tank in Rostov-on-Don wagner coup
© Sergey Pivovarov / Sputnik
Key moments of aborted Wagner revolt in Russia
A tank in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023.
RT breaks down how the private military company's attempted rebellion unfolded

The Wagner private military company led by Evgeny Prigozhin launched an insurrection in Russia that began on Friday evening and lasted through Saturday.

The armed contractors managed to seize an army headquarters in the southern part of the country.

However, they failed to rally other units and eventually aborted their advance towards Moscow after a deal was reached with the authorities.

The agreement, which includes an amnesty for Prigozhin, was brokered by Belarusian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko.

© Financial Times
Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner cofounder
Simmering Wagner-MOD tensions

The private military company Wagner Group was founded by restaurateur and catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin. The group's members fought alongside regular Russian troops and distinguished themselves in the bloody battle for the Donbass city of Artyomovsk, known to Ukrainians as Bakhmut.

Prigozhin is a vocal critic of the country's top military brass. He has publicly accused Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff, of mishandling the military operation in Ukraine. Prigozhin has also refused to sign an official contract with the Russian Defense Ministry.

Comment: Prigozhin knew exactly why a contract needed to be signed. Once Donbass became officially Russian territory, the Wagner group could no longer function there, as Russian law forbids anything but official government forces to be present within the country. Wagner does not meet that criteria. It was sign the contract, or be cut off from all supplies and support be disbanded.

Prigozhin begins 'march on Moscow'

Late on Friday, Prigozhin accused the Russian military of striking Wagner's field camps. The MOD quickly rejected his claim as "informational provocation." Nevertheless, Prigozhin announced that his forces were beginning a "march for justice" with a plan to reach Moscow.

In the early hours of Saturday, an armored Wagner convoy, which included tanks, rolled into the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. In the city, Wagner members took control of the headquarters of the Southern Military District without a fight. Several gunshots were heard in Rostov later during the day, but no casualties were reported.

Putin condemns revolt

Shortly after Prigozhin declared his "march," the Federal Security Service accused the Wagner boss of inciting an armed rebellion and opened a criminal case against him. In a video address on Saturday morning, President Vladimir Putin said Wagner's actions were tantamount to treason, describing them as the "backstabbing of our country and our people." He called for unity and stated that all necessary steps were being taken to restore order.

Meanwhile, counter-terrorism measures were enacted in Moscow and the surrounding Moscow Region. All public events were canceled in several cities, and traffic along major highways leading to Moscow was suspended.

Meanwhile, Prigozhin's endeavor failed to attract support from other military units. On the contrary, several high-profile commanders and officials called on Wagner to lay down their arms.

Mutinous unit turns back after deal reached
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
© Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
On Saturday evening, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who had spoken to Prigozhin on Putin's behalf, said the Wagner boss agreed to end his attempted insurrection in exchange for security guarantees. Prigozhin stated hours later that the Wagner convoys were halting their advance towards Moscow and returning to their bases. After some time, the regional authorities confirmed that Wagner fighters had left Rostov-on-Don.
The Kremlin said that, in order to avoid bloodshed, the case against Prigozhin would be dropped, and that he would "leave for Belarus." Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that Wagner members would not be prosecuted due to "their achievements on the frontline" in Ukraine.