Russia coup: Army helicopters open fire on Wagner group on Voronezh highway | World News - Hindustan Times
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Russia coup: Army helicopters open fire on Wagner group on Voronezh highway

ByAniruddha Dhar
Jun 24, 2023 05:48 PM IST

Russian Army helicopters reportedly opened fire on a Wagner mercenary military convoy on the M4 highway outside the city of Voronezh.

Russian Army helicopters reportedly opened fire on a Wagner mercenary military convoy on the M4 highway outside Voronezh city on Saturday. The city is over halfway along the 1,100-km highway from Rostov to Moscow, Reuters reported.

Helicopters attack oil depot in Russia's Voronezh(Source: @BNONews)
Helicopters attack oil depot in Russia's Voronezh(Source: @BNONews)

This comes shortly after the governor of Russia's Voronezh region said emergency services were trying to put out a burning fuel tank at an oil depot. More than 100 firefighters and 30 units of equipment were working at the site, Alexander Gusev, the governor said on Telegram.

Earlier on Saturday, a Russian security source told news agency Reuters that Wagner fighters had taken control of military facilities in the city of Voronezh, about 500 km south of Moscow. The claim could not be confirmed independently.

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In Rostov, which serves as the main rear logistical hub for Russia's entire invasion force, residents milled about, filming on mobile phones, as Wagner fighters in armoured vehicles and battle tanks took up positions.

One tank was wedged between stucco buildings with posters advertising the circus. Another had "Siberia" daubed in red paint across the front, a clear statement of intent to sweep across the breadth of Russia.

In Moscow, there was an increased security presence on the streets. Red Square was blocked off by metal barriers.

Russia's Putin vows to punish Prigozhin

President Vladimir Putin vowed to punish Wagner group's Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led his troops out of Ukraine. Putin denounced the uprising as “a stab in the back." It was the biggest threat to his leadership in over two decades in power.

As the fast-moving events unfolded in Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow is suffering “full-scale weakness” and that Kyiv was protecting Europe from “the spread of Russian evil and chaos".

In his address, Putin called the actions by Prigozhin, whom he did not mention by name, a “betrayal” and “treason.”

Outfit reaches Rostov-on-Don

Prigozhin confirmed he and his troops reached Rostov-on-Don after crossing the border from Ukraine.

He posted a video of himself at the military headquarters in Rostov and claimed that his forces had taken control of the airfield and other military facilities in the city. Other videos on social media showed military vehicles, including tanks, on the streets.

Prigozhin said his forces faced no resistance from young conscripts as they crossed into Russia, saying his troops “aren’t fighting against children.”

Prigozhin also said Wagner’s forces shot down a Russian military helicopter that fired on a civilian convoy, but there was no independent confirmation of that. He alleged that General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff, ordered the attacks following a meeting with Shoigu, where they decided to destroy Wagner.

The defence ministry denied attacking the Wagner camps. Prigozhin said he had 25,000 troops under his command and urged the army not to offer resistance.

Residents of Russia's Lipetsk urged to stay home

Authorities in Russia's southwestern Lipetsk region urged residents to stay at home on Saturday after the Wagner mercenary group vowed to take up arms to topple the country's military leadership.

"To ensure law and order and the safety of the citizens of the Lipetsk region, the operational headquarters of the region asks residents without urgent need not to leave their homes and refrain from any travel by personal or public transport," the press service of the regional government said in a statement on social media.

The announcement came as the governor of the neighbouring region of Voronezh, where the army said it was leading "combat" operations, voiced support for President Vladimir Putin after officials said an oil depot was on fire there.

(With inputs from Reuters and AP)

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