Kremlin denies Putin has fled Moscow as rebel Wagner tanks and 5,000 soldiers move to capital

24 June 2023, 16:34 | Updated: 24 June 2023, 18:03

Putin launched a tirade against the private army now launching a full-scale coup against his rule
Putin launched a tirade against the private army now launching a full-scale coup against his rule. Picture: TASS

By Adam Solomons

The Kremlin was forced to deny reports that Vladimir Putin has fled Moscow as a private army staging a coup moved tanks towards the capital.

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Mercenary group Wagner reportedly controls two cities in southern Russia and is now trying to take control of Moscow.

Putin's plane was seen making a journey from the capital toward St Petersburg, data from tracker FlightRadar showed.

It then disappeared from the radar around 100 miles from Putin's official residence.

But a Kremlin spokesperson insisted Putin remains in his Moscow office.

Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency TASS: "Putin is working at the Kremlin."

Read more: 'Putin is deeply mistaken': Wagner boss taunts Russian leader as his '25,000-strong' mercenary army marches on Moscow

Read more: Battle for Moscow: The key players from Putin to Prigozhin as Wagner group launches all-out rebellion

Flight tracker information suggests Putin's plane has left Moscow for St Petersburg
Flight tracker information suggests Putin's plane has left Moscow for St Petersburg. Picture: FlightRadar24

It came as Wagner vehicles were spotted travelling towards Moscow via motorways surrounding the city.

Around 5,000 Wagner soldiers are also marching on the capital, a source close to Wagner's leadership told Reuters.

Russian state forces fired on Wagner vehicles but were unable to slow their advance from southern cities Voronezh and Rostov.

Moscow's mayor told residents in the capital not to go to work on Monday "to minimise risks".

Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin wrote via Telegram: "A counter-terrorist operation regime has been declared in Moscow. The situation is difficult.

"I ask you to refrain from traveling around the city as much as possible.

"City services are on high alert."

Russian officials are pictured placing sandbags and sentry guns on the outskirts of Moscow
Russian officials are pictured placing sandbags and sentry guns on the outskirts of Moscow. Picture: Alamy

Wagner soldiers marched on Rostov, one of the military's headquarters used to command Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Months of tensions, in which Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has repeatedly criticised the military for its failures in the invasion, have now simmered over after Putin accused them of attacking his men in Ukraine.

"We have crossed state borders," Prigozhin said. "We'll destroy anything that gets in the way... We go all the way."

He added on Saturday: "Soon we will have a new president."

Wagner armoured cars are pictured on the motorway outside Moscow
Wagner armoured cars are pictured on the motorway outside Moscow. Picture: Social media

Prigozhin also claimed artillery and helicopters have attacked his troops.

Footage posted to social media shows billowing smoke, with some accounts claiming a military helicopter and transport plane was downed in Russia.

Reports said an oil depot in Voronezh had been destroyed by Russian forces so that Wagner could not resupply it.

Wagner forces have reportedly taken Rostov, a major city in southern Russia. A tank is pictured outside the city's military HQ
Wagner forces have reportedly taken Rostov, a major city in southern Russia. A tank is pictured outside the city's military HQ. Picture: Social media

Prigozhin has boasted of having 25,000 men at his disposal - all of whom, he says, are willing to die.

"This is not a military coup, but a march of justice," he said.

"We’re 25,000 strong, and we’re going to get to the bottom of the lawlessness in this country.

"25,000 are waiting as a tactical reserve, while the strategic reserve is the entire army and the entire country.

"Everyone who wants to, join us. We need to put an end to this disgrace."

Ex-PM of Ukraine on Putin accusing Wagner Group of 'treason'

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