The top US diplomat has held crisis talks with America’s closest allies, as Russia’s Wagner Group private mercenaries launched an armed rebellion against the country’s leader Vladimir Putin.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call on Saturday morning with his G7 and EU counterparts, as Wagner fighters took control of some military facilities in southern Russia and advanced toward Moscow.
‘The United States will stay in close coordination with Allies and partners as the situation continues to develop,’ Blinken wrote on Twitter.
Blinken spoke with all of his G7 counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the State Department said.
The diplomats discussed ‘the ongoing situation in Russia’ according to a State Department release confirming the call.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (above) said on Saturday he spoke with his G7 and EU counterparts after Wagner fighters took control of some military facilities in southern Russia
Overnight Friday, Wagner mercenary forces reportedly advanced from Rostov-on-Don to Voronezh as they moved swiftly toward the Russian capital of Moscow on the M4 highway
‘Secretary Blinken reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change,’ State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a release.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin says Putin spoke to leaders of Russia’s own close allies on Saturday, following the armed rebellion launched by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin spoke on the phone with the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and ‘informed his counterparts of the situation.’
Putin also spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is a NATO member, but has cultivated ties with Russia, including through deals to purchase military hardware from Moscow.
A Kremlin statement said Putin informed Erdogan ‘about the situation in the country related to an attempted armed rebellion,’ and the Turkish president ‘expressed full support for the steps of the Russian leadership.’
The Wagner forces are being led by Wagner Group owner Prigozhin, who on Friday called for an armed uprising to oust Putin’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.
Though the situation on the ground in Russia remained highly fluid and uncertain, there were indications that Wagner forces were advancing swiftly on Moscow on Saturday evening.
The Wagner forces are being led by Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, who on Friday called for an armed uprising to oust Putin’s defense minister
A military column of Wagner private mercenary fighters drives on Saturday near Voronezh along M-4 highway, which links the capital Moscow with Russia’s southern cities
Armored vehicles are seen on the M4 highway on the outskirts of Moscow on Saturday
An oil depot in Voronezh region is seen ablaze. Reports claim it was ‘blitzed by a pro-Putin strike helicopter’ to thwart Wagner fighters from seizing the fuel as the mercenaries advance
The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk province said Saturday that the mercenary group has entered the region.
The Lipetsk region is about 225 miles south of Moscow and much closer to the capital than Rostov-on-Don, where Wagner forces appeared on Friday night.
Authorities ‘are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population. The situation is under control,’ governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram.
He did not give details about the Wagner presence.
In a sign of how seriously the Kremlin took Prigozhin’s threat, riot police and the National Guard scrambled to tighten security at key facilities in Moscow, including government agencies and transport infrastructure, Russian state media reported.
There also was tighter security in areas between the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where Prigozhin’s Wagner group appeared to be in control of local military headquarters, and Moscow.
The governor of the Lipetsk region asked residents to stay at home and refrain from traveling.
Russian regular troops loyal to Putin are seen digging in to defend Moscow on Saturday
Armored vehicles are seen near a checkpoint along the M4 highway as Russian troops prepared to defend the capital city from Wagner mercenaries
In the neighboring Tambov region, mass events were canceled Saturday.
Those events included high school graduation parties. Russia’s Education Ministry said such parties were being postponed until July 1 in Moscow, the region around the capital and ‘a number of other regions where additional anti-terrorist measures have been introduced.’
In the capital, traffic on the Moscow River was suspended.
Police officers in bulletproof vests and with machine guns were seen near the entrance of the major highway that links Moscow with Voronezh and Rostov-on-Don.
Developing story, more to follow.