Harris, Blinken and several other officials have been briefed on Russia
Vice President Kamala Harris attended Biden’s briefing by the administration’s national security team on the latest developments in Russia this morning, the White House said.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Director of the CIA Bill Burns, and U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also participated in the briefing.
Biden and Harris will continue to be briefed throughout the day, the White House added.
Ukrainian commander says his forces have liberated territory held since 2014
Ukrainian forces have liberated territory near the territories near the city of Krasnohorivka in the eastern Donetsk region that has been held by pro-Russia separatists since 2014, a Ukrainian commander said Saturday.
Oleksandr Tarnavskyi made the annoucnement on his Telegram channel, adding, “the movement of our forces continues.”
NBC News could not independently verify his claim.
Mass events canceled in Tambov as Wagner moves forward
Mass events, including high school graduation parties, were canceled in the Russian region of Tambov, the country’s Education Ministry said Saturday.
Such parties were postponed until July 1 in Moscow, the region around the capital and “a number of other regions where additional anti-terrorist measures have been introduced,” the ministry said in a statement.
Tambov is east of Lipetsk, where Gov. Igor Artamonov earlier confirmed Wagner mercenary group equipment was on the move.
Erdogan: Turkey ‘ready to do our part’ to resolve conflict ‘in a calm and peaceful manner’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Putin by phone, according to a tweet from his office.
“President Erdoğan underscored the importance of acting with common sense,” the office tweeted. “It was stressed during the call that no one should take it upon themselves to take action in the face of the situation in Russia. In this sense, we as Türkiye stand ready to do our part in order for the incidents to be resolved in a calm and peaceful manner, President Erdoğan noted.”
Rep. Connolly says situation in Russia may be the ‘unraveling’ of Putin
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called the capture of Rostov-on-Don a “significant development.”
Fighters from the Wagner mercenary group entered the city in southern Russia on Saturday morning. “This could very well be the unraveling of the Putin regime,” Connolly said on MSNBC. “This is certainly the biggest existential threat he’s faced in his 23 years in rule.”
Connolly, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a former head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said that Putin created the Wagner paramilitary group and gave it “enormous latitude.”
“He is now four, five hundred kilometers from Moscow, and seems to be intent on taking out senior leadership in the Russian military and the Defense Department and the intelligence community,” Connolly said. “This is a real, serious threat to the continuation of Putin’s regime.”
Analysis: Putin’s divide and rule approach backfires
No one knows how the next 24 hours, several days or weeks will play out in Russia, writes NBC News’ chief international correspondent Keir Simmons:
We know that President Vladimir Putin has an enormous power base in the officials he has known for decades and placed in positions of power.
Many of them owe their influence, in one way or another, to Putin. But many of those people also know Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin well. Kremlin officials have talked to me at length about their personal experiences working with him — so this is a fight between brothers.
For decades, Putin has taken a divide and rule approach and successfully managed warring factions, but that strategy is now backfiring.
This is a battle for who controls the Russian military and ultimately the Russian state. But the most important aspect of it, for the world, may be that this is therefore a battle for control of the country’s more than 4,000 nuclear warheads. That is one of the reasons why what is happening now in Russia is so profoundly important for the world.
Neighboring Latvia closes its borders to Russians
Latvia has closed its borders to Russians, the country’s president-elect tweeted Saturday.
Edgars Rinkevics said his government was closely following the developing situation in neighboring Russia and “exchanging information with allies.”
“Border security has been strengthened, visa or border entry from Russians leaving Russia due to current events won’t be considered,” he added.
This uprising likely won’t last too long, military analyst says
Ukrainians are sharing memes about the Russian infighting, but this Wagner situation is likely to be short-lived, said Kevin Baron, a military analyst and executive editor of Defense One.
“This is a civil war in the making, or at least an uprising,” Baron said in an interview on “The Saturday Show with Jonathan Capehart.”
But it’s only “good news” for Ukraine in the “short term” as “Russia now has something else occupying its time in a big way,” Baron said.
Who is in charge of nukes is key concern, recent U.S. Central Command chief says
Who remains in charge of Russia’s nuclear command and control system will be the main concern for senior defense officials, said Gen. Frank McKenzie, who led U.S. Central Command before retiring in 2022.
“That’s the one thing that could affect us badly if there was a problem with that,” he said. “I think everybody’s going to be very interested in assuring Russian nuclear command and control and aside from that, is Putin still calling the shots?”
McKenzie said that the U.S. and its allies would likely prefer Putin to remain in control of Russia, as he is a known actor. If the state around him were to collapse, however, it could be detrimental for the region and the world.
Russia controls nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads as of 2022, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
But McKenzie said that the Russians maintain a powerful security systems to keep their stockpiles safe and to assure the weapons cannot be used if captured.
“The Russians actually have a pretty good permissive action link system, or PAL,” the retired general said, referring to a security system that prevents unauthorized arming or detonation of nuclear devices. “So grabbing a nuclear weapons storage depot doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to deploy nuclear weapons. It’s far more complex and protected than that.”
Armored personnel carrier and police officers guard highway at entrance to Moscow
Biden monitoring situation in Russia
President Joe Biden was briefed again this morning on the latest developments in Russia, a White House official said.
The White House continues to monitor the situation, the official said.
Prigozhin defends cash piles found in St. Petersburg office
Yevgeny Prigozhin has defended his paramilitary group after Russian media reported that piles of cash were found in Wagner’s St. Petersburg office when it was raided earlier on Saturday.
Prigozhin confirmed reports that cash was kept in a small truck and “two more minibuses” but he said in a Telegram post that it was used “for salaries, compensations for the families of those killed, etc.”
Prigozhin said that his company had used only cash since it was founded.
“When we were engaged in Africa, Ukraine, when we caused hell in America, cash raised no questions. Now they came with searches — nothing happened, cash was found,” he said.
Putin will be weakened by this revolt, national security analyst says
This revolt is the “most serious challenge” that Putin has faced in his more than two decades at the helm of the Russian government, and whatever the outcome, he will emerge in a weaker position, said Evelyn Farkas, national security analyst and executive director of the McCain Institute.
“His monopoly on military force is being challenged by a militia that he enabled and there’s about to be a military clash on the outskirts of the capital city,” Farkas told NBC News. “This is a series of heart attacks, and even if Putin manages to maintain control, if he manages to squash this rebellion, he will be much weaker.”
Farkas predicted that Putin would be able to end the situation with Wagner because he controls Russia’s national guard, military and intelligence services, and it’s unlikely they’ll turn against him.
“If Putin prevails, he will take harsh retribution, lots of people will go to jail, people may lose their lives,” Farkas said. “Russia has a sham system of justice.
“This is going to be really nasty.”
U.S. Rep. Auchincloss: ‘Russia is divided and demoralized’
Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., a former Marine, issued a statement on the situation in Russia, suggesting that Putin was in trouble.
“It’s unclear how the Wagner uprising ends, or even how the West should want it to end,” Auchincloss said. “But here’s what is clear: Russia is divided and demoralized. Ukraine is united and on the attack.”
Map: reported Wagner activity
Prime Minister Trudeau: Canadian officials ‘in contact with our allies’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he has “been briefed on the events unfolding in Russia.”
“The Incident Response Group will meet today to discuss the latest developments,” Trudeau tweeted. “We’re in contact with our allies and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The Canadian government has said that it supports “Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and its support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine.”
German government’s crisis team discusses developments in Russia
The German government’s crisis team held a meeting to discuss developments in Russia, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday.
“We have been observing developments in Russia very closely since yesterday evening and are in close contact with our international partners,” Baerbock said in a separate post on Twitter.
She also advised German nationals in Russia to observe government travel instructions.
‘Consequences for Ukraine are difficult to predict,’ says Kyiv Parliament member
Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, said Saturday that Russia could end any situation quickly so “there should not be too many expectations” that the Wagner mercenary group would achieve its goals.
“Even if that happens, the consequences for Ukraine are difficult to predict,” Rudik told NBC News. “Let’s make it clear: There’s no good guys there. It is a group of Russians who did not agree with another group of Russians on the best way to kill us, Ukrainians. So, we are watching and cheering for both sides.”
The more missiles, helicopters, tanks and soldiers that are destroyed in this tussle would mean there’s less that can be used against Ukraine, Rudik said.
Iran supports the rule of law in Russia, foreign ministry says
Iran supports the rule of law in the Russian Federation and considers the latest developments there an internal Russian matter, Iranian state media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani as saying on Saturday.
Residents told to stay home as Wagner moves through Lipetsk region
Residents in Russia’s Lipetsk region were advised not to leave their homes because a Wagner mercenary group column was moving across the area, the region’s governor said Saturday.
“Law enforcement agencies and authorities, including those in municipalities, are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population,” Igor Artamonov said in a Telegram post, adding, “I remind you that residents are strongly advised not to leave their homes and refuse to travel by any means of transport.”
Artamonov said the situation was under control in the region, which is around 270 miles south of Moscow and 465 miles north of Rostov-on-Don.
Belarus reaffirms alliance with Russia
Belarus said Saturday that it remained an ally of Russia and that internal disputes were “a gift to the collective West.”
The country’s Security Council said it could not “remain aloof from the events that are taking place in the south of Russia” and warned rebellion “could lead to disaster.”
The statement called for a “voice of reason” and a return to unity, for the “future of the Slavic world.”
“What is happening is not worth the consequences, the losses that emotional decisions and illegal actions can lead to,” it said. “The interests of the people, the lives of ordinary citizens, the integrity of Russia are at stake.”
Head of Russian militant group supports the revolt
The commander of the so-called Russian Volunteer Corp threw his support behind Yevgeny Prigozhin Saturday, calling it a “unique chance” to determine Russia’s fate.
Without mentioning Prigozhin by name in a post on Telegram, Denis Kapustin, a white nationalist with neo-Nazi views, called what’s been happening in Russia “a new time of troubles.”
The Russian Volunteer Corp was allegedly behind a daring cross-border incursion into Russia’s Belgorod region last month, exposing the vulnerability of Russian defenses on its own territory.
The group, which supports Ukraine in the war, has been open about wanting to topple Vladimir Putin’s regime and rebuild a new Russia.
Blinken speaks to G7 and E.U. about situation in Russia
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he had spoken with his counterparts in the G7 and Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy.
“The United States will stay in close coordination with Allies and partners as the situation continues to develop,” Blinken tweeted.
The G7, or Group of Seven, includes the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Borrell acknowledged the call earlier in the day and said that he was coordinating within the E.U. ahead of the economic union’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday.
“I am coordinating inside the European Union and have activated the crisis response centre,” the foreign dignitary said on Twitter.
‘A very dangerous time,’ senior U.S. military official tells NBC News
A senior U.S. military official told NBC News late Friday that it was “a very dangerous time” for Russia and the outcome would depend “on how the military acts.“
The official added that the next 72 hours were “critical.”
Russian police patrol Wagner HQ
While Wagner mercenary fighters roll on with their rebellion, Russian police have targeted its headquarters in St. Petersburg.
Erdogan expresses support for Putin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Moscow on Saturday to express his support for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin’s information service said Saturday.
“At the initiative of the Turkish side,” Putin and Erdogan discussed the ongoing rebellion and Erdogan “expressed full support for the steps taken by the Russian leadership,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The recently re-elected Turkish president has previously considered himself an intermediary in Russia’s war on Ukraine. He has long nurtured close relations with Putin and has previously described Russia and Turkey as having a “special relationship.”
Trump criticizes aid to Ukraine
Writing on his website Truth Social as the events unfold in Russia, former President Donald Trump appeared to criticize aid to Ukraine.
In a post that sought to blame President Joe Biden for a myriad of foreign issues, Trump suggested corruption was to behind assistance to Ukraine.
“Why hundreds of billions of dollars are given, without any control, to Ukraine,” Trump wrote.
Biden has made continued aide to Ukraine top priority and has traveled to the war-torn country to underscore U.S. support. Trump, who is running to return to power, has promised to end the war immediately, suggesting he would withdraw aid and force a negotiated agreement.
Rostov-on-Don residents were urged to stay inside for safety reasons
Residents of Rostov-on-Don were warned on Saturday about the possible passage of military equipment through the streets and urged not to leave their homes for security reasons.
The head of city administration, Alexei Logvinenko, addresssed this on Saturday in his Telegram channel.
Prigozhin has said he was able to enter he city without firing any weapons.
Wagner chief says his forces took military HQ without firing a shot
The head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said his forces did not fire a shot when they they took control of Russia’s military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don.
“We were hit, first with artillery, then with helicopters,” he said in an audio message released on his social media channels. “We went without a single round fired, we didn’t touch a single conscript. We didn’t kill a single person on our way.”
He added that the Wagner group had the widespread support of the Russian people in what he termed a “march of justice” against the country’s military leadership.
Emergency workers distribute water on clogged Russian highway
Putin is working inside the Kremlin today, spokesman says
Russian President Vladimir Putin remained in Moscow working inside the Kremlin, spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told state news agency RIA.
Peskov’s comments countered rumors from a number of Telegram channels that Putin might have left Moscow for one of his residences in another region.
Video shows explosion at Russian oil facility as revolt continues
A video posted on social media that was verified by NBC News shows a massive explosion on Saturday at an oil facility in Voronezh, a city in southwest Russia that is along the route to Moscow.
The Telegram channel for the government of the Voronezh region said that more than 100 firefighters and 30 vehicles were at the scene extinguishing the fire. There appeared to be no victims.
The government did say that it was conducting “a counter-terrorist operation” in Veronezh and Moscow regions as the Wagner Group claims it is marching toward Moscow. “The reason for such measures was an attempted military rebellion,” the statement said.
Veronezh is not far from Rostov and Ukraine’s border, where the mercenary fighters began their armed rebellion.
Head of Russian foreign intelligence agency says armed rebellion is a unjustifable crime
The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, said on the state-controlled news agency Tass that an attempt at an armed rebellion was the most terrible crime that could not be justified.
Naryshkin said it was clear that the attempt to rock society and kindle the fire of civil war had failed.
Ukraine’s foreign minister calls for more weapons
Ukraine’s foreign minister made it clear that world leaders watching the internal fighting in Russia should see it as a moment to side with his country.
Dmytro Kuleba called on countries to abandon their reservations about siding against Russia and to send weapons to Ukraine.
“Those who said Russia was too strong to lose: look now,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Time to abandon false neutrality and fear of escalation; give Ukraine all the needed weapons; forget about friendship or business with Russia. Time to put an end to the evil everyone despised but was too afraid to tear down.”
Adviser to Ukraine defense minister says Russia coup ‘inevitable’
From Ukraine’s perspective, an armed revolt in Russia was “inevitable.”
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, told NBC News that the Kremlin had lied to the world and its own people so much that “these gigantic lies were certain to implode sooner or later.”
He characterized both sides of the conflict in Russia, the government and the Wagner Group as “terrorist states.”
“This will, of course, weaken the terrorist states and the winner of this situation will be Ukraine,” Sak said.
But for now, he said Ukraine remained focused on its front lines, the ongoing counteroffensive and the massive missile strike that hit Kyiv overnight. He said more than 50 missiles were launched at Ukraine and at least one struck an apartment complex in the Ukrainian capital.
“Three civilians are dead and that’s not all the casualties,” Sak said. We’re still trying to figure out how many more people could have died.”
Oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky calls on Russians to take up arms
One of Putin’s most prominent critics, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has called for regular Russians to take up arms, saying it was the only way for Prigozhin’s revolt to succeed.
Khodorkovsky said earlier on Saturday that the Wagner “rebellion” was the “strongest blow to Putin’s reputation” and urged regular Russians to help Prigozhin’s cause.
“Prigozhin will be able to survive and reach the Kremlin only if the broad masses of people receive weapons,” he said on Telegram. “People can take up arms that are now literally ownerless. Take it! Will come in handy tomorrow.”
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev calls for unity around Putin
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and the deputy secretary of the country’s Security Council, has called for Russians to unite around Putin to “save” the country.
“Division and betrayal is the path to the greatest tragedy, a universal catastrophe,” Medvedev, who has been one of Putin’s most trusted allies for years and an ardent war supporter, wrote on Telegram.
“We won’t allow it,” he said.
Expert: Mutiny exposes weaknesses of Putin’s grip on power
Wagner’s mutiny has exposed the weakness of Putin’s grip on power, Keir Giles, an expert on Russia at Chatham House, an international affairs think-tank in London, said.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin “and the forces with him, are in no position to challenge Putin’s grip on power directly, even if they wanted to. But indirectly, they have already shown the weakness of that grip,” Giles said via text message.
A standoff between Russia’s security forces and Wagner would hinge on what happens locally, given the mercenary group’s close relationship with Russian military intelligence. Intelligence and other forces deployed to block moves by Wagner toward Moscow could jump either way, he said.
Though the conflict between the Wagner group and the military would not lessen the threat to Ukraine, given Prigozhin’s general support for the war, it would give Kyiv a chance to exploit confusion among Moscow’s troops, he said.
President of European Council monitoring situation in Russia
President European Council Charles Michel has been watching the situation in Russia, though he described it as an “internal Russian issue” in a post on Twitter this morning.
“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 @ZelenskyyUa is unwavering,” he wrote.
The European Council is an organization composed of the heads of EU member states, as well as the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. It provides political direction to the E.U.
Russian opposition accuses Wagner chief of hypocrisy
The spokeswoman for Russia’s jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Kira Yarmysh, accused Yevgeny Prigozhin of hypocrisy after he vowed to bring an end to Russian corruption with his revolt.
“Prigozhin refuses to give up and scolds corruption, while he himself is a product of corruption, and for many years was a successful consumer of this system,” Yarmysh said.
A former convict turned millionaire, Prigozhin has been a prominent member of Putin’s entourage and Kremlin’s elite. He was known as “Putin’s chef” for catering state events through his catering business before becoming the head of the Wagner mercenary group.
Navalny is in jail and faces legal action that could keep in imprisoned for decades.
Prigozhin: Putin ‘deeply wrong’ about Wagner’s ‘treason’
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin rejected President Vladimir Putin’s charges of treason on Saturday, saying he and his fighters were the true “patriots” of Russia.
Wagner would not respond to orders to surrender from Putin or the security service “because we do not want our country to continue living in corruption, deception and bureaucracy,” Prigozhin said.
While Prigozhin refrained from taking aim at Putin directly, he accused top military brass of not supplying his forces in Ukraine with enough ammunition, which he said was plundered by bureaucrats.
“[They] were saving it for themselves, for the occasion that’s happened today — when someone is marching to Moscow,” he said.
British Prime Minister Sunak in contact with allies about situation in Russia
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has encouraged all parties in Russia to protect civilian lives, according to a spokesperson.
Sunak has spoken with British allies and will talk with President Zelenskyy.
“We’re keeping a close eye on the situation, as it’s evolving on the ground as we speak,” he told the BBC in an on-camera interview that is yet to air.
“The most important thing I’d say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians, and that’s about as much as I can say at this moment.”
Voronezh regional governor denies rumors of military vehicles on roads
Video allegedly showing military vehicles heading towards Russia’s Voronezh are fake, the governor of the region said on Saturday.
Voronezh is around 310 miles north of Rostov, which Wagner mercenaries claim to have taken parts of, and sits on the road to Moscow.
“A lot of unreliable information is now being published on social networks about the movement of columns of military equipment through the territory of the Voronezh region,” Alexander Gusev said in a post on Telegram.
He warned against succumbing “to the informational provocations of those who are interested in destabilizing the situation in the country.”
Videos show strong military presence outside key military HQ
Videos have emerged online showing dozens of men in military fatigues surrounding a key Russian military complex in the city of Rostov-on-Don, the southern city where the headquarters for the war in Ukraine are based.
The videos, which were shared on Telegram and verified by NBC News, show troops with white armbands laying on the floor and pointing their guns toward the Southern Military District headquarters. A tank with the letter “Z” emblazoned on the side and other military vehicles are also stationed outside the compound.
Civilian onlookers nearby appeared calm as they filmed the scene on their cellphones. In one video, the man recording says: “Those in red [armbands] are ministry of defense, whites are Wagner.”
Billboard advertising Wagner on prominent display in St. Petersburg
Zelenskyy: Mutiny reveals Russia’s ‘weakness’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Wagner Group mutiny betrayed Russia’s “weakness” that “no lie can hide.”
“The longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter.
In his first comments since Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin promised to avenge fighters he said had been killed by the Russian military, Zelenskyy added that Russia had used propaganda to mask the “stupidity of its government.”
The rebellion made the country’s “full-scale weakness” obvious, Zelenskyy said, drawing a comparison to Russia’s 1917 revolution.
Leading Putin critic: ‘Anything could happen here’
American-born human rights lawyer and leading Kremlin-critic Bill Browder has told NBC News that the Wagner mutiny “is the most credible threat to Putin since the start of his regime” some 23 years ago.
Browder, a former hedge-fund manager who now lives in London, said that “loyalties are going to be tested everywhere in Russia” as elites and institutions weigh up their best chance of survival amid the country’s domestic turmoil.
“Everybody in Russia is going to be looking to see who is more brutal and more powerful,” Browder said by telephone. “If Prigozhin can present a credible threat to the establishment in Russia, he may succeed in getting people to switch sides.”
“If you side with Putin and Prigozhin somehow prevails, you will be purged. And if you side with Prigozhin and Putin wards off this rebellion then you will be purged too,” Browder said of the dilemma faced by Russian elites, adding that “anything could happen here.”
Putin briefs Lukashenko on Wagner revolt
Vladimir Putin called his Belarusian counterpart and close ally President Alexander Lukashenko to brief him on the revolt by Wagner fighters on Saturday, Lukashenko’s press corps said on Telegram.
Lukashenko supported the invasion of Ukraine, and has supplied weapons to Russia since early in the war. In May, Putin signed a deal to send tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, the first deployment of such warhead outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Rostov governor calls for calm
The governor of Russia’s Rostov region advised residents to stay inside on Saturday as Wagner fighters claimed to have seized control of parts of the region.
“The current situation requires the maximum concentration of all forces to maintain order,” Vasily Golubev said on Telegram. “Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of the residents of the region.”
Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his forces had taken control of Rostov-on-Don, the southern Russian city where the headquarters for the war in Ukraine are based.
Ministry of defense issues appeal to Wagner fighters
Russia’s ministry of defense said Wagner fighters had been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure” by the mercenary group’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
In a direct appeal to Wagner employees posted to Telegram, the ministry promised to guarantee the safety of any fighters who got in touch with Russian officials, and to help them return to “their points of permanent deployment.”
European leaders monitor situation in Russia
French President Emmanuel Macron is following the situation in Russia closely, the presidential palace said Saturday.
“We stay focused on the support to Ukraine,” the Élysée said in a statement.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is also watching the situation closely, a spokesperson at the government’s press office said Saturday.
Elsewhere Poland’s President Andrzej Duda tweeted that he had held consultations with his prime minister and defense minister, “as well as with the allies.”
Russian banks increase foreign exchange rates
Several Russian banks have sharply boosted their foreign exchange rates, meaning the value of the Russian rouble has fallen against the dollar and other currencies.
The banks included Raiffeisenbank, VTB and Gazprombank, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
Chechen leader calls for revolt to be crushed
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called for Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “vile betrayal” and revolt to be crushed.
One of the staunchest supporters of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, Kadyrov wrote in a lengthy post on Telegram that war was not the time to voice “personal grievances.” He was ready to employ “harsh measures” to subdue the rebellion, Kadyrov added.
Kadyrov also said his fighters had already left for the “zones of tension,” without elaborating.
Britain strongly advises citizens to leave Russia
Britain’s Foreign Office has “strongly” advised its citizens living in Russia to consider leaving by commercial routes.
“There are reports of military tensions in the Rostov region and a risk of further unrest across the country,” it said in an advisory posted to its website. “Additionally, there is a lack of available flight options to return to the U.K.”
It added that those living in in Russia should “exercise extreme caution at all times and consider the risks if they decide to leave Russia by any route.”
Moscow mayor says counterterrorism measures taken in capital
Counterterrorism measures were being put in place in Russia’s capital, Moscow, to reinforce security after threats from Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the city’s mayor Sergey Sobyanin said on Saturday.
Sobyanin said city services had not been affected and that the flow of traffic around the city was as normal.
‘Everything is just beginning’: Ukraine’s top officials react to Prigozhin’s mutiny
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny showed an “obvious” split among Russian elites, Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Saturday.
“Agreeing and pretending that everything is settled won’t work. … Everything is just beginning in Russia,” he said in a post on Twitter.
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff shared on Telegram a photo of himself alongside the country’s military commanders with a caption: “There will be a fire in Russia.”
Meanwhile, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said the Ukrainian formula for sustainable peace included “starting the process of Russia’s self-destruction.”
Parliamentarians support Putin, speaker of Russia’s Duma says
Russian deputies support Vladimir Putin, a leading supporter of the president said Saturday.
“Deputies of the State Duma, representing the interests of the citizens of the Russian Federation, stand for the consolidation of forces, support President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, our Supreme Commander-in-Chief,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament, wrote in a post on Telegram.
He called for unity and said the Wagner mercenaries should make “the only right choice” as he urged them to follow Putin’s orders because “anything else is betrayal.”
Tanks and armored vehicles pictured in Rostov-on-Don and other regions
This is ‘strongest blow’ yet to Putin, leading critic of Kremlin says
One of Putin’s most prominent critics has called the Wagner “rebellion” the “strongest blow to Putin’s reputation.” Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man but was jailed for 10 years and then exiled after falling out of favor with the Kremlin.
Khodorkovsky, who now lives in London, wrote on the Telegram messaging service that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “rebellion, despite its half-heartedness and unpreparedness, is the strongest blow to Putin’s reputation” yet. “Kremlin trolls” — meaning Russian online propagandists — were trying to claim that “everything will be OK tomorrow. Alas, they will not!” he said.
The key development, he said, was that Prigozhin, one of the main players in Russia’s invasion of UKraine, had repeated “word-for-word” what the anti-war Russian opposition has been saying all along: “The purpose of the war is theft” and “the official reason for the war (NATO is preparing to attack Russia) is bullsh — that no one believes in.”
Khodorkovsky urged people to help Prigozhin’s cause by giving his militiamen gasoline and persuading his would-be opponents to get out of his way. “Good luck!” he wrote. “And yes, this is just the beginning. …”
Wagner chief claims control of key military HQ city
Yevgeny Prigozhin said early Saturday that he and his fighters had effectively taken control of Rostov-on-Don, the southern Russian city where the headquarters for the war in Ukraine is based.
“We are in the headquarters, 7:30 in the morning, military objects of Rostov are under control, including aerodrome,” the mercenary chief said in a video apparently from inside the military headquarters posted to social media.
Chief of General Staff Gerasimov had “run away when he found out we were approaching the building,” Prigozhin said.
NBC News has not verified Prigozhin’s claims.
Russia announces start of ‘counterterrorist operation’
Russia’s National Anti-terrorist Committee, which is run by the security services, has announced the implementation of a “counter-terrorist operation regime” in the regions of Moscow and Voronezh, to the capital’s south.
The NAC, which is run by the head of Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, said this was “to prevent possible terrorist acts on the territory of the city of Moscow, and the Moscow and Voronezh regions.”
These areas sit between the capital and Rostov-on-Don, the southern city that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claims to have taken control of.
Prominent pro-war hawk urges Russians to ‘come to your senses’
Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, one of the country’s most ardent supporters of the war in Ukraine, urged the focus to return to the battlefield.
“The enemy is there, in Ukraine,” he said in a video message recorded in a moving car. “Stop before it’s too late. Lest we lose our country. There is nothing scarier than a civil war.”
“It’s a challenging time,” Solovyov said from what he said was Ukraine’s partially-occupied region of Zaporizhzhia.
Solovyov, who has for years encouraged an anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western sentiments on his state TV shows, warned that Russia could be lost if people don’t “come to [their] senses.”
Crisis ‘most significant challenge to Russian state in recent times,’ U.K. says
The feud between Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russia’s defense ministry, “represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times,” according to an intelligence briefing from the U.K.’s defense ministry.
“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how the crisis plays out,” the briefing posted to its Twitter feed stated on Saturday.
It added that the feud between the mercenary group and the Russian ministry of defense had “escalated into outright military confrontation.”
Graduation ceremonies, public events postponed or cancelled amid unrest
Some public events in Moscow and other cities across Russia have been postponed or cancelled, Russian state news outlet Tass reported Saturday.
Graduation ceremonies in the capital’s schools and the citywide prom celebrations in Moscow’s famous Gorky Park have been postponed for a week, Tass said, quoting the city’s education department.
Meanwhile, all weekend public events in the Tver region, neighboring Moscow, have been canceled, the agency reported, citing local authorities.
Russia’s western Kaliningrad region has also announced that all mass events were canceled until Monday “for security reasons,” the authorities there said.
Putin says organizers of the ‘rebellion’ betrayed Russia
President Vladimir Putin called unrest overnight “a betrayal of his country and people.”
“Everything that weakens Russia should be thrown aside,” the Russian leader said in a televised address to the nation exactly 16 months after he announced the invasion of Ukraine.
He added that the action against what he called “rebels” will be tough, and the army and law enforcement had received “the necessary orders.”
“Russia will react harshly,” said Putin, wearing a sober black tie and suit.
Putin decries ‘armed mutiny’ and vows mercenaries will face justice
Russian President Vladimir Putin has labeled Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary revolt an “armed mutiny” and vowed to put down the effort.
Calling the Wagner rebellion a treasonous “stab in the back” of Moscow’s troops, Putin minced no words as he addressed the nation about the man who was once his caterer.
The Russian leader admitted the situation in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don was complicated but said that the state “will defend itself and repel” the effort.
Mercenary chief claims control of military HQ in southern city
Yevgeny Prigozhin said early Saturday that he and his fighters had effectively taken control of Rostov-on-Don, the southern Russian city where the headquarters for the war in Ukraine are based.
In a video posted to his social media, Prigozhin threatened to blockade the city and head for Moscow unless Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, come to see him in Rostov.
NBC News has not verified the claims, but video posted to social media shows armored vehicles on the city’s streets.
Russian defense ministry appeals directly to Wagner fighters
Russia’s defense ministry issued a direct appeal to Wagner mercenaries, urging them to abandon a revolt that appeared to have moved into the southern Russian city of Rostov.
“You were tricked into Prigozhin’s criminal gamble and participation in an armed insurgency,” the ministry said in a post on Telegram early Saturday.
“We guarantee everyone’s safety,” it added.
What is the Wagner Group? A look at the mercenary group led by man accused of ‘armed mutiny’ in Russia
Prigozhin was once a catering business owner so known for government events he was called “Putin’s chef”
Prigozhin, 61, is a Russian oligarch who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department — including in 2019 for efforts to influence the 2018 U.S. presidential election, and also previously for the 2016 election.
The Wagner Group, which Russia calls a “private military company” had been founded in 2014 but it wasn’t until September of 2022 that Prigozhin admitted that he founded it, Reuters has reported. He previously denied it.
One of the wealthiest men in Russia, Prigozhin financed the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based internet troll farm. He was among 13 Russians and three Russian companies indicted in the U.S. in 2018 on criminal charges related to election interference activities.
Prigozhin aiming to oust defense chief, not Putin, U.S. official says
A senior U.S. military official told NBC News he does not believe Prigozhin is attempting a coup against Putin at this stage but is instead trying to remove Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Wagner’s troop strength is difficult to estimate. A number that is often used (and sometimes used by Wagner) is 25,000, although other estimates are as high as 50,000 and as low as 15,000.
Prigozhin claims he and his troops have reached Rostov-on-Don
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner private military contractor who called for an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia’s defense minister, confirmed in a video that he and his troops have reached Rostov-on-Don.
The city is home to the Russian military headquarters that oversees the fighting in Ukraine.