The Wagner Group staged a rebellion in Russia, in what has been the greatest domestic challenge to Vladimir Putin since he took power.
Russian mercenaries surged most of the way to Moscow before their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin called off the advance and ordered them to turn back to “avoid bloodshed”.
Here is how one of the most dramatic days in recent Russian history unfolded.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group boss, releases a video stepping up his feud with Russia’s military top brass and for the first time rejects Vladimir Putin’s main justification for invading Ukraine.
In a series of audio recordings posted on Telegram, the man known as “Putin’s Chef” says the “evil” of Russia’s military leadership “must be stopped” and his mercenaries will “march for justice” against the Russian military.
Russia’s FSB security service responds by opening a criminal case against Prigozhin, saying he has called for “armed mutiny”.
The deputy commander of Russia’s Ukraine campaign, General Sergei Surovikin, urges Wagner to give up their opposition to the military leadership and return to their bases.
Prigozhin says his men have crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia and are ready to go “all the way” against
the Russian military.
Wagner fighters enter the southern Russian city of Rostov.
The White House announces it is monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on developments.
The governor of Rostov Oblast tells residents to remain calm and stay indoors as it becomes clear that Wagner forces have taken control of the city of Rostov.
Russia’s Defence Ministry appeals to Wagner fighters to abandon Prigozhin, saying they have been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure”.
A Russian security source says Wagner mercenaries have taken control of all military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 300 miles south of Moscow.
Putin makes a televised address vowing to crush what he calls an armed mutiny. He accuses Prigozhin of “treason” and a “stab in the back”.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a close Putin ally, says his forces are ready to help put down the rebellion using harsh methods if necessary.
European governments including Britain, France, Germany and Italy all issue statements saying they are closely watching developments in Russia.
Russian military helicopters open fire on a convoy of rebel mercenaries already more than half way to Moscow in a lightning advance after seizing Rostov overnight.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “Russia’s weakness is obvious” and the longer Moscow keeps its troops and mercenaries in Ukraine, the more chaos it will invite back home.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service, says it is clear that Prigozhin’s attempt to destabilise society and ignite a fratricidal civil war has failed.
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Moscow’s soldiers set up a machine gun position on the southwest edge of the capital, photographs also show armed police gathering at the point where the M4 highway – which Wagner mercenaries are moving along – reaches the Russian capital.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks by telephone with Putin and urges him to act with common sense. Belarus issues a statement reaffirming its pro-Russia stance.
The White House says Joe Biden has spoken with the leaders of France, Germany and the UK, and that they have re-affirmed their support for Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also says he has spoken with G7 foreign ministers and the European Union high representative for foreign affairs.
Putin signs a law permitting 30-day detentions for breaking martial law in places where it has been imposed, the
RIA news agency reports.
Wagner mercenaries are promised an amnesty if they lay down their weapons “but they should do it fast”, the TASS news agency reports politician Pavel Krasheninnikov as saying.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement warning Western countries against using the Wagner group’s mutiny “to achieve their Russophobic goals”.
The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he has brokered a deal with Prigozhin who has agreed to de-escalate the situation.
Prigozhin says he has ordered his fighters advancing on Moscow in convoy to turn around and return to their bases to avoid bloodshed. It is agreed he will not be prosecuted for the attempted coup and leave Russia for Belarus.
Pictures show Prigozhin and Wagner troops being cheered as they leave Rostov.