Feud with Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen as the biggest threat Russian President Vladimir Putin has faced to his 22-year rule.
Mutinous Russian mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group were making their way to the capital before their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered their to return to base to avoid bloodshed.
This latest incident with Prigozhin in a months-long feud with Russia’s defence ministry over the fight in Ukraine was the biggest threat President Vladimir Putin has faced in his 22-year rule.
The group rose to prominence after taking an increasingly visible role in the war in Ukraine, including hoisting the Russian flag in the city of Bakhmut after a months-long battle.
Here is a timeline of how the events unfolded since Friday:
- Prigozhin releases a video stepping up his feud with Russia’s military top brass and for the first time, rejects Putin’s core justification for invading Ukraine.
- In a series of subsequent audio recordings posted on Telegram, Prigozhin says the “evil” of Russia’s military leadership “must be stopped” and his Wagner mercenary force will lead a “march for justice” against the Russian military.
- Russia’s FSB security service responds by opening a criminal case against Prigozhin, announcing the 62-year-old called for armed mutiny against the state.
- The deputy commander of Russia’s Ukraine campaign, General Sergey Surovikin, urges Wagner’s forces to give up their opposition to the military leadership and return to their bases.
- Prigozhin says his men crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia and are ready to go “all the way” against the Russian military.
- Wagner fighters entered the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Prigozhin said in an audio recording posted on Telegram.
- The governor of southern Russia’s Rostov region adjoining Ukraine tells residents to remain calm and stay indoors as it becomes clear that Wagner forces have taken control of the city.
- Prigozhin says his fighters captured the army headquarters in Rostov-on-Don “without firing a single shot” and claims to have the support of locals.
- Russian’s defence ministry issues a statement appealing to Wagner fighters to abandon Prigozhin, saying they have been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure”.
- Putin makes a televised address promising to crush what he calls an “armed mutiny“. He accuses Prigozhin of “treason” and a “stab in the back”.
- Russian military helicopters open fire on a convoy of rebel mercenaries already more than halfway to Moscow in a lightning advance after seizing Rostov overnight.
- Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service, says it is clear that Prigozhin’s attempt to destabilise society and ignite a fratricidal civil war has failed, TASS news agency reports.
- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, says his forces are ready to help put down the revolt by Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary.
- Russian soldiers set up a machine gun position on the southwest edge of Moscow, according to photographs published by the Vedomosti newspaper.
- The White House says US President Joe Biden has spoken with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and that they have affirmed their support for Ukraine.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the armed uprising led by Wagner a clear sign of the weakness of Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
- Putin signs a law permitting 30-day detentions for breaking martial law in places where it has been imposed, the RIA news agency reports.
- Wagner mercenaries are promised an amnesty if they lay down their weapons “but they should do it fast”, the TASS news agency cites lawmaker Pavel Krasheninnikov as saying.
- The Russian foreign ministry cautioned Western countries against using the “internal situation in Russia for achieving their Russophobic goals”.
- The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he brokered a deal with Prigozhin who has agreed to de-escalate the situation.
- Prigozhin and all of his fighters vacate Russia’s military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don.
- Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov says a mutiny attempt by Wagner will not affect the military offensive in Ukraine.
- Prigozhin will now go and live in Belarus and no charges will be brought against him. Wagner fighters who did not participate in the march on Moscow will be offered military contracts.