Putin rages at Ukraine and West in first speech on Wagner Group mutiny

Moscow, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused Ukraine and its Western allies of wanting Russians to "kill each other" during a revolt by mercenaries of the Wagner Group, which stunned the country with an aborted march on Moscow over the weekend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin focused his rage at Ukraine and its Western allies during his first address since the Wagner Group mutiny.
Russian President Vladimir Putin focused his rage at Ukraine and its Western allies during his first address since the Wagner Group mutiny.  © via REUTERS

In his first address to the nation since the rebels pulled back, Putin said he had issued orders to avoid bloodshed and granted amnesty to the Wagner fighters whose mutiny served up the greatest challenge yet to his two-decade rule.

"From the start of the events, on my orders steps were taken to avoid large-scale bloodshed," Putin said in a televised address, thanking Russians for their "patriotism".

"It was precisely this fratricide that Russia's enemies wanted: both the neo-Nazis in Kyiv and their Western patrons, and all sorts of national traitors. They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other," Putin said.

"Unhinged" and "full of bulls***": Trump and Biden trade personal insults at rivaling campaign events
Donald Trump "Unhinged" and "full of bulls***": Trump and Biden trade personal insults at rivaling campaign events

Putin also thanked his security officials for their work during the armed rebellion in a meeting that included Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a main target of the mutiny.

"Civilian solidarity showed that any blackmail, any attempts to organize internal turmoil, is doomed to fail," Putin said.

He repeated some of the same talking points in a speech delivered to Russian army soldiers at the Kremlin on Tuesday.

Putin outlines future for Wagner Group fighters

Wagner Group soldiers will be given the opportunity to join the regular Russian army or return home.
Wagner Group soldiers will be given the opportunity to join the regular Russian army or return home.  © REUTERS

As far as Wagner Group members are concerned, Putin said that fighters could choose whether to join the Russian army or leave for Belarus, or even return to their homes.

"Today you have the possibility to continue serving Russia by entering into a contract with the Ministry of Defense or other law enforcement agencies, or to return to your family and close ones... Whoever wants to can go to Belarus," Putin said in his address.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had earlier defended his aborted mutiny as a bid to save his mercenary outfit and expose the failures of Russia's military leadership – but not to challenge the Kremlin.

The Wagner headquarters in Saint Petersburg, meanwhile, said it remained open for business, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the firm would continue to operate in Mali and the Central African Republic.

Cover photo: via REUTERS

More on Vladimir Putin: