Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that Vladimir Putin was “deeply mistaken” to call him and his forces traitors, telling the leader that he and his men would not surrender.
Mr Prigozhin described himself and Wagner forces as “true patriots”, in the first statement made since the Russian President delivered a televised address on Saturday morning calling the Wagner mutiny “treason”.
In his most direct comments made against Vladimir Putin since the start of the war in Ukraine, Mr Prigozhin said: “And no one is going to surrender to the demands of the President, FSB, or anyone else.”
The Wagner chief said on Saturday that he had crossed into Russia with his forces to topple Moscow’s military leadership and said the group had taken control of military buildings and the airport in Rostov.
“We are inside the (army) headquarters, it is 7:30 am (0430 GMT),” Prigozhin said in a video on Telegram. “Military sites in Rostov, including an aerodrome, are under control,” he added, saying he and his 25,000 fighters were “ready to die”.
A Wagner mercenary military column of vehicles drove past the Russian city of Voronezh on Saturday afternoon, a Reuters witness said.
One of the vehicles was a flatbed truck carrying a tank.
Mr Gusev had previously informed residents via Telegram that the army was taking “necessary military measures in the region” as part of a counter-terrorist operation in the area.