Mayhem broke out in Russia over the weekend but ultimately ended in an anticlimactic pullback by Russian mercenaries. In a television address to the nation Monday in response to the rebellion, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for justice.
On Monday afternoon, Putin issued a statement from the Kremlin for the first time since Russian mercenary group Wagner commenced a rebellion against Russia’s military leadership over the weekend.
“The organizers of this rebellion … they will be brought to justice … this is criminal activity, which is aimed at weakening the country and this was a colossal threat,” Putin said.
After the mercenaries took control of Rostov, they marched within approximately 200 miles of Moscow before the leader of the Russian mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, sent orders for them to retreat.
“I thank those soldiers and commanders of the Wagner group who did not go to the fratricidal war, they stopped at the line. You will be able to conclude a contract with the RF Ministry of Defense, return to your families or go to Belarus. I will keep my word,” said Putin in a statement.
In exchange for him ordering the group to turn around, a criminal case was dismissed and Prigozhin was allowed to leave the country. Prigozhin on Monday said the group’s march toward Moscow was not a coup attempt and instead was meant as a protest against the nation’s military leadership.
According to CNBC, the Kremlin announced over the weekend that Wagner mercenaries who participated in the march would be presented with the opportunity to join the Russian military.
Putin echoed the same sentiment Monday afternoon, noting that most of the Wagner mercenaries are patriots, and he even thanked those who turned back and avoided bloodshed.
This is exactly what the “neo-nazis” in Ukraine and the West wanted, Putin said: “They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other.”
The CNBC report indicates that some scholars in Russia are saying that Putin’s words to the Wagner mercenaries seemed to be out of character, given his history of imprisoning civilians for publicly criticizing his administration.
“We avoided a lot of blood. But the LDPR continues to insist: to ensure security, we need a contract army of at least 7 million military and civilian personnel,” said LDPR party leader Leonid Slutsky in his Telegram channel.
Produced in association with Benzinga
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond