Kremlin threatened Wagner soldiers' families as Britain told to brace for fall of Putin

25 June 2023, 23:18 | Updated: 25 June 2023, 23:22

Putin was livid in his state television address to denounce Prigozhin
Putin was livid in his state television address to denounce Prigozhin. Picture: Screengrab

By Adam Solomons

British diplomats are planning for the fall of Vladimir Putin as it was revealed the Kremlin threatened the families of Wagner before the rebel army called off its coup on Moscow.

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"This could be Chapter One of something new", a government source told The Times.

They added: "We have to watch, wait and see what comes next."

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin suddenly reversed the mercenary army's march on Moscow after a deal with the Kremlin orchestrated by Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko.

He will now move to the neighbouring country.

Read more: Putin faces 'deeply unstable' Russia after Wagner rebellion 'erodes' image of power and Kremlin is forced to deny he ran

Read more: Alicia Kearns and Matt Frei dig deep into the Wagner mutiny in Russia

Prigozhin suddenly told his mercenary group to stand down as soldiers neared Moscow
Prigozhin suddenly told his mercenary group to stand down as soldiers neared Moscow. Picture: PA

It's thought between 5,000 and 8,000 Wagner troops were moving towards the capital when they received the order to stand down.

The private army's vehicles were spotted on motorways close to Moscow shortly before the coup came to a swift end.

Prigozhin had promised "Soon there will be a new president" after Putin appeared on state television to brand the Wagner rebels traitors.

It's now been suggested that the loved ones of Wagner soldiers had been threatened by Putin's allies in the run-up to the reversal, The Telegraph reported.

The Kremlin has promised Wagner soldiers who did not take part in the hours-long effort that they can join the Russian defence forces.

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

Experts have quashed suggestions that the coup was staged in order to strengthen Putin's authority.

Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysts said: "The Kremlin now faces a deeply unstable equilibrium. The Lukashenko-negotiated deal is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution, and Prigozhin's rebellion exposed severe weaknesses in the Kremlin and Russian MoD.

"Suggestions that Prigozhin's rebellion, the Kremlin's response, and Lukashenko's mediation were all staged by the Kremlin are absurd.

"The rebellion exposed the weakness of the Russian security forces and demonstrated Putin's inability to use his forces in a timely manner to repel an internal threat and further eroded his monopoly on force."

A Wagner convoy reportedly came under fire between Rostov and Moscow
A Wagner convoy reportedly came under fire between Rostov and Moscow. Picture: Social media

Prigozhin claimed a Wagner camp near Bakhmut in Ukraine had been attacked by the Russian military after months of criticising the leadership.

He then marched his mercenaries over the border, apparently facing no resistance from young conscripts before rolling into Rostov in the south of Russia.

Wagner forces held the city along with Voronezh, just 300 miles from Moscow.

He said it was a "march for justice" and that he had 25,000 men willing to die.

Putin was rumoured to have fled Moscow as the attempted coup rolled on
Putin was rumoured to have fled Moscow as the attempted coup rolled on. Picture: Getty

Putin's spokesman was forced to deny suggestions that the Russian president fled Moscow in the chaos.

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.

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

Kremlin troops moved to defend Moscow if Wagner reached it
Kremlin troops moved to defend Moscow if Wagner reached it. Picture: Alamy

Prigozhin had vowed at the start of the coup: "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."

Expert: 'The power of President Putin is now more limited than before'

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