Russia-Ukraine war live: Putin says Wagner rebellion a ‘betrayal’

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner Group is treason, adding that “decisive action” will be taken against them.
  • The authorities in Moscow and the surrounding area say they have declared a “counterterrorism” state of emergency after Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his forces were in control of military sites in Rostov.
  • Russia’s FSB security service has opened a criminal case against Prigozhin for the armed mutiny, state-owned TASS news agency said.
  • Earlier, Prigozhin accused Russia’s top military leadership of ordering a rocket attack on Wagner’s field camps in Ukraine, where “huge numbers” of his fighters had been killed.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “Russia’s weakness is obvious” and that the longer Moscow keeps its troops and mercenaries in Ukraine, the more chaos it would invite back home.

    Putin working in the Kremlin as mutiny ongoing: Spokesman

    Putin is working as normal in the Kremlin, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, after Wagner units claimed to have captured military installations in southern Russia.

    The Russian president earlier accused Wagner of treason in a national televised address, after the paramilitary fighters crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia, entering the city of Rostov-on-Don.

    Russian military helicopters open fire on Wagner convoy

    Russian military helicopters have opened fire on a convoy of Wagner mercenaries already more than halfway towards Moscow, Reuters reported, in a lightning advance after seizing the southern city of Rostov-on-Don overnight.

    A Reuters journalist saw army helicopters open fire at an armed Wagner column that was advancing past the city of Voronezh with troop carriers and at least one tank on a flatbed truck.

    The city is more than halfway along the 1,100km (680-mile) highway from Rostov to Moscow.

    Who is Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin?

    Authorities in Russia’s Lipetsk region tell people to stay at home

    Authorities in Russia’s Lipetsk region asked people to stay inside their homes for security reasons.

    They issued the warning amid reports that mutinous Wagner mercenaries were transiting the region en route to Moscow.

    Head of Russian Orthodox Church calls for unity

    The head of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church has called for unity in the face of an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

    “Any attempt to sow discord within the country is the greatest crime, which has no excuse whatsoever,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said in a statement.

    “I offer my prayers for the peaceful resolution of the current situation and call on those who have picked up weapons and are ready to use them against their brethren to come to their senses.”

    Fuel tank at oil depot on fire in Russia’s Voronezh region: Governor

    The governor of Russia’s Voronezh region says emergency services are trying to put out a burning fuel tank at an oil depot.

    More than 100 firefighters and 30 units of equipment were working at the site, Alexander Gusev, the governor, said on Telegram.

    Earlier, a Russian security source told Reuters news agency that Wagner fighters had taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500km (310 miles) south of Moscow.

    Reuters could not independently confirm that assertion.

    UK PM Sunak urges all parties in Russia to protect civilians

    British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called on all parties in Russia to protect civilians.

    “The most important thing I’d say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians,” he told the BBC.

    “We’re keeping a close eye on the situation and how it’s evolving on the ground as we speak. We’re in touch with our allies and in fact, I will be speaking with some of them later today,” he added.

    Roads into Russian-controlled Donetsk blocked: Al Jazeera reporter

    Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem reporting from Russian-occupied Donetsk says the situation in the city is fluid.

    “The Wagner Group marched into the city and took control of the central command centre and now we are hearing that they are besieging most of the government buildings there,” Hashem said.

    “All roads to and from Donetsk are blocked and fighters from Wagner are on the streets of the city,” he said.

    “There were some attempts by a few people to kind of protest but there was a crackdown on them.

    Putin speaks to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus leaders: TASS

    Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Russian state news agency TASS reports, citing Putin’s spokesman.

    The Kremlin has said that Putin had also spoken to the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan, amid an unfolding mutiny by the Wagner Group mercenary force.

    Witness: Wagner military column passes Voronezh

    A Wagner mercenary military column of vehicles drove past the Russian city of Voronezh, a witness told Reuters news agency.

    One of the vehicles was a flatbed truck carrying a tank.

    Ukraine FM: Time to ‘abandon false neutrality’ on Russia

    Ukraine’s foreign minister says the international community should “abandon false neutrality” on Russia and provide Kyiv with all the weapons it needs to push Moscow’s forces out of Ukrainian territory.

    Dmytro Kuleba made the remarks amid an apparent mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Russian military.

    “Those who said Russia was too strong to lose: look now,” Kuleba tweeted. “Time to abandon false neutrality and fear of escalation; give Ukraine all the needed weapons; forget about friendship or business with Russia.”

    “Time to put an end to the evil everyone despised but was too afraid to tear down.”

    Moscow river navigation temporarily suspended: TASS

    Navigation on the Moskva river, which runs through the Russian capital, Moscow, has been temporarily suspended, the state-owned TASS news agency reported, citing the authorities.

    Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a separate statement that no restrictions had been put in place for cars and trucks coming in and out of the city, but said security checks had been stepped up.

    ‘Internal betrayal’ in Russia: What did Putin say in his address?

    Speaking during an emergency televised address in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin has promised that he would not allow Russia to slip into civil war, after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary force, seized a key military headquarters overseeing the offensive in Ukraine.

    Here is the full transcript of Putin’s address:

    Wagner’s Prigozhin rejects ‘treason’ accusation from Putin

    The head of the Wagner paramilitary group says he rejects Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusation of “treason”.

    “Regarding the betrayal of the motherland, the president [Putin] was deeply mistaken. We are patriots of our motherland. We fought and are fighting, all the fighters of PMC Wagner, and no one is going to turn themselves in at the request of the president, the FSB or anyone else,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message on Telegram.

    “When we fought in Africa, we were told that we need Africa … When we were told that we were at war with Ukraine, we went and fought. But it turned out that ammunition, weapons, all the money that was put on them are also stolen, and officials are saving them for themselves, just for the case that came today when someone goes to Moscow,” he said.

    He later accused Russian forces of targeting concentrated areas with civilians, because “they can’t hit (the target) and they hit anywhere”.“Therefore, we are patriots, and those who oppose us today are those who have gathered around the scum,” he added.

    EU monitoring Russia situation, pledges ‘unwavering’ Ukraine support

    European Council President Charles Michel says the bloc is “closely monitoring” the situation in Russia and was in touch with fellow European Union leaders and G7 partners.

    “This is clearly an internal Russian issue,” Michel, the president of the body that brings together the leaders of the EU’s 27 member countries, said on Twitter.

    He also said the EU’s support for Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was “unwavering”.

    Zelenskyy: Russia’s weakness is obvious

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “Russia’s weakness is obvious” and that the longer Moscow keeps its troops and mercenaries in Ukraine, the more chaos it would invite back home.

    He made the comments on Twitter amid an apparent mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Russian military.

    “Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness,” Zelenskyy wrote.

    “And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later.”

    Who is Prigozhin, the Wagner chief taking on Russia’s military?

    Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, has risen to prominence after taking an increasingly visible role in the war in Ukraine.

    His mercenaries are fighting on behalf of Moscow after regular troops suffered heavy attrition and lost territory in humiliating setbacks.

    Prigozhin, 62, was convicted of robbery and assault in 1981 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Following his release, he opened a restaurant business in Saint Petersburg in the 1990s.

    It was in this capacity that he got to know Putin, then the city’s deputy mayor.

    Read more here.

    Voronezh region chief says Russian army taking action amid Wagner mutiny

    The governor of Russia’s Voronezh region says the army was taking “necessary military measures” in the region as part of a “counterterrorist operation” declared after an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

    Earlier on Saturday, a Russian security source told Reuters news agency that Wagner fighters had taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500km (310 miles) south of Moscow.

    Reuters could not independently confirm that assertion.

    Security in Moscow tightened, reports public activities cancelled: Al Jazeera journalist

    Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from the Russian capital, Moscow, says security in the city has been beefed up.

    “Some armoured personnel carriers and other armoured vehicles can be seen on the streets of Moscow,” Shapovalova said.

    “But generally, people here say the capital looks pretty calm at the moment. Security measures have been tightened in Moscow. Not just in Moscow but in other regions of Russia, too,” she said.“Here, all the important facilities have been taken under security protection. There are also reports that all public activities have been cancelled,” she added.

    ‘This is an unfolding crisis’

    Rajan Menon, director at Defense Priorities, a think tank based in Washington, says Russian leaders will be worried by the latest development.

    “This is an unfolding crisis and I don’t think we have seen the end of it,” Menon told Al Jazeera.

    “The interesting question is whether Prigozhin is acting as a lone wolf, which will be suicidal and irrational – he hasn’t shown any signs of that yet – or whether he is backed by other forces. We don’t know. But it is something to watch for,” he said.“He has been upping the ante and now he has decided to take on the Russian state and Putin personally,” he added.

    Ukraine closely following events in Russia: Al Jazeera reporter

    Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, says Ukraine is closely following events in Russia.

    “[The Wagner development] is being watched very, very closely indeed from the presidential administration to the military leadership.

    “The only comment thus far comes from Mykhailo Podolyak. He is a senior adviser to Vladimir Zelenskyy. He points to obvious splits in the elites in Russia and says everything is just beginning to happen now in Russia,” Hull said.“They will be watching very closely, they’ll be looking to try and decipher whether this creates any opportunities in the ongoing counteroffensive. The first question that they’ll be asking and we don’t know the answer … is just how many of Wagner’s forces have been redeployed from places on the battlefield,” he added.

    Estonia boosts security on Russian border: PM Kallas

    Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says Estonia has strengthened its border security and urges people not to travel to any part of neighbouring Russia

    “I can assure that there is no direct threat to our country,” Kallas tweeted.

    Chechen forces ready to help put down Wagner mutiny: Kadyrov

    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says his forces are ready to help put down a mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary.

    Kadyrov, in a statement, called Prigozhin’s behaviour “a knife in the back” and called on Russian soldiers not to give in to any “provocations”.

    UK warns of risk of unrest across Russia

    Britain’s foreign ministry has warned of a risk of unrest across Russia, in an update of advice to travellers following movements by Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenary forces.

    “There are reports of military tensions in the Rostov region and a risk of further unrest across the country,” the ministry said.

    “Additionally, there is a lack of available flight options to return to the UK,” the ministry added.

    Britain’s government continued to advise against all travel to Russia.

    ‘Worst crisis’ of Putin’s leadership: Analyst

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Moscow, Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military and defence analyst, says this is the toughest challenge that President Putin has faced since he took power.

    “This is a very, very serious challenge to the Russian leadership and personally to President Putin,” Felgenhauer said.

    “I would say this is the worst crisis of his 22 and a half year term of ruling Russia. There is nothing worse than this. He has been challenged and challenged militarily and very effectively. So right now I believe he’s going to be fighting for his life. It’s very serious,” Felgenhauer added.

    Putin briefs Belarusian president on situation in Russia: Belarus

    Belarus says Russian President Vladimir Putin has briefed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on the situation in Moscow.

    Putin has promised to crush what he calls an armed mutiny after rebellious mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said he had taken control of a southern city as part of an attempt to overthrow the military leadership.

    The Russian leader called the actions of the mercenary group “treason” and promised “decisive action”.

    Macron following Russia situation closely: Elysee

    French President Emmanuel Macron is following the situation in Russia closely, the presidential palace says.

    “We stay focused on the support to Ukraine,” the Elysee said.

    Putin calls for unity

    Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from the Russian capital, Moscow, says President Putin has called for unity, adding that the Russian leader referred to the actions of the Wagner chief as a “betrayal”.

    “[Putin] says Russia is fighting for its future and all we need is unity now. He called what is going on a betrayal,” Shapovalova said.

    “The Ministry of Defence addressed the Wagner group fighters saying that they got involved in Prigozhin’s criminal adventure and participated in an armed rebellion,” she said.

    “The ministry guaranteed everyone’s safety if the fighters surrendered. And now we see reports by state media outlets, saying that some fighters returned to their initial positions as they had been asked by the army,” she added.

    Polish president says Warsaw monitoring situation in Moscow

    Poland’s president says he has held consultations with the prime minister and defence ministry about the situation in Russia, adding that Warsaw was monitoring the situation.

    “In connection with the situation in Russia, this morning we held consultations with the prime minister and the ministry of defence, as well as with allies,” Andrzej Duda wrote on Twitter.

    “The course of events beyond our eastern border is monitored on an ongoing basis,” he added.

    Russian state now facing greatest challenge of recent times: UK

    Britain’s defence ministry says the Russian state is facing its greatest security challenge of recent times, following what it said appeared to be a move by Wagner Group forces towards Moscow.

    “Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” Britain’s defence ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

    Prigozhin will be seen as ‘enemy of the state’

    Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem, speaking from the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Donetsk, says it is clear from what President Putin was saying that Prigozhin will be seen as an “enemy of the state” from now on.

    “By taking Rostov military headquarters, this is the command centre that is in charge of what Russia calls the special operation in Ukraine, the Wagner chief is currently in charge of the war in Ukraine. This is very big,” Hashem said.

    “How this new situation will be dealt with is what everyone is waiting for. Here in Donetsk we are yet to see anything different,” he added.

    Putin says Wagner mutiny is ‘treason’

    Russian President Vladimir Putin says an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner Group mercenary force was treason, and that anyone who had taken up arms against the Russian military would be punished.

    Speaking during an emergency televised addressed, Putin said he would do everything to protect Russia, and that “decisive action” would be taken to stabilise the situation in Rostov-on-Don, a southern city where Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces had taken control of all military installations.

    Moscow declares counterterrorism state of emergency

    The authorities in Moscow and the surrounding area say they have declared a counterterrorism state of emergency against the background of the armed uprising by Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

    “In order to prevent possible terrorist attacks in the city and Moscow region, a regime of counterterrorism operations has been established,” Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee said.

    Security has been tightened in Moscow. The Voronezh region in southwestern Russia, which borders Ukraine, also declared this type of state of emergency.

    The counterterrorism state of emergency allows the Russian authorities to increase controls and facilitate the arrest of citizens. Telephone calls can also be tapped more frequently.

    ‘Everything is just beginning in Russia’

    A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “everything is just beginning in Russia”, describing the actions of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin as a “counter-terrorist operation”.

    “The split between the elites is too obvious. Agreeing and pretending that everything is settled won’t work,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

    “Someone must definitely lose: either Prigozhin … or the collective ‘anti-Prygozhin’,” he added.

    “Everything is just beginning in Russia.”

    Moscow appeals to Wagner fighters to abandon Prigozhin

    Russia’s Defence Ministry says Wagner Group mercenary fighters have been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure” by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

    In a statement posted on Telegram, the ministry urged Wagner fighters to contact its representatives and those of law enforcement services, and promised to guarantee their security.

    Why Wagner mercenary force has moved against Russia’s military

    The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his forces have entered Russia to remove the country’s military leadership.

    Russian security services said they had opened a criminal investigation into Prigozhin on Friday for launching what they describe as a mutiny.

    Prigozhin has long accused Russia’s top military leaders of failures in the war in Ukraine and is known for his long-running feud with the Russian defence ministry.

    Read here about what we know of Prigozhin’s stated aims.

    Putin to give televised address soon: TASS

    Russian President Vladimir Putin will give a televised address soon, the TASS news agency cited the Kremlin as saying.

    Earlier, the Kremlin said Putin was being updated regularly on the unfolding tensions between the Wagner mercenary group and the defence ministry.

    “Security services, law enforcement agencies, namely the defence ministry, the FSB, the interior ministry, the national guard are reporting to the president constantly, around the clock,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

    Ukraine organises peace meeting in Denmark

    Denmark is hosting a meeting organised by Ukraine, bringing together several nations, including those who have remained neutral on the Russian invasion, to discuss a path towards peace.

    Few details have leaked about the meeting, which is taking place on Saturday. However, a Western official speaking to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity said that White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will attend.

    The meeting in Copenhagen aims to discuss ways of achieving a “just and lasting peace” in Ukraine, the source said.

    The invitees include top security officials from the United States, the European Union and other countries that have backed Ukraine since Russia invaded last year, as well as those that have not condemned the invasion, the source added.

    They did not specify which countries.

    Prigozhin demands military chiefs come to him

    Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has demanded Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general Valery Gerasimov come to meet him in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

    In a video posted on social media, Prigozhin said he was now at the headquarters of the Southern Military District, which is in Rostov-on-Don.

    “We have arrived here, we want to receive the chief of the general staff and Shoigu,” Prigozhin said on the video.

    “Unless they come, we’ll be here, we’ll blockade the city of Rostov and head for Moscow.”