Russia’s Wagner private army claimed Saturday morning to have captured the southern cities.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, declared war on the Russian Defense Ministry and threatened to head for Moscow unless Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, came to see him in Rostov.
The Wagner mercenaries had effectively taken control of Rostov-on-Don, the southern Russian city where the headquarters for the war in Ukraine is based.
Russian law enforcement officials said an attempted military coup led by the owner of the private military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has begun in Russia.
The Investigative Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case against Prigozhin under Article 279 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “on the fact of organizing a military coup.” This was reported in the official telegram channel of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office.
Prigozhin, if proven guilty in court, faces 12 to 20 years in prison.
Russia’s defense ministry issued a direct appeal to Wagner mercenaries, urging them to abandon a revolt that appeared to have moved into the southern Russian city of Rostov.
“You were tricked into Prigozhin’s criminal gamble and participation in an armed insurgency,” the ministry said in a post on Telegram early Saturday.
“We guarantee everyone’s safety,” it added.
In response to the threats made by Prigozhin, who leads the paramilitary organization Wagner Group, a Russian law enforcement officer said that “security measures” had been strengthened in Moscow, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency.