'We didn't want to overthrow government' - Prigozhin, in first comments since mutiny


  • World
  • Tuesday, 27 Jun 2023

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves the headquarters of the Southern Military District amid the group's pullout from the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File photo

(Reuters) - Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday that a one-day mutiny by his Wagner force had been intended not to overthrow Russia's government but to register a protest over what he said was its ineffectual conduct of the war in Ukraine.

In his first public comments since ending the mutiny late on Saturday, Prigozhin repeated his frequent claim that Wagner was the most effective fighting force in Russia "and even the world", and that it put to shame the units that Moscow had sent into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

He said the way it had been able to seize the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without bloodshed and to send an armed convoy to within 200 km of Moscow had been testament to the effectiveness of his fighters.

"We showed a master class, as it should have been on Feb. 24, 2022. We did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime and the legally elected government," he said in an 11-minute audio message released on the Telegram messaging app.

Prigozhin renewed an allegation, so far unsupported by evidence, that the Russian military had attacked a Wagner camp with missiles and then helicopters, killing about 30 of its men, and said this had been the immediate trigger for what he called a "march of justice".

AVERTING BLOODSHED

Wagner stopped its advance towards Moscow at the moment when it realised that it would have to confront waiting Russian troops, and that blood would inevitably be shed, he said, reiterating an assertion he made on Saturday.

Prigozhin, a former close ally of President Vladimir Putin, stressed that Wagner had not spilt a drop of blood on the ground during its northward march, but regretted that his fighters had had to kill Russian servicemen who attacked their convoy from helicopters.

He also once more complained about a military order that all volunteer units including Wagner are meant to sign by July 1 placing themselves under the control of Russia's Defence Ministry.

Fewer than 2% of Wagner's men have signed up, Prigozhin added.

"The aim of the march was to avoid the destruction of Wagner," he said.

In the recording, Prigozhin did not address any of the questions still surrounding the agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that brought the mutiny to an end.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that the deal had included dropping a criminal case against Prigozhin and his moving to Belarus.

Prigozhin, who was last seen in public being driven in a sport utility vehicle out of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday evening, did not say where he was when he recorded his statement. (This story has been corrected to say Prigozhin alleged that 30, not 1,000, Wagner fighters died in attack by army in paragraph 5)

(Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In World

So long to ICQ, iconic ‘90s messaging platform that’s shutting after almost 30 years
San Francisco’s hot tourist attraction: Driverless cars
Too small to police, too big to ignore: Telegram is the app dividing Europe
Hacking group claims it�stole�client data from�Christie’s
OpenAI’s Scarlett Johansson gaffe pushes voice cloning into spotlight
Papua New Guinea orders thousands to evacuate from path of 'active' landslide
Spain, Ireland, Norway condemn Rafah attack, affirm Palestinian recognition
No-confidence vote looms for Papua New Guinea leader Marape
Argentina's Milei swaps cabinet chief in major government shakeup
Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map

Others Also Read