Russian Federal Security Service launch investigation against Wagner chief for inciting an armed rebellion following Russian Defence Ministry accusations
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused PMC Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin of spreading falsehoods, after a video made the rounds on social media on Friday purporting to show a rocket strike on one of the company’s bases from Russian territory.
Yevgeny Prigozhin © Handout / TELEGRAM/ @concordgroup_official / AFP
“All messages and video distributed on social networks on behalf of [Yevgeny] Prigozhin about the alleged strike by the [Russian military] on the camps of PMC Wagner in the rear areas do not correspond to reality and are an informational provocation,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue to carry out combat missions on the line of contact with the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area of the special military operation,” the ministry added.
The statement came in response to a video purporting to show the aftermath of a “missile attack” on a Wagner camp in a forest somewhere. “There are many dead. According to eyewitnesses, the strike came from behind, i.e. from the forces of the Russian Defense Ministry,” according to the social media post.
FSB HQ at Lubyanka Square, Moscow, Russia © Vladimir Pesnya/ Sputnik
“A large number of our fighters died. We will decide how we will respond to this atrocity. The next step is ours,” Prigozhin said in a statement commenting on the alleged attack. He then vowed to march on Moscow and hold those responsible to account, warning the military to stay out of his way.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) immediately “opened a criminal investigation on account of calling for an armed rebellion.”
“We demand the immediate end to all illegal activity,” the anti-terrorism committee stated. The Prosecutor-General’s Office added that “this crime is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 12 to 20 years.”
Deputy commander of the Russian Joint Forces, General Sergey Surovikin, asked on Friday the fighters of the private military company Wagner Group to stop their “rebellion” against Moscow.
In a short video message released on social media, Surovikin said he had just returned from the front, where Russian forces were standing their ground against the Ukrainian offensive.
“I appeal to the fighters and commanders of the PMC Wagner,” Surovikin said, still wearing his fatigues. “We have walked a difficult road together. We fought together, took risks together, suffered losses together, and won together. We are of the same blood. We are warriors. I urge you to stop. The enemy is just waiting for the internal political situation to worsen. We should not play into the enemy’s hands in these difficult times for our country.”
He urged Wagner troops to submit to the lawfully elected authorities “before it is too late,” return to their barracks and address their grievances peacefully.
Surovikin, an air force general, was put in charge of the operation in Ukraine in October 2022, overseeing a major redeployment in the Kherson Region. In January this year, he became a deputy to General Valery Gerasimov, head of the Russian General Staff and current commander of the operation.
Kiev is concentrating troops in an attempt to retake the key Donbass city of Artyomovsk, known as Bakhmut in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced shortly afterwards news broke of the FSB investigation.
According to the ministry, Ukrainian units are “taking advantage of [Wagner chief Evgeny] Prigozhin’s provocation aimed at disorganizing the situation.”
“Servicemen from the Southern group are suppressing the enemy with artillery and aviation strikes,” the statement added.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been briefed about the situation involving Prigozhin and Wagner, and all the necessary measures are being taken.