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Moscow prepares for Wagner Group arrival, Russian media say battles expected on the capital's outskirts

Saturday, 24 June 2023, 14:43
Moscow prepares for Wagner Group arrival, Russian media say battles expected on the capital's outskirts

The Office of the President of the Russian Federation anticipates that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group fighters will likely reach Moscow’s outskirts in the next few hours, with fighting expected near Russia’s capital.

Source: Meduza, citing sources in the Office of the Russian President; Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence on Telegram

Details: Sources told Meduza that the Office of the Russian President deemed it possible that Prigozhin was bluffing and that his goal was to obtain personal privileges as late as Friday, 23 June. However, the presidential administration appears to have realised the seriousness of the matter at hand when Wagner Group fighters seized control over Rostov-on-Don on the morning of 24 June.


A source close to the Russian government and another source close to the Kremlin told Meduza that Prigozhin "started to make a fuss" two weeks ago, after Putin announced that Wagner Group, Prigozhin’s private military company, had to sign a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence if it were to continue fighting in Ukraine. Prigozhin is known to have a long-standing feud with the Russian Defence Ministry.

A source close to the Russian presidential administration admitted that the Kremlin underestimated the scale of the conflict: "This has been discussed during meetings, but a conclusion was reached that [Prigozhin] is just a brash opportunist who does not play by the rules. The risk of a military coup was believed to be non-existent; it was said that only a crazy person would dare do that."

The Kremlin appears confident that the Russian army and law enforcement officers will be able to halt the advance of Wagner Group columns advancing on Moscow. However, one of the sources told Meduza that at least some Wagner Group fighters will be able to enter Moscow.

The Kremlin also appears concerned about Putin’s [popularity] ratings in light of the 2024 presidential election. A crackdown [on opposition] is also expected.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence said that Moscow is preparing for a siege.

According to Defence Intelligence, Moscow has been "practically cut off" by police and military forces, with enhanced patrols guarding every intersection and every exit from the city. A large number of buses without number plates carrying military personnel have been circulating through the city. Interregional public transport has been suspended.

Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence also reported that all military equipment that has so far remained in reserves or was deployed in Russia’s border regions is being transferred to Moscow.

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