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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Not trying to remove Vladimir Putin, says Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin

'We went to demonstrate our protest, and not to overthrow the government in the country'

Valerie Hopkins New York Published 27.06.23, 08:04 AM
Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin File Photo

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group who mounted a brief uprising against Russia’s military command over the weekend, broke a long period of silence on Monday to deny, once more, that he had any intention of seizing power with his march on Moscow.

“We went to demonstrate our protest, and not to overthrow the government in the country,” he said in an 11-minute long stream-of-consciousness voice memo published on the messaging app Telegram. The statement renewed his sharp criticism of Russia’s military leadership, both for what he claims was the shabby treatment of his fighters and its handling of the invasion of Ukraine.

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Prigozhin said the protest was aimed at a move by the ministry of defence to force his mercenaries to sign contracts with the government, which he said would have effectively halted Wagner’s activities in Ukraine as of July 1. The fighters, Prigozhin said were planning to give up their heavy weapons to the Russian Army until they were attacked from behind on Friday night, killing more than two dozen Wagner soldiers — a claim for which there has been no independent evidence.

That’s when, he said, he decided to send one group of fighters to take the city of Rostov-on-Don, the home of the Russian southern command about 60 miles from the border with Ukraine, and another group to Moscow to register their anger.

“The purpose of the campaign was to prevent the destruction of the Wagner PMC and to bring to justice those persons who, by their unprofessional actions, made a huge number of mistakes during this process,” he said, obliquely referring to the defence ministry leadership.

The Wagner founder has spent months assailing Russia’s military leadership, which Prigozhin has long feuded with and accused of mismanaging the war effort. In Telegram posts that mixed self-aggrandising statements and profanity-laced complaints, he accused military leaders of failing to supply his fighters with ammunition even as they were engaging in one of the bloodiest fights of the war, the taking of the ruined city of Bakhmut.

New York Times News Service

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