Putin will arm his Praetorian Guard with tanks after admitting that Russia was on the verge of "a civil war" | International

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that the rebellion led by the Wagner group last Saturday could have triggered a conflict in the country. "You defended the constitutional order, life, security and freedom of our citizens, saved our homeland from riots and, in fact, stopped the civil war," the president said in a speech to the security forces that they have remained garrisoned in the nation during the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin has emphasized "the courage of the Russian military and society", although the gigantic column that Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin led towards Moscow actually faced only a few helicopters as it advanced through two regions of the country. Negotiations between the Kremlin and the head of the mercenaries culminated on Tuesday with the withdrawal of all charges against Wagner by the Federal Security Service.

“Our comrades have died. They honorably carried out their orders and their military duty without flinching. I ask you to honor his memory with a minute of silence," the Russian leader said at an event in the Kremlin Cathedral Square, where some members of the army, police and National Guard, the so-called Rosgvardia, were present. The latter — a force that answers to no one but the president, not even to the Ministry of Defense — will have tanks and other vehicles in the future, its commander, Viktor Zolotov, has announced.

“This question is crucial now. We don't have tanks or other heavy weapons. We will introduce them into the troops", announced the soldier, who also stated that Wagner's rapid advance "is explained by the concentration of forces near Moscow".

The reinforcement of this personal guard of the president, created in 2016, is explained by the proliferation of private armies. Some former Putin advisers and the military have raised their voices on this problem, not only because of Wagner, but also because of the accumulated force of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov and his 70,000 Kadyrovites.

Putin stressed during his speech that Wagner's threat did not compromise the Ukrainian front. "We did not have to withdraw combat units from the special military operation," the president said during his speech.

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Wagner rose up against the government while the Russian Armed Forces faced the laborious Ukrainian counter-offensive on the Zaporizhia front. On June 30, the ultimatum from the Ministry of Defense ended for the mercenary company to sign a contract by which it would be at their service. Prigozhin, cornered by being in open confrontation with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his military leadership, rebelled. Wagner's mercenaries seized the Rostov-on-Don military buildings and advanced through the Voronezh region towards Moscow on June 23 and 24. On their way they shot down several helicopters, including a modern Ka-52, and a Russian transport plane. At least a dozen Russian servicemen died.

Prigozhin's advance ended on Saturday afternoon after reaching an agreement with the Kremlin. Wagner members could join the Russian Armed Forces, continue their careers as mercenaries in Belarus, or lay down their arms and return home. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday in an interview in Russian Today that Wagner will continue to be useful in other operations in other countries, especially in Africa.

The amnesty for the rebels was formalized this Tuesday. “Its participants stopped actions directly aimed at committing a crime on June 24. Taking into account this and other circumstances relevant to the investigation, the investigating authority issued its decision to close the criminal case on June 27," the Federal Security Service (FSB) announced in a statement.

Wagner received 1,000 million from the State

Putin also revealed that the Russian State paid Wagner 86,262 million rubles, about 1,000 million euros, between May 2022 and 2023. The president has thus denied the words of Minister Lavrov a year ago. “There is nothing like that (Wagner) in Ukraine, just a large number of mercenaries from Western countries. By talking about it, they seek to divert attention, ”said the Foreign Minister at the time.

The fate of the mercenaries is unknown for now. The Russian Defense Ministry claims to have started preparations for Wagner to hand over his heavy military equipment to the army. For its part, the newspaper viorstka He assures, citing local sources, that the company would be preparing to build a camp with 8,000 places in the Belarusian region of Moguiliov, some 200 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. However, the opposing platform Belaruski Gayun, Focused on revealing the movement of troops in the country led by Aleksandr Lukashenko, it says it has not observed large movements of Russian troops - more than 10 vehicles - nor the construction of any camps on its territory.

Prigozhin is already in Belarus. President Lukashenko has confirmed that his private jet flew to Minsk on Tuesday and "they have provided security guarantees, as promised."

Putin's strength in command of Russia has been called into question by the mutiny and his concessions, though the Kremlin claims, at least behind closed doors, that these accusations are just hot air. "We disagre. There are many emotional tantrums between experts and pseudo-experts. It has nothing to do with reality. The level of unity around the president is very high," said Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, on Tuesday.

Lukashenko emerges as negotiator

The peace mediator between the Kremlin and Wagner, the Belarusian Alexandr Lukashenko, has acknowledged that he took the rebellion seriously. "I gave all the orders so that the army was completely ready for combat," said the president of Russia's neighboring country during a meeting in Minsk. “If Russia collapses, we will be under the rubble. We will all die,” warned Lukashenko, who was bailed out by the Kremlin in 2020 after mass protests against electoral fraud.

The president has offered some details about his first contacts with Prigozhin. According to Lukashenko, Putin considered "destroying" Wagner because Prigozhin would not pick up the phone, and it was the Belarusian president who supposedly convinced him "not to rush." Finally, Lukashenko managed to talk to Prigozhin and persuaded him to start negotiations through three channels, including the FSB: “he immediately picked up the phone at 11.00 (on Saturday). Yevgeni was totally elated. In the first 30 minute round he cursed at himself. Unbelievable, there were 10 times more swear words than normal vocabulary when we later analyzed the conversation.”

"I have instructed my media, the press secretary, that in no case describe me, Putin or Prigozhin as a hero," Lukashenko stressed during his speech. In addition to this alleged exercise in humility, he also wanted to send a message of support to the reviled Russian Defense Minister: "I know Shoigu's work and sometimes he is undeservedly criticized."

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