Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has made comments since the one-day mutiny by his Wagner force, saying it was not intended to overthrow Russia’s government but to register a protest over what he said was its ineffectual conduct of the war in Ukraine.
In his first public statement since ending the mutiny on Saturday night, June 24, Prigozhin repeated his claim that Wagner was the most effective fighting force in Russia “and even the world”, and that it put to shame the units that Moscow had sent into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
He said the way Wagner been able to seize the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without bloodshed and to send an armed convoy to within 200 km of Moscow had been testament to the effectiveness of his fighters.
“We showed a master class, as it should have been on Feb. 24, 2022. We did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime and the legally elected government,” he said in an 11-minute audio message released on the Telegram messaging app on Monday, June 26.
Prigozhin then alleged that the Russian military had attacked a Wagner camp with missiles and then helicopters, killing about 30 of its men, and said this had been the immediate trigger for what he called a “march of justice”.
Prighozin said his forces stopped its advance towards Moscow at the moment when it realised that it would have to confront Russian troops, and that blood would inevitably be shed.
Prigozhin, a former close ally of President Vladimir Putin, stressed that Wagner didn’t kill one soldier as it marched towards Moscow, but said he regretted that his fighters had to kill Russian servicemen who attacked their convoy from helicopters.
He also complained about a military order that all volunteer units including Wagner are meant to sign by July 1 placing themselves under the control of Russia’s Defence Ministry.
Prighozin claimed fewer than 2% of his men signed up.
“The aim of the march was to avoid the destruction of Wagner,” he said.
In the recording, Prigozhin did not address the agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that brought the mutiny to an end.
The Kremlin said on Saturday June 24, that the deal had included dropping a criminal case against Prigozhin and his moving to Belarus.
Prigozhinq was last seen in public being driven in a sport utility vehicle leaving Rostov-on-Don on Saturday evening, but did not say where he was when he recorded his statement.