Putin Vows Punishment While Facing Russia’s Biggest Domestic Crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday (Jun 24) vowed to crush what he called an armed mutiny after the chief of the Wagner mercenary force said he had taken control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don as part of an attempt to oust the military leadership.

The dramatic turn, with many details unclear, looked like the biggest domestic crisis Putin has faced since he ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

In a televised address on Saturday, Putin said “traitors” who had taken up arms against the Russian military would be punished.

He said “excessive ambitions and vested interests have led to treason”, and called the mutiny a “stab in the back”.

Putin acknowledged that a “difficult” situation was unfolding in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

“It is a blow to Russia, to our people. And our actions to defend the fatherland against such a threat will be harsh,” he said.”All those who deliberately stepped on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed insurrection, who took the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment, will answer both to the law and to our people.”Putin added that he would do everything to protect Russia, and that “decisive action” would be taken to stabilise the situation in Rostov-on-Don, where people have been urged to stay home.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said earlier on Saturday that he had crossed into Russia and seized control of a key military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, vowing to topple Moscow’s military leadership and saying he and his 25,000 fighters were “ready to die”.

Prigozhin’s forces have spearheaded much of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. But the group has for months been accusing Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov of incompetence and of denying Wagner ammunition and support in its battles in Ukraine.

On Friday, he had appeared to cross a new line in the feud, saying that Putin’s stated rationale for invading Ukraine 16 months ago was based on lies concocted by the army’s top brass.

“The war was needed … so that Shoigu could become a marshal … so that he could get a second ‘Hero’ (of Russia) medal,” Prigozhin said in a video clip.

Source: AFP

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