Moscow faces mutiny as Yevgeny Prigozhin’s forces claim to enter Russia

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Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner, stated on Saturday that his fighters had crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia and were ready to confront the Russian military. This declaration came shortly after the Kremlin accused him of inciting armed rebellion. In response, the Russian FSB security service initiated a criminal case against Prigozhin and called on the Wagner forces to disregard his orders and apprehend him.

Prigozhin claimed in an audio recording shared on Telegram that the Wagner fighters had entered the city of Rostov in southern Russia. He vowed to eliminate anyone who obstructed their path. Earlier, Prigozhin alleged, without presenting evidence, that Russia’s military leadership had killed a significant number of his troops in an airstrike, and he pledged to exact revenge.

Prigozhin denied that his actions constituted a military coup. However, in a series of frantic audio messages, the authenticity of which could not be independently verified, he seemed to imply that his 25,000-strong militia was en route to overthrow the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense in Moscow.

According to a security service source cited by TASS, security measures were heightened on Friday night at government buildings, transportation facilities, and other key locations in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin of Russia was receiving continuous updates, as reported by TASS, while the White House stated that it was monitoring the situation and would consult with its allies.

Meanwhile, Kyiv announced that the main thrust of its counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion had yet to commence. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar informed Ukrainian television that “the main blow is still to come.” A senior Ukrainian general reported tangible progress in advancing in the south, one of the primary theaters of operations alongside eastern Ukraine.

General Sergei Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine, urged the Wagner fighters in a video posted on Telegram to obey President Putin, accept Moscow’s commanders, and return to their bases. He warned that political deterioration would benefit Russia’s adversaries.

The specifics of the standoff, which remained unclear, suggested that it might be the most significant domestic crisis Putin has faced since deploying thousands of troops to Ukraine in February of the previous year.

Prigozhin, once an ally of Putin, has engaged in an increasingly bitter feud with Moscow in recent months. On Friday, he appeared to cross a new line by claiming that the Kremlin’s justification for invading Ukraine, which it refers to as a “special military operation,” was based on lies from the top brass of the army.

Wagner, under Prigozhin’s leadership, spearheaded Russia’s capture of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut the previous month, marking Russia’s most significant victory in the past ten months. Prigozhin has used this battlefield success to openly criticize the leadership of the defense ministry without facing consequences, until now.

For months, he has openly accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general, Valery Gerasimov, of incompetence. Army Lieutenant-General Vladimir Alekseyev issued a video appeal, asking Prigozhin to reconsider his actions and emphasized that only the president has the authority to appoint the top leadership of the armed forces.

In Ukraine, at least three people were killed in Russian attacks on Friday, including two individuals who died after a trolleybus company was targeted in the city of Kherson, according to regional officials.

Regarding the pace of Ukrainian advances, several senior officials indicated on Friday that the main part of the counteroffensive had yet to begin. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi stated in an interview with The Guardian, “Our main force has not been engaged in fighting yet, and we are now searching, probing for weak spots in the enemy’s