Ukraine Gained Ground As Russia Focused on Wagner Group Insurrection

  • Russian forces spent Saturday preparing to defend Moscow from a paramilitary uprising.
  • But Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his fighters to turn around just before reaching the capital.
  • Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine said their forces made advancements in Russian-occupied territory.

While Russia scrambled to defend itself from its own paramilitary forces on Saturday, Ukrainian leaders said their own forces managed to make advancements in Russian-occupied territory.

The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization led by Yevgeny Prigozhin — a former ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — marched across Russia on Saturday, coming within hours of Moscow. Prigozhin then ordered his fighters to turn around, claiming he wanted to avoid bloodshed. 

His point was apparently made.

Meanwhile, far from the internal drama unfolding in Russia, Ukraine’s counter-offensive — which began earlier this month — continued.

Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense, said Saturday that Ukrainian forces launched new counter-offensives in the country’s east and were holding Russian forces in defensive positions in the south.

“The eastern group of troops today began an offensive in several directions simultaneously,” she said on Twitter, according to a translation.

Those advances have yet to be independently confirmed.

The BBC reported that Ukraine has made advances since launching its counter-offensive on June 4, including in the days and hours before the Wagner Group’s apparently brief insurrection. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, has called the progress “slower than desired.”

While Ukraine continued its efforts to retake territory, Russia was forced to defend itself from itself.

Before the Wagner Group fighters turned back, Russian security officials were gearing up to defend Moscow. The capital’s mayor said the city was imposing anti-terrorism measures and ordered residents to stay home from work on Monday.

Prigozhin called his advance on Moscow a “march for justice,” claiming without evidence that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered an air strike on Wagner forces in Ukraine on Friday. Tensions between the Wagner boss and Russia’s top military leaders had been simmering for months.

Amid the chaos in Russia, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, and the vice-chair, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, said Saturday they were monitoring “what appears to be a significant internal conflict among Russian forces,” CBS reports.

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