Russia has got into a civil war-like situation this week as the war against Ukraine continues. The long running feud between Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian defence establishment escalated sharply on Saturday, with the mercenary group seizing a key military headquarters overseeing the conflict in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has dubbed the rebellion as “betrayal” and “treason” and vowed to defend Russia.
The situation was being ‘closely monitored’ by Ukraine’s allies and they insisted that their support for Kyiv and President Volodymyr Zelensky was ‘unwavering’. The latter meanwhile said that Russia’s “weakness is obvious”.
Zelensky in his statement said, “Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later. “Anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys themselves. For a long time, Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it.”
Charles Michel, the EU chief, on Saturday tweeted, “Closely monitoring the situation in Russia as it unfolds. In touch with European leaders and G7 partners. This is clearly an internal Russian issue. Our support for Ukraine and Zelensky is unwavering.”
The UK Government’s emergency Cobra committee held a meeting to discuss the situation on Saturday.
According to an update from the British Defence Ministry, “Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.”
While the Wagner chief has positioned himself as a “patriot” the Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against Prigozhin. The Federal Security Service said it was seeking to detain him.
Putin, in his statement said “All those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment. The armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders.”
Officials have already announced a “counter-terrorist regime” in Moscow and the surrounding region as well as in the southern Voronezh area. Security in the capital was tightened including around government buildings, and riot police were put on alert.