A brief rebellion led by the founder of the Wagner Group mercenary army failed to oust Russia’s senior military leaders because troops remained loyal to their commanders, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Monday in his first known public remarks about the aborted uprising.
He said the June 23-25 mutiny was nothing less than an attempt to destabilize Russia.
“The provocation did not affect the actions of the troops. The servicemen courageously and selflessly continued to solve the tasks assigned to them,” Gen. Shoigu said in an address to top Russian military officials.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former caterer turned military commander, regularly blamed Mr. Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff, for not supporting the Wagner Group and seeking to fold his organization into the Russian Ministry of Defense.
On June 23, Mr. Prigozhin claimed Russian military forces attacked his base camps — a charge Moscow vehemently denied.
Mr. Prigozhin sent his Wagner Group forces back into Russia, quickly capturing the city of Rostov-on-Don.
The rebel troops got within about 120 miles of Moscow and then suddenly stopped, apparently as a result of negotiations by Aleksandr Lukashenko, president of Belarus.
Mr. Prigozhin, who was allowed to remain in Belarus as part of the deal, said he decided to end the advance to avoid “shedding Russian blood.”
“I thank the personnel for their conscientious service,” Gen. Shoigu said, according to Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news agency.