Putin accuses mercenary chief Prigozhin of treason as Wagner troops claim southern city News
Wagner Group forces in Rostov-on-Don, Russia // Telegram
Putin accuses mercenary chief Prigozhin of treason as Wagner troops claim southern city

Russian president Vladimir Putin accused mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin of treason on Saturday as the latter’s forces claimed the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

“What we are facing is indeed treason. Excessive ambitions and personal interests have led to betrayal — the betrayal of their own country, of their own nation, and what’s more, of the cause for which Wagner troops fought and died alongside [alongside other Russian soldiers],” Putin said in a speech to the nation.

Through the Telegram accounts of his press service and the Wagner Group, Prigozhin has lashed out at the Russian leadership over the Kremlin’s treatment of the Russian people — military personnel and civilians alike.

Tensions between Moscow and Wagner had been swelling in recent weeks. Prigozhin had on multiple occasions accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s general staff, of failing to supply adequate arms to Russian fighters in Ukraine. The rhetoric escalated this week, with Prigozhin blaming Russia’s top brass of having misled Putin and the Russian people about realities on the ground in Ukraine prior to the February 2022 invasion, and accused Russian military troops of having attacked a Wagner camp in Ukraine.

In previous statements, the otherwise outspoken Prigozhin appeared to take great care not to criticize Putin directly. But following the accusations of treason, the Wagner Group has taken an overtly critical tone in addressing the Kremlin. In a comment following Putin’s address, the Wagner Group accused Putin of prioritizing the interests of Russia’s ultra-wealthy — himself apparently included — over the interests of Russia’s soldiers. “What have you given to the war veterans? 3,700 rubles a month? Why won’t you answer the veterans’ questions? Why is it that you only see your own problems — how to defend Moscow and Rublyovka [ed: a wealthy suburb outside of Moscow known for its sprawling mega mansions]? … How many fighters have died so that you could live in your mansions?”]

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country Putin invaded in February 2022, Tweeted that he who “chooses the path of evil destroys himself,” suggesting that Putin “despises people and throws hundreds of thousands into the war, in order to eventually barricade himself in the Moscow region from those whom he himself armed” — echoing Wagner’s criticisms of the excesses of the Russian elite.

This is a developing story.