(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin said Russia was facing “treachery” as he accused Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former ally, of an “attempt at an armed mutiny.”
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Prigozhin has become a fierce critic of the Russian military for its failures on the ground during Putin’s war on Ukraine. The Russian president has threatened Prigozhin with “harsh” consequences for his rebellion, which has seen Wagner forces move toward Moscow. It’s the biggest crisis for Putin since he invaded Ukraine last year, and arguably the most significant challenge to his decades-long leadership.
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Raw But Ready to Fight: Ukraine Sends National Guard to Front
All times are CET
Kremlin Says Erdogan Backs Putin (2:50 p.m.)
The Kremlin said Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his “full support” to Putin for the steps taken by Russian authorities in response to an insurrection by the Wagner mercenary group.
The telephone conversation was initiated by the Turkish side, according to a Kremlin statement. Putin informed Erdogan of the latest developments in what the Kremlin called an “attempted armed rebellion.”
Russian Fuel Depot Ablaze in Voronezh (2 p.m.)
A fuel storage site caught fire on the outskirts of the southern Russian city of Voronezh, according to regional Governor Alexander Gusev. No casualties were reported.
More than a hundred firefighters are battling the blaze at the depot, Gusev said on Telegram. While the governor gave no cause for the fire, videos circulating on social media showed military helicopters flying over the site before it was rocked by an explosion.
Germany Taken By Surprise by Fast-Moving Events (1:30 p.m.)
The German government was taken by surprise by events in Russia, according to officials there. On recently as Friday, a senior government official shared the assumption that Wagner’s Prigozhin was acting on behalf of Putin, and that even his violent outbursts toward defense chief Sergei Shoigu were part of Putin’s larger plan of cementing his power by letting military leaders fight among themselves. There’s currently no force with the Russian apparatus which would dare to challenge Putin, the official said.
Germany has warned its citizens against traveling to several areas of Russia and said that in Moscow, “governmental, especially military facilities should be avoided as far as possible.”
Russian Communication Watchdog Gives Internet Warning (1:20 p.m.)
Roskomnadzor warned of possible restrictions to internet access in areas where Russia is conducting a counter-terrorist operation, RBC newswire reported, citing the watchdog’s press service.
Russian Telegram users reported slowdowns to the service, one of the most popular source of information since Russia invaded Ukraine. Authorities on Saturday declared counter-terrorist operations in several regions in the vicinity of Moscow as Wagner forces claimed to be heading toward the capital.
Regulators blocked access to Google’s news aggregator on major platforms in Russia overnight, according to NetBlocks, an internet-monitoring group.
UK, Allies Expected to Discuss Events Later Today (1 p.m.)
The UK government’s emergency committee, Cobra, is meeting to discuss events in Russia, the BBC reported, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expected to speak with allies later.
Zelenskiy Says Events in Russia Disclose ‘Full-Scale Weakness’ (12:15 p.m.)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia has used “propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government,” according to a Twitter post.
The latest events are a sign of “full-scale weakness” in Russia, he added in his first public comments on overnight events. “Ukraine is able to protect Europe from the spread of Russian evil and chaos,” Zelenskiy added.
Prigozhin Says Wagner Won’t Surrender (11:40 a.m.)
The Wagner paramilitary group won’t surrender to demands from Putin or the security services, Prigozhin said in an audio message in his Telegram channel.
Putin Speaks With Allies in Belarus, Kazakhstan (11 a.m.)
Russia’s president called his close ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, to inform him of the situation, the state-owned Belta news agency reported.
Putin also held a phone call with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Tokayev’s press-service said. Tokayev noted “the current events are Russia’s internal affair.”
European Leaders Monitoring the Situation (10:30 a.m.)
Charles Michel, European Council president, said he’s in touch with European leaders and Group of Seven partners about what “is clearly an internal Russian issue.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the Russian situation “should not distract Italy and the EU from its determination to support Ukraine.”
Estonia and Poland are among the countries saying their leaders are following developments and exchanging information with allies. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas urged Estonians not to travel to any part of Russia and said border security had been strengthened.
Russian State Faces ‘Most Significant Challenge,’ UK Says (10 a.m.)
Reflecting on the evolving situation in Russia, the UK defense ministry said that the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially its National Guard, “will be key to how the crisis plays out.”
“This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” the ministry said in a regular intelligence update on Twitter.
Three Dead in Kyiv After Latest Russian Missile Barrage (8 a.m.)
While drama unfolded from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don, Kremlin forces kept up their bombardment of Ukraine overnight.
Russia launched 51 missiles and two Shahed drones at Ukraine including two cruise Kalibr missiles, Ukrainian army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram. Air defense intercepted 40 cruise missiles, one Kalibr and both drones.
At least three people were reported killed and 10 or more injured by debris from a missile early Saturday in Kyiv that struck a multi-story apartment building. Explosions were also heard in Kharkiv in the northeast.
‘Counter-Terror Regime’ Declared in Moscow: IFX (8 a.m.)
A counter-terrorist operation regime was declared in Moscow, the Moscow region and the Voronezh region amid the “armed uprising” of the Wagner private military company, Interfax reported, citing the National Anti-Terrorist Committee.
Prigozhin Says Wagner Controls Rostov-on-Don (6:40 a.m.)
Prigozhin said in a new video that he and his fighters had entered Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city close to the border with Ukraine.
Social media carried videos from the city showing armored vehicles and troops surrounding military headquarters and security buildings without firing their weapons but it wasn’t immediately clear if they were from Wagner or the Russian army. The videos couldn’t immediately be authenticated. Local officials told residents to avoid the center of the city, citing the “existing situation.”
(Corrects spelling of Russian missile in item near end)
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