Russian leaders accused the powerful head of the Wagner mercenary group of an attempted coup on Friday after he vowed to retaliate against the country’s military command for allegedly killing thousands of his fighters.
Officials boosted security in Moscow and launched a criminal investigation into Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the paramilitary group that has seen some of the toughest fighting in Ukraine, “on charges of armed mutiny” after he vowed to stop the “evil” of the military leadership.
“Those who destroyed our lads, who destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, will be punished. I ask that no one offer resistance,” Prigozhin said in a series of audio messages on his official Telegram channel.
In the audio, Prigozhin said, without providing evidence, that Russia’s military leadership was responsible for the deaths of 2,000 fighters. He pledged to hold them to account.
Within hours, Prigozhin said in another message that he and his fighters had turned their backs on Ukraine and crossed back into Russia. He warned that “if something stands in our way, we will destroy everything that will try to stop us.”
“At this moment in time we have crossed in all places the state borders … Right now we are entering Rostov,” he said, referring to a city in the south of Russia.
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