Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin aimed to capture Russian generals, report says

Yevgeny Prigozhin

This video grab taken from handout footage posted on June 24, 2023 on the Telegram account of the press service of Concord -- a company linked to the chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin -- shows Yevgeny Prigozhin speaking inside the headquarters of the Russian southern military district in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

Photo credit: Telegram/ @concordgroup_official

What you need to know:

  • The mercenary chief sought to seize the defence minister and the military’s chief of staff but failed when they discovered his plan, Western officials say
  • Another report says some Russian generals may have known about the mutiny, and that Prigozhin wouldn’t have acted without believing others would come to his aid

Wagner army chief Yevgeny Prigozhin aimed to detain the heads of the Russian military in last week's  mutiny, but they discovered his planned rebellion early and avoided capture, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The newspaper cited Western officials saying that Prigozhin sought to seize archrivals Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, and chief of staff General Valery Gerasimov while they were on a visit to the south.

But the Russian domestic security service FSB learned of the plan and Shoigu and Gerasimov changed their travel, the Journal said, citing unnamed officials. 

That forced Prigozhin to move early, and on Friday his Wagner forces seized control of the headquarters of the Russian Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, a key logistics and command center for the war on Ukraine.

US officials have told media that they knew days ahead about the planned uprising, in which Prigozhin sent a column of forces from his privately-run army toward Moscow before giving up as President Vladimir Putin branded the group "traitors."

Also citing unnamed US officials, the New York Times reported that senior Russian General Sergei Surovikin knew in advance of Prigozhin's mutiny plans. 

The advance knowledge by top military officials could have prevented potential allies of Prigozhin and Wagner from joining the revolt, contributing to its failure. 

Russian National Guard Commander Viktor Zolotov said Tuesday that there were leaks from Wagner about the revolt, and alleged that Western agents could have been behind it, according to Russian state media.