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‘We gave a master class’ Prigozhin’s first public statement since Wagner Group’s 24-hour rebellion
On Monday afternoon, Yevgeny Prigozhin released his first public statement since he called off Wagner Group’s march towards Moscow on Saturday. In English, Meduza has summarized the main points from the 11-minute audio clip.
On why Wagner Group turned against the Defense Ministry:
As a result of intrigue and poorly made decisions, Wagner Group was slated to stop existing on July 1, 2023. Wagner Group’s council of commanders conveyed this information to our fighters, almost none of whom agreed to sign a contract with the Defense Ministry, because they all know perfectly well from their experience during the special military operation that it would lead to a complete loss of combat capability. Experienced fighters and commanders would simply be spread out and effectively treated as cannon fodder, unable to use their combat potential and combat experience.
On how the ‘march of justice’ came to be:
We were categorically opposed to the Defense Ministry’s plans. Nonetheless, we packed our equipment up, took the inventory, and planned to leave on June 30 in a convoy towards Rostov and give it all over to the special military operation headquarters if they didn’t change their decision. But despite the fact that we displayed no aggression, a missile strike was launched against us, followed immediately by helicopters. Approximately 33 Wagner Group fighters were killed. Others were wounded. This triggered an immediate decision by the council of commanders that we needed to move forward immediately. I made a statement saying that we didn’t intend to show any aggression but that if we were attacked, we would perceive it as an attempt to destroy us — and we would respond.
On how the march unfolded:
One convoy went to Rostov, and the other headed towards Moscow. We covered a distance of 780 kilometers in a single day. Not one soldier was killed on the ground. We regret that we had to strike at aircraft, but they were bombing us and launching missile strikes. We came within 200 kilometers of Moscow. During this time, all of the military facilities along the route were blocked and neutralized. I repeat: nobody on the ground was killed. Among Wagner Group fighters, several people were wounded, and two of our soldiers, who voluntarily joined us from the military and the Defense Ministry, died. No Wagner Group fighters were forced to participate in this campaign, and everyone knew its ultimate goal.
On the goal of the “march of justice”:
The goal of our campaign was to prevent the destruction of Wagner Group and hold accountable the individuals who, through their unprofessional actions, made a significant number of mistakes during the Special Operation. The public demanded this.
On the military’s reaction:
All military personnel who saw us during the march supported us.
On why he ended the march:
We stopped at the moment when the first assault detachment to come within 200 kilometers of Moscow deployed its artillery, conducted reconnaissance of the area, and it was evident that a lot of blood would be shed if we continued. We therefore decided that simply demonstrating our intentions would be sufficient. There were two crucial factors behind our decision to turn back. The first was that we didn’t want to shed Russian blood. The second was that we marched to demonstrate our opposition, not to overthrow the government. At that point, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko extended his hand and proposed that we find ways to continue Wagner Group’s work within a legal jurisdiction. The convoys turned back and went to their field camps.
On what the “march of justice” revealed:
There are serious security problems in our country. We managed to block all military units that were in our path. Within 24 hours, we covered the distance equivalent to the distance from the starting point of the Russian forces on February 24, 2022, to Kyiv or to Uzhhorod. This shows that if the first offensive of the special military operation had been carried out by forces like ours, then perhaps it would have been over in a day. The level of organization we showed should be the level of organization of the Russian military. When we passed by Russian cities on June 23—24, civilians welcomed us with Russian flags and Wagner Group flags. Many of them are still writing words of support, and some are disappointed that we stopped, because in addition to our fight for our existence, they saw our support for the fight against bureaucracy and other ailments that exist in our country today.
We gave a master class on what should have happened on February 24, 2022. Our goal wasn’t to overthrow the current regime and the legally elected authorities, as many have said. We turned around to avoid spilling the blood of Russian soldiers.
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