Mercenaries march on Moscow to stop Putin's 'evil' army chiefs as Wagner boss is accused of mutiny

23 June 2023, 22:46 | Updated: 24 June 2023, 03:04

Yevgeny Prigozhin (top right) has called for a coup against the Kremlin
Yevgeny Prigozhin (top right) has called for a coup against the Kremlin. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has called for a coup against the Kremlin after claiming hundreds of his mercenaries were killed in a Russian missile attack.

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Russia ramped up its security after Prigozhin launched a march on the capital on Sunday evening, with military vehicles seen lining the streets.

Prigozhin said his forces had crossed into Russia and they would take all necessary steps to topple the country's military leadership.

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

A plan known as "Operation Fortress" has been activated in the city of Rostov-on-Don - which is around 100km east of the Ukrainian border - according to Russian media.

The plan - which is for personnel to be in "full readiness" - is also understood to have be activated in Moscow to protect the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Rostov region has urged citizens to stay indoors.

Writing on Telegram Vasily Golubev said: "The current situation requires the maximum concentration of all forces to maintain order.

"Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of residents of the area.

"I ask everyone to stay calm and do not leave the house without the need."

Read more: Watch: Russia deploys 'suicide tank' loaded with six tonnes of TNT in Ukraine as dramatic footage shows huge explosion

Read more: Moment RAF Typhoons intercept Russian warplanes approaching Estonian airspace in latest tense stand-off in the skies

Governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev, has urged people to stay inside
Governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev, has urged people to stay inside. Picture: Getty

Prigozhin earlier accused Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike on Wagner's field camps in Ukraine, where its soldier are fighting on behalf of Russia against Ukrainian forces.

He said that his troops would now move to punish Mr Shoigu and urged the army not to offer resistance.

"The commanders’ council of the Wagner Private Military Company has reached a decision," he said.

“The evil that the country’s military leadership perpetuates must be stopped.”

Prigozhin insisted his actions did not amount to a military coup, but added: "Most of the military support us fervently."

"This is not an armed rebellion, but a march of justice," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the situation
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the situation. Picture: Alamy

Russia's FSB security service has opened a criminal case against Prigozhin for calling for an armed mutiny, the TASS news agency said on Friday, citing the National Anti-terrorism Committee.

"We demand that illegal actions be stopped immediately," the committee said.

Earlier on Friday, Prigozhin stepped up his attack on the Russian Defence Ministry, saying that the Kremlin's rationale for invading Ukraine was based on lies concocted by the army's top brass.

He went on to release a series of audio messages on his official Telegram channel, saying: "The minister of defence has ordered 2,000 bodies that are being stored to be hidden so as not to show the losses."

He added: "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...

"There are 25,000 of us and we are going to figure out why chaos is happening in the country."

Prigozhin has been openly accusing Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia's top general, Valery Gerasimov, of rank incompetence and of denying his forces ammunition and support for months.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about the situation, adding that "all the necessary measures were being taken".

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