In his words: Wagner chief Prigozhin on the Moscow ‘mutiny’

Yevgeny Prigozhin boasts that his mercenary fighters gave a ‘master class’ on how Ukraine should have been invaded.

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company,
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group mercenary force, records a video addresses in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023 [Prigozhin Press Service via AP]

The leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force has defended his short-lived mutiny against Moscow’s military leadership in a boastful 11-minute audio statement.

Making his first public comments on Monday since ending the 24-hour mutiny and agreeing on Saturday to withdraw his private army to camps in Belarus, Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a recording that he had acted “to prevent the destruction of the Wagner private military company” and that he did not intend to topple the government in Moscow.

The following are key quotes from Prigozhin’s comments released on the Telegram messaging app in which he explained his motives for his “march on Moscow” but gave no details about his current location or future plans.

On the reasons for his armed incursion into Russia

  • “As a result of intrigues and ill-considered decisions, this unit [Wagner] was supposed to cease to exist on July 1.”
  • “The council of [Wagner] commanders gathered, which brought all the information to the fighters, and no one agreed to sign a contract with the [Russian] ministry of defence, as everyone knows perfectly well… that this would have led to a complete loss of combat capability.”
  • “Experienced fighters, experienced commanders would simply be smashed and turned into meat; they would not be able to use their combat potential and combat experience.”
  • “Those fighters who decided that they were ready to transfer to the Ministry of Defence did transfer, but this was a small amount of 1-2 percent.”
  • “The decision to transfer [Wagner] to the defence ministry was taken at the most inopportune moment.”

On the occupation of Russia’s Rostov-on-Don city

  • “We were taking inventory and were going to leave on June 30 in a column to Rostov and publicly hand over the equipment near the headquarters of the SVO [acronym for Russia’s ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine] if there was no solution.”
  • “Despite the fact that we did not show any aggression, a missile strike was launched on us and immediately after that the helicopters worked on us. About 30 fighters of the Wagner PMC (private military company) were killed, some were injured.”
  • “This was the trigger for… the [Wagner] Council of Commanders deciding that we should start moving immediately.”

On the march to Moscow

  • “The aim was to prevent the destruction of the PMC and to bring to justice those people who made a huge number of mistakes during their unprofessional actions. This was demanded by the public, all the servicemen who saw us during the march supported us.”
  • “During the entire march, which lasted 24 hours, one column went to Rostov; the other, in the direction of Moscow. During a day, we travelled 780km [484 miles] to within just 200km [124 miles] of Moscow.”
  • “Not a single soldier on the ground was killed. We regret that we had to strike at aviation but they hurled bombs [at us] and launched missile strikes.”
  • “We blocked all military units and airfields that were in our path.”

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  • “When we walked past Russian cities on June 23-24, civilians greeted us with Russian flags and with the emblems and flags of the Wagner PMC. They were all happy when we passed by. Many of them are still writing words of support and some are disappointed that we stopped, because in the ‘march of justice’, in addition to our struggle for existence, they saw support for the fight against bureaucracy and other ills that exist in our country today.”
  • “We started our march because of injustice. On the way, we didn’t kill a single soldier on the ground. In one day, they reached a point just 200km from Moscow [and] they took complete control of the city of Rostov.”
  • “We gave a master class on how it should have been done on February 24, 2022 [when Russia invaded Ukraine]. We did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime and the legally elected government.”

Why Wagner stopped their march on Moscow

  • “We turned around not to shed the blood of Russian soldiers.”
  • “We stopped at the moment when the first assault detachment, which came to 200km from Moscow, deployed its artillery, did a reconnaissance of the area and it became obvious that a lot of blood would be shed at that moment.”
  • “Therefore, we felt that demonstrating what we were going to do was enough.”
epa10709141 A child poses for a photo on a tank reading 'Siberia' as servicemen from private military company (PMC) Wagner Group block a street in downtown Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, 24 June 2023. Security and armoured vehicles were deployed after Wagner Group's chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video that his troops had occupied the building of the headquarters of the Southern Military District, demanding a meeting with Russia’s defense chiefs. EPA-EFE/ARKADY BUDNITSKY
A child poses for a photo on a tank reading ‘Siberia’ as mercenaries from the Wagner Group block a street in downtown Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, on June 24, 2023 [Arkady Budnitsky/EPA]
  • “And our decision to turn around was based on two important factors. The first factor is that we did not want to shed Russian blood. The second factor is that we were registering our protest and not seeking to overthrow the government of the country.”
  • “At this time, [Belarusian President] Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko extended his hand and offered to find solutions for the further work of the Wagner PMC within a legal jurisdiction.”
  • “Our ‘march of justice’ highlighted a lot of the things we have talked about before – the most serious security problems throughout the country.”
Source: Reuters