Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his thanks to the Russian security forces and population for opposing the weekend mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group, in an address broadcast on state television.
Putin looked solemn and determined as he emphasized that steps were immediately taken to “neutralize the threat” posed by the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a rebellion of thousands of armed fighters toward Moscow on Saturday.
He accused Prigozhin and his accomplices of treason and betrayal, saying they wanted to see Russian society “choked in bloody strife” and capitulate to the West. He vowed that those behind the mutiny would be “brought to justice” and punished.
He also offered an ultimatum to the remaining Wagner fighters, who are currently stationed in various parts of Russia and abroad. He said they could either sign a contract with the Russian defense ministry and return to their families or move to Belarus, where Prigozhin reportedly fled after calling off his troops. He warned them not to use arms against the Russian military or state again.
Putin praised the Russian people for their “unity” and “patriotism” in defending the “fate of the Fatherland” from the mutiny, which he said was orchestrated by foreign powers who wanted to weaken and destroy Russia. He said Russia was facing a difficult war against neo-Nazis and their handlers in Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting against government forces since 2014.
He urged Russians to rally behind him and support the army, saying that Russia had a thousand-year history of sovereignty and independence that must be preserved.