London, June 28 (IANS) Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin planned to seize two of Russia’s top military officials when he launched a short lived mutiny on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing Western officials, CNN reported.
Prigozhin’s plot involved the capture of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and top army general Valery Gerasimov when the pair visited a region along the border of Ukraine, the WSJ wrote.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) learned of the plot two days before it was due to take place, forcing Prigozhin to change his plans at the last minute and launch a march towards Moscow instead, according to the report, CNN reported.
Wagner mercenaries took control of a key military base in the city of Rostov-on-Don, and his troops were approaching the Russian capital when Prigozhin called off his mutiny.
When asked about the WSJ report, two European security sources told CNN that while it was likely Prigozhin would have expressed a desire to capture Russian military leaders, there was no assessment as to whether he had a credible plan to do so.
There has been speculation about the role of senor Russian commanders as the mutiny got underway on Friday night. The New York Times, citing US officials who it said were briefed on American intelligence, reported that the commander of the Russian air force, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, “had advance knowledge of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership”, CNN reported.
Surovikin appealed to Prigozhin to halt the mutiny soon after it began, in a video message that made it clear he sided with Putin.
Viktor Zolotov, the director of Russia’s National Guard, claimed Monday that senior Russian officials knew of Prigozhin’s plans for a rebellion because people close to the Wagner boss had leaked them, Russian state media agency TASS reported.
Zolotov also claimed the mutiny was “inspired by Western intelligence services” because “they knew weeks in advance”, CNN reported.