‘We did not want to spill Russian blood’: Prigozhin makes statement on Wagner Group’s mutiny attempt

Read his address in full

I received thousands of questions regarding the events that transpired. I want to answer the key questions to avoid any misinterpretation.

What were the precursors of the March for Justice on 23 June 2023? PMC Wagner is possibly the most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, and perhaps even in the world.

They are motivated and driven fighters who have fulfilled an enormous number of objectives — always in the interest of the Russian Federation: in Africa, in the Arab states, and worldwide. Lately, the unit achieved good results in Ukraine, fulfilling the most serious of tasks. The unit was to be disbanded on 1 July 2023 due to plots and ill decisions.

The council of commanders gathered together and then informed the fighters of this. None of them agreed to sign contracts with the Defence Ministry. Everybody realised that this would lead to total loss of combat effectiveness. Skilled fighters and commanders would be used as cannon fodder. They wouldn’t be able to use their combat potential and experience. Those fighters who decided that they are ready to transfer to the Defence Ministry did so. But it was a minimal number: about 1-2%.

We used every line of reasoning to keep PMC Wagner whole. But none of our attempts to enter a different structure where we can be of real use worked.

We were categorically against what they wanted to do. Moreover, the decision to transfer PMC Wagner under the jurisdiction of the Defence Ministry, considering our attitude regarding the shutdown of PMC Wagner, was made at the most inopportune moment.

Nevertheless, we put our machinery on low roaders, collected what we needed, took inventory, and were prepared to head for Rostov-on-Don on 30 June and hand over the machinery in front of the military HQ if the decision was not made.

Despite the fact that we had not shown any aggression, we were targeted by a missile strike. And then the helicopters followed. About 30 people, Wagner PMC fighters, were killed. Some were injured. After this, the council of commanders decided that we must get moving instantly.

I made a statement in which I said that we have no plans to show aggression, but if we come under attack, we will consider this as an attempt to eliminate us and we will fight back. Over the course of the entire march, which lasted 24 hours, one of our columns entered Rostov-on-Don, and the other moved towards Moscow. We covered 780 km in 24 hours. Not one soldier was killed on the ground. We regret the fact that we were forced to strike aviation targets, but those aircraft dropped bombs and launched missiles at us.

Over 24 hours, we covered 780 km. We stopped at a location a little over 200 km from Moscow. Over this time, we blocked and neutralised all military objects that were in the way. I repeat: no one was killed on the ground.

And that was our goal. Several PMC Wagner fighters were injured. Two were killed — they were Russian Defence Ministry soldiers who joined us voluntarily.

None of the Wagner fighters were coerced into joining the march. Everyone knew its end goal. The end goal was to prevent the destruction of PMC Wagner and to hold accountable the people who have committed numerous mistakes over the course of the special military operation due to their incompetence. This is what the public demanded. All the soldiers who saw us during our march supported us.

We had about 200 km left until Moscow. We covered 780 km in both directions. We stopped when the first assault squad that approached a location 200 km from Moscow set up their artillery, did reconnaissance, and saw that a lot of blood could be spilled at that moment. So we decided that a demonstration of what we planned to do was enough. And we decided to turn back: for two key reasons. The first is that we did not want to spill Russian blood. The second is that we marched as a show of protest, not to overthrow the government.

This is when Alyaksandar Lukashenka reached out to me and helped us find solutions for the further operation of PMC Wagner in a legal space. The columns turned back and left for their field camps.

I want to point out that the March for Justice has confirmed so many things that we previously talked about. There are serious issues with security all over our country. We blocked all military units, all airfields that were in our way. In 24 hours, we covered the same distance as the one from the starting positions of Russian forces on 24 February 2022 to Kyiv. And the distance from the same point to Uzhhorod. So had a unit as well-trained and morally prepared as PMC Wagner been deployed on 24 February 2022, perhaps the special operation would have lasted 24 hours.

Clearly, there were other issues there, but we have shown a level of organisation that the Russian army must have. And when we marched across Russian cities on 23-24 June, local residents greeted us with Russian flags and PMC Wagner banners. They were all happy to see us as we walked past. Many of them are still sending us words of support. Some are disappointed that we stopped, because they saw the March of Justice not just as our fight for survival, but as a fight against bureaucracy and other ills that exist in our country.

These are the main questions I can answer to avoid misinterpretation in Russian and foreign media.

We started our march as a result of injustice. We killed no soldiers on the ground. In 24 hours, we reached a location 200 km from Moscow. We entered Rostov-on-Don and took full control of the city. We gave a masterclass showing what 24 February 2022 should have looked like.

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