Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka that is said to have granted him asylum in Belarus.

Lukashenka said on June 27 that Prigozhin is in Belarus. He also said the mutiny showed that “the situation in Russia had gone out of control, adding that “there were no heroes” in the situation.

Lukashenka did not say if Prigozhin was currently in Belarus, but stressed in his usual anti-Western rhetoric that the United States and the European Union would have used the “chaos” that could follow if the “mutiny” had not been stopped.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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