Vladimir Putin: Russia closes investigation into Wagner rebellion - after Putin branded rebels as 'traitors'

The Russian president spoke from the Kremlin in his first appearance after the attempted rebellion amid questions over his whereabouts

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Russia has called of its investigation into the attempted rebellion led by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, just a day after Vladimir Putin said that those responsible would be brought to justice.

On Tuesday (27 June), Russia's Federal Security Service - or FSB - announced it had closed its criminal investigation into the armed rebellion and mercenary chief Prigozhin over the weekend, filing no charges against him or any other participants. The FSB said its investigation found that those involved in the mutiny “ceased activities directed at committing the crime”.

The charge of mounting an armed mutiny carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison in Russia, but he Kremlin earlier pledged not to prosecute Prigozhin and his fighters after he ended the revolt on Saturday - despite President Vladimir Putin branding them as traitors.

In a highly-anticipated address on Monday evening, Putin criticised the uprising’s “organisers”, without naming Prigozhin directly.

The televised speech sent an angry warning to those in involved with the disorder on Saturday (24 June) that "any blackmail is doomed to failure" and claimed that "neo-Nazis in Kyiv and the West" had wanted to see Russian forces turn on each other.

Vladimir Putin has addressed the Russian public for the first time since the attempted rebellion in Moscow (Credit: AFP via Getty Images)Vladimir Putin has addressed the Russian public for the first time since the attempted rebellion in Moscow (Credit: AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin has addressed the Russian public for the first time since the attempted rebellion in Moscow (Credit: AFP via Getty Images)

During his address, he said: "This civic solidarity has shown that any blackmail and attempts to arrange internal unrest are doomed to failure. I repeat - the highest consolidation of society, executive and legislative power was shown at all levels."

He also urged Prigozhin and his Wagner forces to either sign a contract to join with the Russian military or "move to Belarus". The Wagner leader is already reportedly living in exile in the country.

Earlier in the day, Prigozhin defended his actions in a defiant audio statement, the Associated Press reported. He again taunted the Russian military, but said he had not been seeking to stage a coup against Putin.

Prigozhin is said to have become frustrated with Putin and the Kremlin's methods and military tactics throughout the Ukraine war, and called out the attempt to fully integrate his paramilitary group into the Russian defence forces.

Following the step down from the chaos, the paramilitary leader is said to have been facing criminal charges, a claim which the Kremlin appeared to back down from after he left for Belarus. However, Putin's new remarks appears to show that the Kremlin may not be so quick to drop any possible charges, saying that the "criminal activity" seen in Moscow will be brought to justice.

The Russian president, who met with security ministers after his address, thanked the residents of Moscow for their "support, patriotism and solidarity" amid the mutiny. He also thanked his long-time ally Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for his role in finding a resolution for the situation.

Prigozhin withdrew troops from the Wagner Group because he "did not want to shed Russian blood" hours after the rebellion had begun. He was then reported to have been exiled from Russia to Belarus.

He broke his silence on the issue on Monday (26 June), releasing an 11-minute audio clip on social media site Telegram. Prigozhin said in the clip that he had led the rebellion to defend the destruction of his paramilitary group, rather than stage a coup of Putin's government, adding: “We started our march because of an injustice."

The whereabouts of Putin had become a major question following the attempted rebellion. He was not seen in public in the aftermath of the mutiny, with The Kremlin denying that he had fled the country as a result. The newest address, filmed at the Kremlin, was a pre-recorded video screened on Russian television.