Fact Check: Rebel Russian Mercenaries Did NOT Reach Moscow

Fact Check

  • by: Jamal Halaby
Fact Check: Rebel Russian Mercenaries Did NOT Reach Moscow It's Rostov

Did the revolting Russian mercenaries, known as the Wagner fighters, reach the Russian capital, Moscow? No, that's not true. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and founder of the Wagner army that launched the armed mutiny on June 24, 2023, said his men reached within 125 miles (200 km) of the capital but turned back, according to audio released Prigozhin's press service on Telegram.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) posted on TikTok on June 25, 2023, under the title: "Mass escape from Moscow following the entry of Wagner forces."

The 30-second video showed people running in the street, with a caption claiming the incident was in Moscow after the Wagner Group entered the city. But an unidentified man in the fleeing crowd, in English, said he was in Rostov-on-Don, which is 1,077 kilometers south of Moscow, nearly a 13-hour drive by car.

He said:

We just heard a loud bang near the ... military headquarters here in Rostov and we heard screams for us to run away from this place as soon as possible, and as you can see, people are running.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Rostov explosion.jpg

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Jun 27 09:56:24 2023 UTC)

Lead Stories verified the video, which contained identical clips found on Twitter. On the platform, multiple users claimed that the commotion depicted in the footage was caused by an explosion at the headquarters of Russia's Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don. This incident occurred on Saturday, June 24, when the Wagner Group briefly took control of the important facility.

Reuters reported that the Wagner group captured the city of Rostov "before racing in convoy through the country, transporting tanks and armored trucks and smashing through barricades set up to stop them." But it pointed out that the heavily armed Russian mercenaries "who advanced most of the way to Moscow began turning back on Saturday, de-escalating a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin's grip on power, in a move their leader said would avoid bloodshed."

The Kremlin announced that Putin had pardoned the Wagner troops after their brief insurgency. They released a statement containing excerpts from Putin's speech to the nation on June 26, 2023. In his address, Putin expressed gratitude to the soldiers and commanders of the Wagner Group who made the right decision - the only viable one - to abstain from engaging in fratricidal violence and halted their actions before crossing the point of no return.

  Jamal Halaby

Jamal Halaby is a fact-checker, who has been working with Lead Stories for nearly two years, helping bring the truth and factual information to the organization's global audience. With extensive background in investigative journalism and content writing and editing in Arabic and English, Jamal uses that experience to expose a burgeoning market of misinformation and disinformation. Previously, he worked as a writer for the Associated Press and several other reputable international news organizations. He has a passion for empirical analysis and discerning the veracity of the news.

Read more about or contact Jamal Halaby

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