All-out civil war looks set to erupt in Russia as Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says his men are “ready to die” in a power struggle with forces loyal to current Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Prigozhin has threatened to “march” on Moscow with 25,000 of his mercenaries and punish those responsible for launching a salvo of rockets into a Wagner group base.
“All of us are ready to die. All 25,000, and then another 25,000,” he said in a the latest in a string of audio messages. “We are dying for the Russian people.”
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Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described Prigozhin’s sudden actions as a “counter-terrorist operation” and said that “everything is just starting in Russia”.
In a series of broadcasts on Telegram, Prigozhin claimed to have crossed the border from Ukraine at the head of a massive force and taken control of an army HQ in the Russian city of Rostov.
Threatening to march into Moscow to confront Putin’s top military commanders, he said: “If anyone stands in our way we will destroy everything put in our path. We are holding out a hand to everyone, don’t spit on that hand. We’re going further; we’re going to the end,” he said.
“Anyone who puts up resistance — we will consider this is a threat and destroy immediately. Including any roadblocks on our way,” he added.
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Prigozhin singled out Putin’s minister of defence, Sergei Shoigu, as having signed off on the rocket strikes that killed dozens of his men.
He said on Telegram: “A missile attack was carried out on a PMC Wagner base. There are many casualties.
"According to the information of the fighters who are witnesses, the attack was carried out from a rear direction – that is, it was carried out by soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defence.”
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He claimed Shoigu had “put up helicopters to destroy our boys and then carried out rocket strikes”. “The scumbag will be stopped,” he said, before adding: “We are 25,000 and we are going forward to get to the bottom of why this lawlessness is happening in the country".
He tried to rally wider support, saying: "All those who want to, join us. We have to end this outrage . . . This is not a coup. It’s a march for justice.”
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