'We'll go all the way': Wagner forces 'seize Russian city' as Putin faces coup and Moscow locks down

24 June 2023, 07:12 | Updated: 24 June 2023, 09:44

Prigozhin has effectively declared war on the Russian military
Prigozhin has effectively declared war on the Russian military. Picture: Social media

By Will Taylor

Vladimir Putin is facing an armed coup after the notorious Wagner mercenary group effectively declared war on the Russian army.

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The group's fighters appear to have marched on the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, one of the military's headquarters used to command the invasion, while Russian forces are tied up in 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 he 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."

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

He has attacked the myths central to Russia's logic for launching the invasion, essentially telling the people they were lied to.

Putin described it as a "stab in the back" and called Prigozhin a traitor.

Read more: 'It's a stab in the back': Furious Putin lashes out at Wagner rebellion as he accuses mercenary leader of treason

Moscow accused him of launching a mutiny and has ordered his arrest. The internet has been restricted and the military was deployed to the capital's streets.

Footage showed armed fighters in Rostov, surrounding a government building as a pair of tanks take aim. Prigozhin, who denies he is carrying a coup and framed his attack as an operation against the military, said he controls key areas of the city.

Residents there have been told to stay indoors.

Taking aim at the top Russian general, Valery Gerasimov, and defence minister Sergei Shoigu, he said: "We have arrived here, we want to receive the chief of the general staff and Shoigu. Unless they come, we'll be here, we'll blockade the city of Rostov and head for Moscow."

He was seen in footage with deputy defence minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Vladimir Alekseev, the deputy head of Russia's military intelligence. He is sat between the two men - apparently after securing a military HQ in Rostov, though it is unclear when the footage was shot.

"We've come here because we want to get the chief of the general staff and Russia's defence minister," he said.

Prigozhin has declared an attack on the Russian military
Prigozhin has declared an attack on the Russian military. Picture: Social media

The M4 motorway, which runs from Rostov to Moscow, was shut.

There were also claims Wagner forces were approaching Voronezh, further north.

Tensions between Wagner and the military have lasted for months. Wagner took Bakhmut, the Ukrainian city, at a high cost and Prigozhin has been the most prominent critic of the military leadership.

He was even touted as a possible successor to Putin though he has tried to avoid criticising him directly.

Updates to follow

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