Is Joe Biden attempting to make good his promise to 'topple Putin'?
Armed rebels with the Wagner Group were said to be moving north through Russian territory at 7am this morning appearing to be heading for Moscow, according to multiple reports.
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is leading what he calls a "march for justice" to oust Russia's military leadership.
Overnight, the mercenary group's forces seized control of Russian military facilities in Rostov-on-Don, a city of more than a million people near the border with Ukraine. The seizure is significant — Rostov is home to the Russian military headquarters overseeing the military supply line fueling Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
Further Wagner troops are reported to be moving through Vorenezh Oblast, a city about 300 miles north of Rostov-on-Don. An intelligence update from the U.K. Ministry of Defense indicated Wagner units are "almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow."
"With very limited evidence of fighting between Wagner and Russian security forces, some have likely remained passive, acquiescing to Wagner," the Ministry of Defense said.
Reuters separately reported — citing a Russian security source — that Wagner fighters have seized military facilities in the city of Voronezh, and the governor there has said operations are underway to put down the mutiny. Reuters could not independently confirm the situation there.
A Wagner convoy with armed vehicles was also seen traveling north on Russia's M4 motorway, which links Voronezh and Moscow in the Lipetsk region, the BBC reported. The regional governor, Igor Artamonov, said Wagner is moving "equipment" in the region and has asked residents to stay home and avoid traveling.
After a report indicated the Russian-backed Wagner Group deployed more than 400 mercenaries to Kyiv with the mission of assassinating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the private military company is receiving renewed attention from its past atrocities carried out at the behest of the Kremlin.
Yevgeniy Prigozhin's Wagner Group.
Russian businessman and Putin’s (former) close ally, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, has claimed credit for founding and running the Wagner group since its inception in 2014. The Wagner Group participated in the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has been considered a proxy group of the Russian state abroad, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The group rose to prominence during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, deploying around 50,000 personnel to the front over the fifteen months of conflict, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts. Russian President Vladimir Putin increasingly relied on Wagner for results in Ukraine as the Russian military's own efforts produced minimal results and the conflict dragged on far beyond the initial projected timeline.
Officially the U.S. have dismissed the Wagner Group. in January 2023 they designated the Wagner Group as "a significant transnational criminal organization" as it announced additional sanctions against the group and its support network across multiple continents. However, rumours on Capitol Hill suggest that the CIA have been secretly funding Prigozhin, seeing an opportunity to topple Putin, a goal that Joe Biden repeated in March this year. The Wagner Group does appear to have had a change of fortune of late, with Prigozhin having a new found confidence which seemingly came out of nowhere.
A senior Russian official has warned that if Prigozhin's rebellion is successful, Russia's vast nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of Wagner Group mercenaries and pose an existential threat to the world. “The history of mankind hasn’t yet seen the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons under control by bandits,” Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. “Such a crisis will not be limited by just one country’s borders, the world will be put on the brink of destruction.”