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Wagner boss will move to Belarus under deal to withdraw troops

People gather to bid farewell to fighters of Wagner private mercenary group, who pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District – STRINGER

Wagner’s rebellious mercenary leader will move to Belarus under the terms of a truce agreed with President Putin, the Kremlin said on Saturday night.

Yevgeny Prigozhin will relocate to Belarus under a deal brokered by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s president, to end an armed mutiny that Prigozhin had led against Russia’s military leadership.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Putin’s agreement, because he had known Prigozhin personally for about 20 years. Minsk has been a key ally for Putin in his war with Ukraine.

As part of the deal, the criminal charges against Prigozhin for leading the “armed coup” will be dropped.

Wagner troops that took part in the rebellion would similarly be spared from prosecution, Mr Peskov said.

Earlier on Saturday, Prigozhin ordered his fighters to halt their march on Moscow and return to their bases in a surprise turnaround.

Follow the latest updates below

09:05 PM BST

Charges against Prigozhin dropped, says Lukashenko

The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Saturday that he had brokered a deal with mutinous Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin who had agreed to de-escalate the situation.

The announcement, carried on the official Telegram channel of the Belarusian presidency, said Prigozhin had agreed to halt the further movement of Wagner fighters across Russia.

The Kremlin confirmed a deal had been struck and that Prigozhin would have all charges against him dropped and move to Belarus.

“The president of Belarus, having further clarified the situation through his own available channels, held talks with the head of the Wagner PMC (private military company), Yevgeny Prigozhin, in coordination with the President of Russia,” the Belarusian statement said.

“The talks lasted for an entire day. As a result, they came to an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloodbath on the territory of Russia.”

Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, is a key Putin ally

Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, is a key Putin ally – REUTERS

09:01 PM BST

Ukraine will ‘press the advantage’

Ukraine will “press the advantage” in battle after Russia was left in disarray following an uprising by leader of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin, a leading Russia expert has said.

Dr Patricia Lewis, director of the International Security programme at Chatham House think tank, told the Press Association: “Ukraine will press the advantage right now.

“There will be a lot of uncertainty in the (Russian) troops and it will be prime time to double up the efforts in the counter-offensive.

“Ukraine will get a bit of a break from this and you don’t know quite how the Wagner troops will react. They (Ukraine) will also have a morale boost.”

However, she said she did not believe the uprising will cause the Russian army to collapse.

08:30 PM BST

The world saw Russia’s leaders ‘do not control anything,’ says Zelensky

08:20 PM BST

Watch: Footage of Wagner fighters apparently packing up and leaving Rostov

08:14 PM BST

South Russian province eases restrictions after Wagner march stopped

Authorities in the southern Russian region of Lipetsk began lifting restrictions after the Wagner group, which had entered the province earlier, announced it would fall back.

“We are beginning to lift restrictions introduced today,” Governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram.

08:09 PM BST

Putin thanks Belarus leader, Minsk says, after Wagner turnaround

Minsk said that Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko after the chief of Wagner announced he was turning around his forces.

“The President of Belarus informed the President of Russia in detail about the results of negotiations with the leadership of PMC Wagner,” Mr Lukashenko’s press service said in a statement, adding Putin “thanked his Belarusian colleague.”

The chief of the rebel Wagner mercenary force threatened to march on Moscow on Saturday before announcing a stunning pull-back, saying he did not want to spill blood.

07:59 PM BST

Earlier pictures of authorities on high alert in Moscow before Wagner called off its mutiny

Police officers check a car on a checkpoint

Police officers check a car on a checkpoint – REUTERS/Stringer

Russian police officers, traffic police officers and servicemen block part of a highway entering Moscow on June 24, 2023. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin on June 24, 2023 warned the situation in the capital was "difficult," as forces of the Wagner mercenary group moved towards Moscow to oust Russia's military leadership. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian authorites block part of a highway entering Moscow – AFP via Getty Images

Russian service members move into positions, as part of a counter-terrorist operation declared after an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group, in the Moscow region, Russia, June 24, 2023. A sign on a bus reads: "Children".

Russian soldiers move into positions as part of a counter-terrorism operation in Moscow – REUTERS/Stringer

07:41 PM BST

Everything we know so far about the now abandoned ‘coup’

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the mercenary group, stood his troops down in a shock twist.

The head of the Wagner group said he had called off the advance of troops to the Russian captial to “avoid bloodshed”.

Prigozhin said his fighters had advanced to within 124 miles of Moscow in the last 24 hours, with the capital’s mayor telling Russian residents to remain home as they braced for their arrival.

Here is a look at the past 24r hours leading up to that moment.

07:21 PM BST

‘Ukrainian forces have advanced on the eastern front’

Ukraine’s military said that its forces had made advances near Bakhkmut, one of the focal points of fighting on the eastern front, and in an area further south.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar, writing on Telegram, said an offensive was launched near a of group of villages ringing Bakhmut — the town taken by Russia’s Wagner mercenary forces last month after months of fighting.

“In all these areas, we have made advances,” Ms Maliar wrote.

07:03 PM BST

A translation of Mr Prigozhin’s speech announcing an end to the march

07:00 PM BST

Belarus says Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin has agreed to de-escalate situation

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said he had negotiated with Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin an end to the movement of his mercenary troops inside Russia in order to deescalate the situation.

Mr Lukashenko said he was acting in agreement with Putin, who had earlier vowed to crush the armed insurrection.

“Yevgeny Prigozhin has accepted the proposal of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on stopping the movement of armed individuals from the Wagner group on Russian territory and further steps on deescalating tensions,” Lukashenko’s press service said in a statement.

06:56 PM BST

We are turning back, says Prigozhin

“We are turning our columns around and going back to field camps,” Yevgeny Prigozhin announced after vowing to march on Moscow to topple the military leadership.

He said he understood the importance of the moment and did not want to “spill Russian blood.”

06:55 PM BST

There is chaos in Russia, bring your troops home, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that a revolt by Wagner mercenary troops in Russia exposed complete chaos in the country.

“Today the world can see that the masters of Russia control nothing. And that means nothing. Simply complete chaos. An absence of any predictability,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

He said Ukrainians would not be silent, would not remain inactive, and that “the security of Europe’s eastern flank depends strictly on our defences”.

06:21 PM BST

Ukrainians watch with delight as Wagner mutiny unfolds

Kyiv residents told AFP on Saturday that they were “very happy” with the Wagner mercenary group’s mutiny against Moscow and hoped the infighting would weaken Russian troops on the battlefield.

Wagner mercenaries who have been spearheading much of the fighting in Ukraine have rebelled against Russia’s military leaders and are advancing north towards Moscow after seizing a key military base in the south.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to defeat the revolt and head off the threat of civil war.

People on the streets of the Ukrainian capital reacted with delight.

“I expected something” like this to happen “but not so fast,” said Ilya Tsvirkun, 21. “I thought it would all start after the war ends. But it started earlier and it’s very good.”

He said he thought Putin “will withdraw some troops” from Ukraine to help tackle the mutiny at home, making it easier for Ukrainian forces.

TOPSHOT - Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko talks with local residents next to a 24-storey building partially destroyed following a Russian missiles strike in Kyiv early on June 24, 2023. Ukraine was on high alert after a fresh barrage of Russian missiles on June 24, 2023, with casualties and damage reported in Kyiv and the central city of Dnipro. (Photo by Sergei CHUZAVKOV / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine was on high alert after a fresh barrage of Russian missiles on Saturday – SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP via Getty Images

KYIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 24: Workers clear debris from the roads after Russian missile attack on residential buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 24, 2023. (Photo by Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Workers clear debris from the roads on Saturday after a Russian missile attack on residential buildings in Kyiv – Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

06:09 PM BST

Ukraine claims new offensives and advances

Ukrainian forces have launched several new offensives on their eastern front, confronting Russian troops in the Donbas region, and have claimed more ground, a minister said.

Deputy defence minister Ganna Malyar said Ukrainian forces had assaulted Russian lines near the towns of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Bohdanivka, Yagidne, Klishchivka and Kurdyumivka.

“There is progress in all directions,” she said.

06:00 PM BST

Ukraine must seize the moment to triumph on the battlefield

This is a decisive moment in the war, with Russian forces in disarray and Kyiv ready to attack, writes Richard Kemp.

Russia’s armed mutiny has come at the worst time for Putin and the best time for Kyiv, with Yevgeny Prigozhin dealing a devastating blow against Moscow’s ability to project itself on the front lines in Ukraine.

It isn’t just that the Kremlin’s authority is under fire, but that crucial military resources – such as the Rostov-on-Don headquarters of the Southern Military District, a critical logistics hub – are now on the verge of paralysis.

The consequences for troops on the frontline will be severe. They may soon be without direction, either at a political or tactical level.

Read the full piece 

05:45 PM BST

Pictured: Cars clog the highway to Moscow as the Wagner group advances towards the capital

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13982534p) Vehicles stand in traffic on the M-4 Don road in the Moscow region, Russia, 24 June 2023. Counter-terrorism measures were enforced in Moscow and other Russian regions after private military company (PMC) Wagner Group's chief claimed that his troops had occupied the building of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, demanding a meeting with Russia's defense chiefs. Counter-terrorism measures enforced in Moscow, Russian Federation - 24 Jun 2023

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13982534p) Vehicles stand in traffic on the M-4 Don road in the Moscow region, Russia, 24 June 2023. Counter-terrorism measures were enforced in Moscow and other Russian regions after private military company (PMC) Wagner Group’s chief claimed that his troops had occupied the building of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, demanding a meeting with Russia’s defense chiefs. Counter-terrorism measures enforced in Moscow, Russian Federation – 24 Jun 2023

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13982534o) Vehicles stand in traffic on the M-4 Don road in the Moscow region, Russia, 24 June 2023. Counter-terrorism measures were enforced in Moscow and other Russian regions after private military company (PMC) Wagner Group's chief claimed that his troops had occupied the building of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, demanding a meeting with Russia's defense chiefs. Counter-terrorism measures enforced in Moscow, Russian Federation - 24 Jun 2023

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13982534o) Vehicles stand in traffic on the M-4 Don road in the Moscow region, Russia, 24 June 2023. Counter-terrorism measures were enforced in Moscow and other Russian regions after private military company (PMC) Wagner Group’s chief claimed that his troops had occupied the building of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, demanding a meeting with Russia’s defense chiefs. Counter-terrorism measures enforced in Moscow, Russian Federation – 24 Jun 2023

05:37 PM BST

France advises against all travel to Russia

France has advised against all travel to Russia given the “high volatility” of the military and security situation in the country, its foreign ministry said on Saturday on its website.

05:30 PM BST

Watch: Wagner recruitment posters in Russia being torn down amid armed mutiny

05:18 PM BST

Kremlin denies Putin has fled Moscow

A Kremlin spokesman has denied reports that Vladimir Putin has fled Moscow by plane.

One of several planes that Putin uses for official visits took off from Moscow at 2.15 pm local time, according to Flight Radar, which tracks aircraft in real-time.

Less than half an hour later, it went off radar about 150 kilometres from Mr Putin’s official residence.

“Putin is working at the Kremlin,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Tass news agency when asked about reports of Putin going to the northwest, possibly St Petersburg.

04:49 PM BST

Pictured: The flight Putin is suspected of taking out of Moscow but which the Kremlin has denied

Russian President Putin's aircraft possibly flying northwest out of Moscow, Russia: АSLAN, Blog Photo via Twitter. Source: https://twitter.com/antiputler_news/status/1672570363048280065

Russian President Putin’s aircraft possibly flying northwest out of Moscow, Russia: АSLAN, Blog Photo via Twitter. Source: https://twitter.com/antiputler_news/status/1672570363048280065

04:45 PM BST

Watch: Prigozhin says Putin was wrong to accuse him of treason

04:36 PM BST

Medvedev warns of catastrophe if nuclear weapons fall into wrong hands

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said the whole world will be on the brink of catastrophe if Russian nuclear weapons fall into the hands of ‘bandits’.

Mr Medvedev earlier called on Russians to rally around President Putin amid a mutiny by the Wagner Group.

04:28 PM BST

Mapped: Wagner’s advance on Moscow

After entering Russia from the city of Rostov, Prigozhin and his troops are said to have reached the Lipetsk region. With their stated aim being to reach Moscow, this appears to be the route they will take.

04:15 PM BST

Vladimir Putin’s mad dog was always going to bite him

The Wagner group, and their cruel leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, have only contempt for authority, writes Con Coughlin

When Vladimir Putin authorised the creation of the Wagner Group back in 2014, the aim was to provide him with his own private army that would help him to expand Russia’s global reach. So the Russian president has only himself to blame for the fact that, rather than fulfilling his dream of reestablishing Russia as a major world power, the mercenary monster he helped to create is now attempting to overthrow his autocratic regime.

But then what did Putin expect when he opted to make a known criminal like Yevgeny Prigozhin head of the Wagner Group? Prior to his sudden emergence on the Kremlin scene, Prigozhin’s main claim to fame was the 13-year stretch in a Russian penal colony he was given for his role in the violent mugging of a young woman in St Petersburg.

Prigozhin may have tried to portray himself as a reformed character after his release, making his fortune running restaurants, but his criminal instincts have never been far from the surface in his running of Wagner.

Read the full piece 

04:02 PM BST

Don’t use Wagner to achieve Russophobic goals, Russia’s foreign minsitry warns west

Russia’s foreign ministry warned Western countries against using the Wagner mercenary group’s mutiny “to achieve their Russophobic goals”.

It follows a statement on Friday in which it said it had increased the number of EU representatives barred from Russia in response to new European sanctions on the country.

03:38 PM BST

Mapped: Wagner’s global operations

Once a small shadowy organisation, the Wagner group has grown into a global military contractor. Here is a look at where it operates:

03:26 PM BST

Kadyrov forces have reportedly reached Rostov

Local media is reporting that forces of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov have reached Rostov.

A loyal Putin ally, Mr Kadyrov earlier said he was ready to help put down a mutiny by the Wagner group and to use harsh methods if necessary.

03:17 PM BST

Turkey’s Erdogan urges Putin to act with common sense

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Putin on Saturday and urged him to act with common sense.

The pair discussed recent developments in Russia and Mr Erdogan told Putin that Turkey was ready to do its part to help bring about a peaceful solution to the situation.

03:02 PM BST

Wagner forces have reached the Lipetsk region, south of Moscow, says governor

Wagner mercenaries were “moving across” the Lipetsk region some 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Moscow, the governor said on Saturday, en route to Moscow after vowing to overthrow Russia’s military leadership.

“Hardware of the Wagner mercenary group is moving across the territory of the Lipetsk region,” governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram.

“I remind you that residents are strongly recommended not to leave their houses or to make trips on any mode of transport.”

02:56 PM BST

Prigozhin says cash found near his St Petersburg office was for Wagner expenses

Mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said that boxes of cash found in vehicles near his office in St Petersburg by the FSB security service were to cover salaries and other expenses for his Wagner fighters.

Unconfirmed Russian media reports said the cardboard boxes contained 4 billion roubles (£36.7 million).

02:47 PM BST

We are running out of popcorn, jokes Ukrainian official

An adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister has made no attempt to hide his glee at the chaos gripping Russia right now.

Speaking to the BBC, Yuriy Sak said “We are little-by-little running out of popcorn”.

His comments came as others riffed on the idea on social media with a series of memes and videos.

02:26 PM BST

Russian helicopter gunships open fire on Wagner forces

Russian military helicopters have opened fire on a convoy of rebel mercenaries already more than half way towards Moscow in a lightning advance after seizing a southern city overnight.

President Vladimir Putin vowed to crush an armed mutiny he compared to Russia’s Civil War a century ago.

Fighters from Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private Wagner militia were in control of Rostov-on-Don, a city of more than a million people close to the border with Ukraine, and were rapidly advancing northwards through western Russia.

A Reuters journalist saw army helicopters open fire at an armed Wagner column that was advancing past the city of Voronezh with troop carriers and at least one tank on a flatbed truck. The city is more than half way along the 680-mile highway from Rostov to Moscow.

02:03 PM BST

In pictures: Latest scenes in Russia of the Wagner insurrection against military generals

A truck transporting fighters of Wagner private mercenary group drives along M-4 highway, which links the capital Moscow with Russia's southern cities, near Voronezh, Russia, June 24, 2023. A sign reads: "Voronezh". REUTERS/Stringer

A truck transporting Wagner fighters drives along the M-4 highway, which links Moscow to Russia’s southern cities – REUTERS/Stringer

A truck transporting a military vehicle of Wagner private mercenary group drives along M-4 highway, which links the capital Moscow with Russia's southern cities, near Voronezh, Russia, June 24, 2023 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Stringer

A truck transporting a Wager military vehicle drives along the M-4 highway – REUTERS/Stringer

A man takes down the poster with writing reading "Join us at Wagner", which is associated with the owner of the Wagner private military contractor, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is seen above a highway on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Russia's security services have responded to mercenary chief Prigozhin's declaration of an armed rebellion by calling for his arrest. In a sign of how seriously the Kremlin took the threat, security was heightened in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don and other regions. (AP Photo)

A man takes down a poster by Wagner urging people to join them, above a highway on the outskirts of St. Petersburg – AP

01:46 PM BST

Belarus sticking with Russia, saying infighting a gift to the West

Belarus says it remains an ally of Russia and that internal disputes are a “gift to collective west”

Belarus has been the Kremlin’s staunchest ally since Russia declared war on Ukraine last year. It has allowed the Kremlin to station a batch of tactical nuclear weapons there.

01:31 PM BST

How Prigozhin’s battle-hardened Wagner mercenaries launched a coup

A mutiny that started over differences about how the Kremlin could win the war may end what little chances of victory Russia still has, writes Colin Freeman

Anyone who follows Yevgeny Prigozhin’s social media channels knows that he does not exactly toe the Kremlin line.

The boss of the Wagner mercenary group is notorious for his foul-mouthed outbursts about Moscow’s handling of the war in Ukraine, accusing Vladimir Putin’s generals of being blundering “motherf—-rs” who squander soldiers’ lives.

On Friday night, though, what the Kremlin normally tries to dismiss as salty rhetoric crossed the line into open rebellion.

Shortly after 10pm Russian time, a video appeared on Mr Prigozhin’s Telegram feed showing what purported to be a missile strike on a Wagner training camp.

Read the full story

01:13 PM BST

Listen to our journalists discuss the situation in Russia unfolding right now

01:09 PM BST

Wagner chief says his forces took army HQ without firing a single shot

Prigozhin said that his troops had not needed to fire a single shot when they took control of the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov.

In a new audio message released by his press service, he said his men had been fired on by artillery and helicopters en route to Rostov however.

12:58 PM BST

Next 48 hours will decide Russia’s political future, says advisor to Zelensky

Next 48 hours will determine whether Russia is engulfed in a “full-fledged Civil War or a negotiated Transit of Power”, says Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Zelensky.

12:50 PM BST

Putin working in the Kremlin, says spokesman

President Putin is working in the Kremlin, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday.

Putin earlier vowed to crush the Wagner Group’s armed mutiny.

12:38 PM BST

Qatar calls for ‘maximum restraint’

Qatar has expressed concerns over the situation in Russia, calling for “maximum restraint”.

Major gas-exporter Qatar has sought a largely neutral stance on the conflict but moves by the Gulf Arab state, including its criticism of Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, have led to fraying relations with Moscow.

12:29 PM BST

Officials in Russia’s Lipetsk region urge residents to stay home

Authorities in Russia’s southwestern Lipetsk region have urged residents to stay at home.

“To ensure law and order and the safety of the citizens of the Lipetsk region, the operational headquarters of the region asks residents without urgent need not to leave their homes and refrain from any travel by personal or public transport,” the press service of the regional government said.

12:15 PM BST

Watch: Wagner head Prigozhin claims control of Russia’s Rostov-on-Don in Kremlin coup

12:14 PM BST

UK Government to hold emergency Cobra meeting

The UK Government is to hold an emergency ‘Cobra’ committee meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Russia, the BBC reports.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had previously told BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “We’re keeping a close eye on the situation as it’s evolving on the ground as we speak.

“We’re in touch with our allies and, in fact, I’ll be speaking to some of them later today.”

12:08 PM BST

Russian army helicopters open fire on Wagner convoy

Russian army helicopters have opened fire on a Wagner mercenary military convoy on the M4 highway outside the city of Voronezh on Saturday, a Reuters witness said.

11:51 AM BST

Kuleba: ‘Those who said Russia was too strong to lose: look now’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on “those who said Russia was too strong to lose” to “look now”, following the armed uprising by the Wagner group, and he issued a plea for more weapons for Kyiv.

11:46 AM BST

In pictures: Residents of Rostov-on-Don walk past Wagner fighters

A woman walks past fighters of Wagner private mercenary group in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

A woman walks past fighters of Wagner private mercenary group in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don – STRINGER/REUTERS

A woman with a dog walks past a tank as fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

A woman with a dog walks past a tank as fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don – STRINGER/REUTERS

11:39 AM BST

Wagner military column seen passing Russian city of Voronezh by Reuters witness

A Wagner mercenary military column of vehicles drove past the Russian city of Voronezh on Saturday afternoon, a Reuters witness said.

One of the vehicles was a flatbed truck carrying a tank.

Mr Gusev had previously informed residents via Telegram that the army was taking “necessary military measures in the region” as part of a counter-terrorist operation in the area.

11:27 AM BST

Fuel tank at oil depot on fire in Russia’s Voronezh region, says governor

Emergency services are working to put out a fuel tank fire at an oil depot in Voronezh, the regional governor has said.

Alexander Gusev wrote on Telegram: “More than 100 firefighters and 30 pieces of equipment are working at the site.” He added that there were no currently no reported casualties.

Mr Gusev had previously informed residents that the army was taking “necessary military measures in the region” as part of a counter-terrorist operation in the area.

Reuters cited a Russian security source as saying on Saturday that Wagner fighters had taken control of all military facilities in the city of Voronezh, located approximately 500km from Moscow.

11:19 AM BST

Sunak urges all involved to ‘be responsible and to protect civilians’

Rishi Sunak said he will be speaking to allies about the armed uprising by the Wagner Group in Russia as he urged all parties involved to protect civilian lives.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Sunak said: “We’re keeping a close eye on the situation as it’s evolving on the ground as we speak.

“We’re in touch with our allies and, in fact, I’ll be speaking to some of them later today.

“But 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.”

11:17 AM BST

Zelensky: ‘Russia’s weakness is obvious’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that “Russia’s weakness is obvious” and that the longer Moscow keeps its troops and mercenaries in Ukraine, the more chaos it would invite back home, following the apparent mutiny by the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He made the comments on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday morning, saying: “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.”

11:12 AM BST

UK Government ‘liaising closely with our allies’ following events in Russia

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said that Britain is “liaising closely with our allies”, following events overnight in Russia.

He urged citizens to continue to follow travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, which is to advise against all travel to the whole of Russia.

10:57 AM BST

President of European Council says situation ‘clearly internal Russian issue’

10:51 AM BST

Chechen leader comes out in support of Putin and says forces ready to help put down mutiny

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said that his forces were ready to help put down a mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary, in a show of support for Vladimir Putin.

In a statement uploaded to Telegram, Mr Kadyrov called Mr Prigozhin’s behaviour a “knife in the back”, and called on Russian soldiers not to give in to any “provocations”.

He said: “Imagine what the guys in the trenches are feeling right now, facing an enemy, and behind them a treacherous adventure. It’s about stability, about the cohesion of the state, about the security of citizens.”

“History shows that such actions can lead to bloody consequences.”

He added: “The rebellion must be suppressed, and if it is necessary to take tough measures for this, then we are ready!”

10:45 AM BST

Watch: Putin vows to brutally punish ‘traitor’ Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries

10:30 AM BST

NATO ‘monitoring the situation’ in Russia

NATO is “monitoring the situation” in Russia, a spokeswoman for the transatlantic military alliance said via email on Saturday.

The spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, had no further comment.

10:20 AM BST

Italian PM says Wagner rebellion shows Russian invasion of Ukraine is backfiring against Putin

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Saturday that the rebellion by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin shows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is backfiring against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ms Meloni’s office said that she “is following closely the events unfolding in Russia, which show how its aggression against Ukraine is causing instability within the Russian Federation.”

10:18 AM BST

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman calls on Russians to rally around Putin

Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, has called on Russians to rally around Russian President Vladimir Putin, after what Putin called an “armed mutiny” by the Wagner mercenary group.

Her comments followed Vladimir Putin’s televised address, in which he described the mutiny as a “mortal blow” to the Russian people

10:11 AM BST

Head of Russia’s Voronezh region says Russian army taking action

The governor of Russia’s Voronezh region has said that the army was taking “necessary military measures” in the region as part of a counter-terrorist operation declared after an armed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.

Alexander Gusev wrote on Telegram: “As part of the counterterrorist operation on the territory of the Voronezh Region, the armed forces of the Russian Federation are carrying out the necessary operational and combat measures.

“I will continue to inform you about the development of the situation.”

Earlier on Saturday, a Russian security source told Reuters that Wagner fighters had taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500 km south of the capital. Reuters could not independently confirm that assertion.

10:08 AM BST

Putin vows to brutally punish ‘traitor’ Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries

Vladimir Putin has promised to “brutally” punish Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries for launching an armed rebellion, James Kilner writes. 

In his first speech since Mr Prigozhin declared an attack on the Russian military on Friday evening, Mr Putin said that he had ordered his security services to capture the “traitors”.

“Anyone who consciously goes along the path of betrayal, who is prepared for armed mutiny, and takes the course of blackmail and terrorist actions, will receive an inevitable punishment,” he said.

Read more on this story here.

09:37 AM BST

France and Germany monitoring situation in Russia closely, say governments

French President Emmanuel Macron is following the situation in Russia closely, the presidential palace has said.

The Elysee said: “We stay focused on the support to Ukraine.”

The German government has also said that it is “monitoring events in Russia closely”, according to a spokesman from the government press office.

09:30 AM BST

Three killed in Kyiv in latest overnight air strikes

At least three people have been killed in Kyiv on Saturday morning following the latest overnight barrage from Russia.

Ihor Klymenko, Interior Minister, said missiles had targeted at least five regions across Ukraine. Three people were killed and eight wounded after a high-rise in the capital was struck, he said.

Ukraine’s military said air defences had destroyed 41 out of 51 cruise missiles, as well as two drones, launched by Russia in the assault.

09:03 AM BST

Putin’s aura of invincibility is shattered – and in Russia, weakness is terminal

For Vladimir Putin, this is the end of the road, James Kilner writes. 

He may just survive an armed rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenaries but he will be permanently damaged and his Kremlin days are numbered.

Mr Putin’s aura of invincibility and control, badly fractured by his misguided and failed invasion of Ukraine, will now be shattered.

Read more of James Kilner’s analysis here. 

09:01 AM BST

UK Government warns of risk of unrest in Russia

The UK foreign ministry has warned of a risk of unrest across Russia, in updated advice to travellers following movements by Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenary forces.

“There are reports of military tensions in the Rostov region and a risk of further unrest across the country. Additionally, there is a lack of available flight options to return to the UK,” Britain’s foreign ministry wrote on its website.

Britain’s government continued to advise against all travel to Russia.

08:45 AM BST

In pictures: Wagner mercenaries in Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are seen atop of a tank in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are seen atop of a tank in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don – STRINGER/REUTERS

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don – STRINGER/REUTERS

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pose for a picture as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pose for a picture as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don – STRINGER/REUTERS

08:35 AM BST

Vladimir Putin appeals to Russians’ patriotism to defend the motherland

Vladimir Putin has appealed to Russians’ patriotism to defend the Motherland against traitors in his first video address from the Kremlin since Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion, James Kilner writes. 

In the 6-minute video, Mr Putin said that Mr Prigozhin and his mercenaries were engaged in “an armed mutiny” and said that their selfish rebellion was distracting Russians from defending Russia against Nato and Nazis in Ukraine.

“It is an attempt to subvert us from the inside. This is treason,” he said.

Mr Putin admitted that it was a “complicated situation” and that the rebels had taken control of military sites around the southern Russian city of Rostov.

“As a citizen of Russia, I will do everything to defend the country. Decisive action will be taken,” he said.

08:32 AM BST

MoD update: Current situation ‘most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times’

The UK Ministry of Defence has said that further Wagner units are moving north “almost certainly heading for Moscow”.

It its latest intelligence update, the ministry said: “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. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.

08:17 AM BST

Situation in Rostov ‘very complicated’ says Putin

Vladimir Putin confirmed that “restrictive measures” had been put in place in Moscow and the Moscow region.

He said in a televised address: “Restrictive measures have been taken in Moscow, Moscow region and lots of other regions.

He added that “the situation around Rostov however remains very complicated.”

08:12 AM BST

Putin: Mutiny is a ‘mortal blow’

President Vladimir Putin said in a televised statement that anybody who took up arms against the Russian army was a “traitor”.

Mr Putin said: “We are fighting against anarchy and capitulation. This internal mutiny is a mortal blow to us, it is a blow to our people as a whole.”

President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation

President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation – RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/AFP via Getty Images

08:08 AM BST

Putin: Wagner mutiny ‘a stab in the back for our troops and the people of Russia’

President Vladimir Putin told Russians in a televised address that the mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner group was “a stab in the back for our troops and the people of Russia.”

He said: “In the face of those who are fighting in the front this is a stab in the back for our troops and the people of Russia.”

He added: “Those who mutiny have betrayed Russia and I urge anybody involved in it to cease any kind of participation in armed conflict.”

07:52 AM BST

Counter-terrorism regime imposed in Moscow and Moscow region

Russia’s anti-terrorist committee said on Saturday that it was imposing a counter-terrorist regime in Moscow and the surrounding region amid an apparent mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group, the state news agency RIA reported.

The committee said: “In order to prevent possible terrorist acts on the territory of the city of Moscow and the Moscow region, a counter-terrorism operation regime has been introduced.”

07:43 AM BST

Wagner fighters have taken control of all military facilities in Voronezh, Russian security source says

Wagner fighters have taken control of all military facilities in Voronezh, a Russian security source has told Reuters.

The city of Voronezh is located approximately 500km south of Moscow.

07:16 AM BST

Russian Defence Ministry tells Wagner fighters that they have been ‘deceived’ by Prigozhin

The Russian Defence Ministry has told the Wagner fighters that they have been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure” by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The ministry addressed the fighters in a statement on Telegram, urging them to contact its representatives and those of law enforcement services and promising to guarantee their security, Reuters reports.

07:12 AM BST

Zelensky adviser: ‘Everything is just beginning in Russia’

A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that “everything is just beginning in Russia”, after Yevgeny Prigrozhin confirmed that his fighters now control military buildings and the airport in Rostov.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine, wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning: “The split between the elites is too obvious. Agreeing and pretending that everything is settled won’t work. Someone must definitely lose: either Prigozhin (with a fatal ending), or the collective ‘anti-Prygozhin’ (Putin’s group and the ‘Ozero’ cooperative). Everything is just beginning in Russia.”

07:02 AM BST

Vladimir Putin to give televised address

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to give a televised address soon, state news agency TASS news agency cited the Kremlin as saying on Saturday.

06:57 AM BST

In pictures: Wagner troops in Rostov-on-Don

A fighter of Wagner private mercenary group flashes a victory sign in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

A fighter of Wagner private mercenary group flashes a victory sign in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pose for a picture as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pose for a picture as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group cross a street as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group cross a street as they get deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don

06:08 AM BST

Prigozhin claims control of Rostov-on-Don

The head of the Wagner mercenary group has claimed he is inside the army HQ in southern Russia’s Rostov-on-Don and that his fighters control the city’s military sites, including an aerodrome, after vowing to bring down Moscow’s top brass.

“We are inside the (army) headquarters, it is 7.30am (5.30 BST),” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video on Telegram.

“Military sites in Rostov, including an aerodrome, are under control,” he added.

Prigozhin said his troops will blockade the city and he threatened to head for Moscow unless defence chiefs Sergey Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov come to them.

05:31 AM BST

Wagner chief: Dozens of soldiers have joined the coup

Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that 60 to 70 Russian soldiers have mutinied and joined his coup attempt.

He also said that his forces have already engaged in skirmishes against Russian soldiers.

“Fighting takes place in places where the military leadership gives false information to fighters, and therefore skirmishes occur,” he said in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel.

“Where soldiers meet us, the National Guard and the police, they wave their hands joyfully, and many of them say: ‘We want to go with you.’”

This could not be independently confirmed.

05:06 AM BST

Soldiers surround Rostov military building

Dozens of heavily armed soldiers have surrounded a building described as a Russian military headquarters in the southern city of Rostov, videos have shown.

Analysts identified these soldiers as Wagner fighters, supporting a coup against the Russian military by their commander Yevgeny Prigozhin, but this could not be independently confirmed.

The governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev, has told people to stay at home.

“Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of residents of the area,” he said. “I ask everyone to remain calm and not to leave your homes.”

The Russian military’s main headquarters for its war in Ukraine is based in Rostov.

On Friday, Mr Prigozhin announced a coup against Russian military commanders who he accused of killing thousands of soldiers unnecessarily.

04:28 AM BST

Armed men outside Rostov police HQ – report

Videos posted on Russian Telegram channels early on Saturday appeared to show armed men in uniform skirting Rostov-on-Don’s regional police headquarters, belonging to the Interior Ministry.

It was not immediately clear who the armed men were. Reuters verified the location as the police headquarters building.

Authorities in southern Russian regions said measures were being taken to ensure public safety, after the founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force indicated that he planned to despatch men to Moscow to oust the military leadership.

04:25 AM BST

Moscow launches anti-terror measures

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Saturday that anti-terrorist measures were being taken in the Russian capital, including additional checks on roads, to reinforce security.

03:47 AM BST

What we know so far

The Kremlin has accused the leader of the Wagner mercenary group of attempting an “armed coup” against Russia.

In an extraordinary announcement on Friday night, Yevgeny Prigozhin called for an uprising against Russia’s military leaders.

The Wagner boss claimed his troops have marched into Russia’s Rostov region and promised that his soldiers will “destroy everything that gets in the way”.

Here is everything we know so far.

03:22 AM BST

Residents in Voronezh urged to avoid military convoy

The government of Russia’s Voronezh region has urged residents to avoid the M4 north-south motorway that connects Moscow to southern regions because a military convoy was on the move there, Reuters reported.

Officials said the situation was under control and measures were being taken to keep the public safe.

03:08 AM BST

US says Wagner coup is ‘real’ and ‘serious’

Joe Biden has been briefed on the chaotic situation in Russia with US officials describing it as “serious”.

The president was being kept informed as Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was accused by Moscow of launching an armed rebellion.

A White House National Security Council spokesman said: “We are monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments.”

A US official told CNN this crisis was “real” but the Pentagon and White House were waiting to see how it developed.

Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, said it was in a “different league” to Prigozhin’s previous complaints against the Russian military hierarchy.

Read more: US says Wagner coup is ‘real’ and ‘serious’ as White House consults allies

02:47 AM BST

Moscow officials tighten security

Russian authorities in the Lipetsk region south of Moscow said they have tightened security measures after the chief of mercenary group Wagner said his forces had crossed the border from Ukraine.

“A decision has been taken to reinforce security measures in the region,” said Governor Igor Artamonov.

“I ask everyone to remain calm.”

The region of Lipetsk is located about 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Moscow.

02:20 AM BST

Rostov governor tells civilians to stay indoors

The governor of southern Russia’s Rostov region told residents to remain calm and stay indoors.

“Law enforcement agencies are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety of residents of the area. I ask everyone to stay calm and not to leave home unless necessary,” Vassily Golubev said in a message on his Telegram channel just before 4am (2am BST).

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had said his forces had crossed from Ukraine into the Rostov region.

Mr Golubev’s message did not say whether Prigozhin had entered Rostov.

01:41 AM BST

Russian governor: This is ‘extremely bad’

A Russian official has become one of the few to publicly express concern over the attempted coup.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Kremlin-installed governor of Sevastopol, in Russian-occupied Crimea, wrote on Telegram:

“Like many of you now, I am not sleeping, updating the news feed.

“Any conflict is bad. A conflict of this level … is extremely bad.”

01:38 AM BST

Russia accuses Prigozhin of ‘stab in the back’

Vladimir Putin has been informed by Russia’s prosecutor general of an attempt by the Wagner mercenary group to stage an armed insurrection, the Kremlin announced on Saturday morning

“The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation (Igor) Krasnov reported to Putin about the initiation of a criminal case in connection with an attempt to organise an armed rebellion,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

In a statement, Russia’s security service, the FSB, said: “Prigozhin’s statements and actions are in fact a call to start an armed civil conflict on the territory of the Russian Federation and a stab in the back to Russian servicemen fighting pro-fascist Ukrainian forces.”

01:20 AM BST

Putin being updated ‘around the clock’

Vladimir Putin is being given regular updates on the unfolding tensions between the mercenary group Wagner and the defence ministry, the Kremlin said.

“Security services, law enforcement agencies, namely the defence ministry, the FSB, the interior ministry, the national guard are reporting to the president constantly, around the clock,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

12:33 AM BST

White House ‘monitoring situation’

The White House is monitoring the situation involving Russia and the Wagner force, and will be consulting with allies and partners on developments, National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said on Friday.

US officials are closely watching and one source told CNN: “This is real”.

The source told CNN that the US understands Prigozhin’s comments to be more than rhetoric.

12:25 AM BST

We are entering Rostov, says Prigozhin

In his latest audio message, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner group, said his troops are entering Rostov.

“We crossed the state border in all places,” Prigozhin said. “The border guards came out to meet and hugged our fighters.

“We are entering Rostov. We don’t fight children. Shoigu kills children. He put 18-year-old boys against us. These guys will live and go back to their mothers. But we will destroy everything that gets in the way.”

12:24 AM BST

Russian aircraft flying towards Rostov – reports

A Russian government official has told The Moscow Times that dozens of aircraft with special forces troops onboard have flown towards Rostov.

12:23 AM BST

What we know so far

  • The Kremlin has ordered Wagner troops to stand down after the mercenary group’s leader called for an uprising against Russia’s military

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin accused Russia’s top brass of shelling his fighters and said his group would stop the “evil” of Moscow’s military leadership

  • Russian soldiers across the country were put on high alert on Friday night

  • The FSB, Russia’s main intelligence service, said that it had opened a criminal case against Prigozhin

  • Ukrainian troops are stepping up their attacks to “take advantage” of Wagner’s attempted coup, according to Russia’s ministry of defence

  • Russian border guards have reportedly not stopped a column of Wagner fighters moving through a checkpoint in Novoshakhtinsk, in Russia’s Rostov region

  • Reports said Putin’s motorcade was seen speeding through Moscow to the Kremlin from his residence in the suburbs of the capital

Read more: Wagner chief launches coup against Russia’s military leaders

12:05 AM BST

Russian military orders Wagner troops to stand down

The Russian military has ordered Wagner troops to stand down and return to their bases amid reports the mercenary group has launched a coup against the Kremlin.

It comes amid unconfirmed reports of Russian border guards reportedly not stopping a column of Wagner fighters moving through a checkpoint in Novoshakhtinsk, in Russia’s Rostov region.

On Friday night Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary leader, accused the Russian military of shelling his fighters and said his group would stop the “evil” of Moscow’s military leadership.

Russia’s security service launched a criminal investigation into Prigozhin and accused him of an “armed rebellion”.

General Sergey Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s Ukraine campaign, urged Wagner soldiers to stand down

General Sergey Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s Ukraine campaign, urged Wagner soldiers to stand down

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