The heavily armed Russian mercenaries who had already come the majority of the way to Moscow stopped and withdrew, citing a wish to avoid spilling Russian blood as a reason for their decision. This defused a significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner army and a longtime ally of Putin, claimed on Saturday that his troops had come within 125 miles (200 km) of the city.
In advance of their arrival, Moscow had sent out soldiers and ordered citizens to remain indoors.
A video revealed that the Wagner fighters had taken the city of Rostov, located hundreds of miles away, before rushing north in a convoy, bringing tanks and armored trucks with them and destroying roadblocks erected to stop them.
According to a Reuters witness, they started to leave the military headquarters in Rostov that they had taken control of on Saturday night.
“In 24 hours, we travelled 200 km closer to Moscow. We didn’t split a single drop of our fighters’ blood throughout this time, Prigozhin claimed in a video while in full combat gear at an undisclosed location.”
“We are turning our columns around and returning as planned to the field camps because we “understand that Russian blood will be spilled on one side.”
The extent of Prigozhin’s mercenaries’ advance could not be independently confirmed by Reuters. Convoys of Wagner trucks may be seen travelling less than 310 miles (500 km) from Moscow on earlier footage.
Wagner’s quick uprising seemed to proceed with minimal resistance from Russia’s conventional military forces, casting doubt on Putin’s hold on power in the nuclear-armed country even after Wagner’s march was abruptly stopped.
Prigozhin claimed before that the goal of his “march” on Moscow was to unseat corrupt and inept Russian officers whom he holds responsible for the failure of the Ukrainian War.
Putin said that the uprising threatened Russia’s basic survival in a televised speech.
Putin vowed to punish those responsible for “an armed insurrection,” saying, “We are fighting for the lives and security of our people, for our sovereignty and independence, for the right to remain Russia, a state with a thousand-year history.”