Inside Russia’s 24hr civil war after Wagner rebels’ plot to topple 'weak' Putin… and exact moment Moscow march was axed | The Sun

RUSSIA was placed on the brink of collapse in a 24-hour rebellion – and it may be the beginning of the end for Vladimir Putin.

The world is still reeling from the extraordinary events which saw the ruthless Wagner Group mercenaries rise up against the Kremlin.

Putin's increasingly bitter feud with his old pal Yevgeny Prigozhin violently erupted as the warlord stormed toward Moscow.

The nuclear-armed state looked like it was on the verge of a complete meltdown.

Fascinating new details emerging today reveal a Kremlin in total disarray, a Russian president detached from reality, and desperate eleventh-hour phone calls.

Prigozhin is also claimed to have been planning his rebellion for eight months – only to see it collapse within hours when he realised he had "overstepped" as his troops neared Moscow.

Western officials believe this is "chapter one" of a new era for Russia – with potentially Stalin-style purges to come as Putin tries to shore up his weakened rule.

The war of words over the military operations in Ukraine became an open rebellion on Friday night when Putin's forces issued an arrest warrant for Prigozhin.

Wagner forces quickly mobilised, seized Rostov-on-Don and Voronez, and then set their sights on Moscow on Saturday.

Prigozhin's heavily armed convoy barreled down the M4 motorway with Russian police hastily erecting trenches and roadblocks.

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Diggers ripped up roads, dump trucks full of sand were rolled into place, and machine gun nests were set up in a full lockdown.

Wagner forces blew six Russian helicopters out of the sky and downed an air force command plane.

Prigozhin's men made quick progress – and faced a surprising lack of resistance, even claiming military defectors had joined them.

Putin was rumoured to have fled the Kremlin and headed to his bunker far north.

It looked like Wagner could do the unthinkable – they could win.

But then as suddenly as the rebellion began it quickly ended, with Prigozhin ordering his men to stand down.

He said he had struck a deal with the Kremlin and was moving to Belarus.

Priogzhin hasn't been seen since.

Russia's cloak-and-dagger psychodrama played out for the world to see, but now it is eerily quiet once again.

Kremlin officials said they wouldn't prosecute the Wagner group, but today it was reported Prigozhin is still wanted by the FSB.

Pirgozhin may have left the stage, but his actions have exposed Putin as a mere mortal

Putin also appears to have gone to ground – with his already fraying authority seemingly in tatters.

Russian news outlet Meduza reports that the charge of the convoy collapsed when Prigozhin realised he had "overstepped".

British intelligence believes that despite boasting he had 25,000 men at his back – he actually only had 8,000.

Prigozhin reportedly tried to call Putin in the middle of the day on Saturday – but Vlad "didn't want to talk to him".

Wagner forces, reported Meduza, were heading for the Oka River south of Moscow.

And there was the first well-organised defence line against them, with entrenched units from the Russian Army and Rosgvarida.

Prigozhin opted to enter talks – insisting he meet with "top officials" and brokered a deal with Russia.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is said to have agreed to act as the plan's "front man" as he "loves PR".

Russian human rights organisation Gulagu – which has sources within the security services – reported Prigozhin had been plotting his coup for eight months.

It claimed that at no point did Prigozhin leave his temporary HQ in Rostov even as his forces headed towards Moscow – 600 miles north.

Gulagu claimed that despite the assurances the warlord received, many Wagner commanders were not given the same special treatment.

"By the end of the year, they will be detained or liquidated," they reported.

But despite the coup's apparent failure and his own seemingly humiliating climb down, Prigozhin was given a hero's welcome when he was last seen in public as he left Rostov.

The warlord – a billionaire for catering boss who was once one of Vlad's most loyal stooges – was seen taking selfies and chatting with ordinary Russians.

Mercenaries were greeted with chants of "Wagner! Wagner!" as they loaded up their tanks and headed back to their bases.

And police forces who returned to the city were met with shouts of "shame" and "traitor".

It raises more questions about the popular support in Russia for both Putin and his failing war in Ukraine.

But as the coup quietly wrapped up, the West is believed to have actually breathed a sigh of relief.

US officials reportedly feared that Wagner forces or other even worse figures than Putin could get their hands on Russia's enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Intelligence chiefs are believed to have known at least two weeks in advance what Prigozhin was planning – and were very worried about the prospect of a nuclear state dissolving into civil war.

It has previously been warned the collapse of the Russian Federation would lead to a network of nuclear-armed mini-states at war with one another – potentially leading to an atomic bloodbath.

US and British officials are also reported to have known about Prigozhin's coup days in advance.

"I think our Government knew for a few days that something was coming," said Alicia Kearns MP, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee.

"That means Russian intelligence should clearly have had some idea.

"Did Russian intelligence not believe he was capable of marching on Moscow or did they lie to Putin because they were scared of him?"

Putin's inner circle has previously been revealed to coddle him – hiding bad news or just straight up lying to him.

He is reported to be increasingly isolated and living in a "cocoon" as the war devolves in Ukraine.

Vlad's inner circle is small – with him having very few close confidantes, beyond figures like his mistress Alina Kabaeva and his stooge Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin is believed to be obsessed with his own death – both from possible illness or from the knife of assassins.

One of the long-reported linchpins of Putin's personality has been his deep-seated fear that he could be "killed like Gaddafi" – with the Libyan tyrant being overthrown and murdered in 2011.

US secretary-of-state Antony Blinken yesterday said that the attempted rebellion shows there are "real cracks" in Putin's rule.

And now his knife-wielding rivals may be circling as strongman Vlad has been left exposed.

Putin's decision to seemingly let Prigozhin go despite him almost tearing Russia apart has raised many eyebrows.

Hawkish loyalists are even questioning the move on the usually Putin-loving Russian state TV.

His top propagandists were yesterday outraged that the warlord wasn't given a "bullet into the forehead".

But despite Mad Vlad's regime surviving its biggest challenge in 20 years and Russia facing its most dramatic moment since the fall of the Soviet Union, it appears, for now, its advantage Putin.

Vlad however still hasn't made a public appearance since his fire-spitting address on Saturday morning in which he raged over "treason" and "backstabbing".

And whatever has happened behind the scenes over the last 72 hours, it appears Vlad's regime is now weaker than it was on Friday.

"The many Kremlin watchers who until now believed Putin was beyond any internal challenge have been proved wrong," said Colonel Richard Kemp, writing in The Telegraph.

"Pirgozhin may have left the stage, but his actions have exposed Putin as a mere mortal.

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"The Moscow elites who have for decades depended on strong leadership are now watching a regime fall to pieces."

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