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Putin vows to defend Russia against armed rebellion led by mercenary chief: ‘They will answer for it’

Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged Saturday to defend the country and its people from an armed rebellion declared by Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, describing the call to action as a treasonous decision that puts the country’s survival in peril.

In a televised address Saturday morning, Putin said the mutiny amounted to “a deadly threat to our statehood,” vowing there will be “tough actions” in response.

“All those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment,” Putin stated. “The armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders.”

While he did not call Prigozhin out by name, he described the rebellion as a “criminal adventure, a grave crime, an armed mutiny” and encouraged those involved to “stop participating in criminal acts.”

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Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation in Moscow Saturday following Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s arrival in Rostov-on-Don and alleged takeover of the city’s military facilities. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)

He said participating would be a “fatal and tragic, unique mistake” and the “only right choice” is to not get involved.

Putin’s condemnation of the rebellion comes during a time when he claims Russia is “fighting the toughest battle for its future” with its war on Ukraine.

“The entire military, economic and information machine of the West is waged against us,” Putin said, claiming that the armed rebellion is “a blow to Russia, to its people.”

“This battle, when the fate of our people is being decided, requires the unification of all forces, unity, consolidation and responsibility,” the Kremlin said. “Those who plotted and organized an armed rebellion, who raised arms against his comrades-in-arms, betrayed Russia. And they will answer for it.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, arrived in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday after calling for an armed rebellion. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

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Putin’s remarks come a day after Prigozhin accused the Kremlin of authorizing an attack on his forces, who are fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia. The attack, which Russian authorities deny, resulted in several promises of retaliation during a series of angry audio clips posted by Prigozhin on Russian social media site VKontakte (VK).

Yevgeny Prigozhin speaking

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, accused the Russian defense minister of launching an attack on his group, which is fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

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“This is not a military coup, but a march of justice,” Prigozhin declared.  “The evil embodied by the country’s military leadership must be stopped.”

This is a developing story. 

Fox News’ Peter Aitken and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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