Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of “treason” after the armed uprising by the head of the Wagner mercenary army, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Anyone who takes up arms and organizes an armed uprising will be punished, Putin said in a speech on Saturday. The Kremlin chief called on the Wagner fighters to immediately end their participation in criminal activities.

The anti-terror emergency had been declared in Moscow and the surrounding area. “In order to prevent possible terrorist attacks in the city and region of Moscow, a regime of counter-terrorist operations has been established,” the national anti-terrorist committee said. Safety precautions have been tightened. A state of emergency was also declared in the Voronezh region in the southwest on the border with Ukraine. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin announced an upcoming speech.

The private army mercenaries urged Russia’s defense ministry to end their armed insurgency. The ministry said they were drawn into a “criminal adventure” by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and took part in an armed uprising. “Many of your comrades from multiple units have already realized their mistake by asking for help so they can safely return to their locations,” it said. Support was given to the fighters and commanders.

The anti-terror emergency allows the Russian authorities to step up controls and make arrests easier. Telephone conversations can also be intercepted. However, it was initially unclear what specific measures were to be taken in Moscow and Voronezh. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin had previously announced “anti-terrorist measures”. In the metropolis with more than 13 million inhabitants, increased traffic controls have already been introduced, it said. Military vehicles were also on the move in the city center during the night.

Prigozhin threatens retaliation

On Friday evening, the head of Wagner’s private army, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused the Russian military leadership of attacking a camp of its mercenary troops with artillery, helicopters and rockets, killing many of his men. He threatened retaliation. According to Prigozhin, the Wagner troops managed to occupy military facilities in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. The army headquarters for the south of the country is located there. Law enforcement authorities are investigating Prigozhin for armed insurgency.

For months, a dispute between Wagner boss Prigozhin – actually a confidant of Putin – and the military leadership has been escalating. The mercenary leader accuses the Defense Ministry of poor leadership in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and has repeatedly sharply criticized Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in particular. The war against the neighboring country has already lasted 16 months.