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Rebel Russian mercenaries seize part of second city as Putin vows punishment – report- BBC -24.06.23

Summary


1. President Putin decries "betrayal" and "treason" following a dramatic challenge by the chief of the Wagner mercenary force

2. Prigozhin called for a rebellion against the army - although he has denied attempting a coup

3. Wagner says it has taken the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don near the Ukraine border - residents have been told to stay indoors

4. BBC News Russian sources also say Wagner mercenaries have seized military facilities in Voronezh, which is halfway between Rostov and Moscow

5. Prigozhin has threatened to march on Moscow unless he meets Russia's defence minister - and the UK says Wagner troops are heading towards the capital

6. On Friday night, security in Russia was tightened, the internet was restricted and military trucks were spotted on Moscow streets

7. Prigozhin accused the army of launching a deadly attack on his forces in Ukraine, where Wagner troops are fighting for Russia - Moscow denies this


Live Reporting

Edited by Samuel Horti


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1. Posted at 11:5811:58


Prigozhin directly challenges Putin - is this a defining moment?

Jaroslav Lukiv


Prigozhin used to have catering contracts from Putin, and was even nicknamed 'Putin's chef'


In his reply to President Vladimir Putin's TV address earlier today, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was defiant, vowing to end "corruption, lies and bureaucracy" in Russia.


It's believed to be the first time that Prigozhin has directly challenged the Kremlin ruler.

He was previously loyal to the president and even nicknamed "Putin's chef" for his catering contracts from the Kremlin.


Prigozhin's earlier scathing criticism of the Ukraine war centred mainly on Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valeriy Gerasimov, as well as Russia's FSB security service and the country's oligarchs.


In Russia rulers - or tsars - have for centuries been seen as untouchable, and taboo subjects for any criticism. A popular Russian saying is: "The tsar is good, the boyars [nobility around him] are bad."


Well, a claimed deadly Russian strike on a Wagner military base in Ukraine may have been the last straw for Prigozhin.


But he might have also been thinking that his battle-hardened fighters - reportedly as many as 25,000 of them - are now able to have an upper hand in a power struggle with the Kremlin, amid growing public discontent over Russia's full-scale invasion in Ukraine.


On top of that, there have been suggestions that Prigozhin may have some high-ranking backers in the Kremlin and the military.


Huge fire breaks out at Voronezh oil depot


A huge fire is burning at an oil depot in Voronezh - one of the two cities where Wagner fighters are believed to have seized key military sites.


The regional governor, Alexander Gusev, said 100 firefighters were working to put it out.

Videos circulating on social media show a massive column of black smoke rising from the site.


Our team at BBC Verify are looking at those videos and we hope to bring you some images soon.


The map below shows you where Voronezh is. It's halfway between Rostov-on-Don, which Wagner claims it has seized, and the capital Moscow.


Why Rostov-on-Don is significant


We've been writing a lot about Rostov-on-Don, the first city targeted by Wagner mercenaries.


It's an important city, and hosts the headquarters of the Russian Southern Military District command, which is currently engaged in operations against Ukrainian counteroffensives in southern Ukraine.


It's also located just 100km (60 miles) from the Ukrainian border and houses a command centre for the Russian forces in Ukraine, as well as being a logistical hub for the Russian army.


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank notes that any disruption or threat to the Russian military’s presence in Rostov "is likely to have ramifications on some critical aspects of the war effort".


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