Mercenary leader issues defiant message after march toward Moscow

In an 11-minute audio statement, Yevgeny Prigozhin denied trying to attack the Russian state.
Yevgeny Prigozhin in a video message.
Posted at 12:20 PM, Jun 26, 2023

The leader of the Wagner mercenary group defended his short-lived insurrection in an audio statement Monday.

In an 11-minute audio statement, Yevgeny Prigozhin denied trying to attack the Russian state and said he acted in response to an attack on his force that killed some 30 of his fighters.

“We started our march because of an injustice,” Prigozhin said in a recording.

A feud between the Wagner Group leader and Russia's military brass erupted into a mutiny that saw the mercenaries leave Ukraine last week. They seized a military headquarters in a southern Russian city and rolled seemingly unopposed for hundreds of miles toward Moscow. The group suddenly turned around on Saturday.

The Kremlin said it had made a deal for Prigozhin to move to Belarus and receive amnesty, along with his soldiers. There was no confirmation of his whereabouts Monday, although a popular Russian news channel on Telegram reported he was seen at a hotel in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

Russian media reported a criminal probe against Prigozhin continued, and some lawmakers called for his head.

In a return to at least superficial normality, Moscow's mayor announced an end to the “counterterrorism regime” imposed on the capital Saturday, when troops and armored vehicles set up checkpoints on the outskirts and authorities tore up roads leading into the city.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, records his video addresses in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Prigozhin remains under investigation, Russian state media reports

Despite reports that the Wagner Group leader will be given amnesty in Belarus, Russian state media says he remains under investigation for mutiny.


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made his first public appearance since the uprising last Monday. It came as Russian media speculated that he and other military leaders have lost Putin’s confidence and could be replaced.

Shoigu was shown in a helicopter and then meeting with officers at a military headquarters in Ukraine in video broadcast on Russian media, including state-controlled television.

It was unclear what would ultimately happen to Prigozhin and his forces under the deal purportedly brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Though his mutiny was brief, it was not bloodless. Russian media reported that several military helicopters and a military communications plane were shot down by Wagner forces, killing at least 15. 

Prigozhin denied there were any casualties on his side, but media reports indicated the airstrikes hit some Wagner vehicles, and messaging app channels featured images of the damage.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken says 'we haven't seen the last act' on Russia's Wagner revolt

Top U.S. officials are now evaluating what the rebellion means for Vladimir Putin's presidency.