Updated Jun 26, 2023, 12:00pm EDT

Wagner’s Prigozhin: We didn’t want to overthrow the Russian government

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Press service of "Concord"/Handout via REUTERS

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Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian leader of the mercenary Wagner Group who led a short-lived uprising in opposition to the Kremlin over the weekend, said the rebellion was not meant to overthrow the Russian government, but still showed serious security problems in the country.

In an 11-minute message posted to Telegram, Prigozhin said his forces turned around because they didn’t want to spill Russian blood.

He also claimed that no contract had been signed between Wagner and the Russian defense ministry, and that the unit was supposed to cease existing at the end by July 1, though it’s unclear what that would’ve looked like.

Prigozhin has reportedly fled to Belarus after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused him of leading an armed uprising against the government. Wagner troops marched toward Moscow on Saturday before reaching a deal with the Kremlin and turning around.

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In his remarks on Telegram, Prigozhin said his group didn’t march to overthrow Russia’s leadership, but rather to hold those accountable who made mistakes during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He also said the rebellion exposed security issues with the country, and that he regrets that “we had to hit Russian aviation.” Prigozhin claimed Wagner showed no signs of aggression but was still hit with missiles and artillery.

Earlier this month, the Russian government ordered that all “volunteer units” should sign contracts to be under the control of the defense ministry by July 1, Reuters reported. The Akhmat group of Chechen special forces signed the contract, while Prigozhin refused to do so.