RUSSIA UPDATE: Wagner mercenaries halt advance on Moscow as Belarus President plays peacemaker, secures truce

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President Putin has branded Progozhin’s insurrection a “stab in the back” and a “betrayal”

He appealed to Russian military men and those “who have been drawn into this criminal gamble by deceit or threats,” to desist.

His country, he said, was engaged in a historic struggle to safeguard its future while “repelling aggression from neo-Nazis and their masters” in the West.

He added: “We are fighting for the lives and safety of our people, for our sovereignty and independence. For the right to be and remain Russia.”

Announcing his offensive in the early hours of the day, Prigozhin, 62,said he had crossed into Russia with his forces to topple Moscow’s military leadership, saying he and his 25,000 fighters were ‘ready to die’.

He said his forces, who have spearheaded much of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, had entered the Rostov-on-Don and controlled its military sites.

He said: “We are inside the (army) headquarters, it is 7:30 am (0430 GMT).

“Military sites in Rostov, including an aerodrome, are under control.”

Prigozhin said planes taking part in the Ukraine offensive “are leaving as normal” from the airfield, and called on Russians not to believe what they were being told on state television.

“A huge amount of territory is lost. Soldiers have been killed three, four times more than it says in documents shown to the top (leadership).”

He had on Friday accused the Russian Defense Ministry of launching a deadly missile strike on a Wagner Group camp, vowing retaliation. The ministry, however, dismissed the allegation, describing it as “an information provocation.”

The Russian authorities later said that they had opened a criminal investigation into the Wagner chief for allegedly calling for an armed rebellion.

Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov had informed Putin of “the initiation of a criminal case in connection with an attempt to organise an armed rebellion”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

*Biden speaks with Scholz, Macron and Sunak about Russian situation*

U.S. President Joe Biden called up German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,to discuss the development in Russia, according to the White House.

The partners reaffirmed their “unwavering support” for Ukraine, a U.S. government statement said.

Biden was also briefed in the morning by his national security team on developments in Russia, where a mercenary force is challenging the government.

Other attendees included U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Secretaries of Defence and State Lloyd Austin, and Antony Blinken, the statement said.

The whereabouts of Putin could not be ascertained yesterday soon after his broadcast.

Reports said two presidential planes linked to him flew out of Moscow towards Tver and St Petersburg yesterday before switching off their transponders.

Reportedly on board the aircraft were top Kremlin officials, including the Russian President. Other business planes were also seen making an exodus from the capital towards St Petersburg.

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