June 24 (Reuters) – Mutinous Russian mercenary fighters surged most of the way to Moscow before their leader said they had agreed to turn back to avoid bloodshed. Here is a timeline of events as they have unfolded over the last 24 hours.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the private army called Wagner, releases a video stepping up his feud with Russia’s military top brass and for the first time rejects President Vladimir Putin’s core justification for invading Ukraine.
– In a series of subsequent audio recordings posted on Telegram, Prigozhin says the “evil” of Russia’s military leadership “must be stopped” and his Wagner mercenary force will lead a “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 the Wagner militia 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 have entered the southern Russian city of Rostov, Prigozhin says in an audio recording posted on Telegram.
– The White House says it is monitoring the situation involving Russia and the Wagner force, and will be consulting with allies and partners on developments.
– The governor of southern Russia’s Rostov region adjoining Ukraine tells residents to remain calm and stay indoors as it becomes clear that Wagner forces have taken control of the city of Rostov.
– Russian’s Defence Ministry issues a statement appealing to Wagner fighters to abandon Prigozhin, saying they have been “deceived and dragged into a criminal adventure”.
– A Russian security source tells Reuters Wagner fighters have taken control of all military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500 km (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 Putin ally, says his forces are ready to help put down the revolt by Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary.
– European governments including Britain, France, Germany and Italy issue statements saying they are closely watching developments in Russia. During the day, numerous other governments around the world issue similar statements.
– Russian military helicopters open fire on a convoy of rebel mercenaries already more than half way towards Moscow in a lightning advance after seizing Rostov overnight.
– Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy 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, the TASS news agency reports.
– Russian soldiers set up a machine gun position on the southwest edge of Moscow, according to photographs published by the Vedomosti newspaper.
Photographs also show armed police gathering at the point where the M4 highway – which mutinous Wagner mercenaries are moving along – reaches the Russian capital.
– President Tayyip Erdogan speaks by telephone with Putin and urges him to act with common sense, the Turkish presidency says.
Belarus issues a statement reaffirming its alliance with Russia.
– The White House says U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and that they have affirmed their support for Ukraine. U.S. 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 have been promised an amnesty if they lay down their weapons “but they should do it fast”, the TASS news agency cites lawmaker 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.
Reporting by Reuters reporters
Editing by Gavin Jones, Helen Popper, Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood