Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has broken his silence since the failed military coup at the weekend.
He posted an 11-minute audio message where he failed to reveal his location – despite being exiled to Belarus.
He said no-one agreed to sign a contract with the defence ministry and that his mercenary firm was bound to cease existence on July 1.
Prigozhin said: ‘We started our march because of an injustice.’
He claimed the decision to turn around the march on Moscow was because he and his fighters didn’t want to shed Russian blood.
Prigozhin also said it was not his aim to overthrow the Russian government but to demonstrate his anger with the actions of the Ministry of Defence.
The former Wagner leader also repeated his claim that his troops were attacked by Russian soldiers, saying 30 people died with more injured.
The militia revolted on Friday, with Prigozhin saying he wanted to punish defence minister Sergei Shoigu and army chief Valery Gerasimov for targeting his troops with rockets.
He said his troops had advanced 124 miles towards Moscow in the following 24 hours, with the city braced for war.
The uprising posed the biggest threat to Vladimir Putin’s leadership in more than two decades in power.
Putin had vowed to crush the rebellion – calling it a ‘stab in the back’ – and warned anyone involved in the ‘rebellion’ will ‘suffer inevitable punishment’.
The Kremlin denied reports he had fled the capital amid several claiming aircraft linked to the president were spotted flying out as Wagner forces close in.
Prigozhin, whose forces have spearheaded the Russian advance in Ukraine, claimed to have captured the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov without firing a shot.
Prigozhin made it clear that he didn’t target Putin when he declared his troops would march on Moscow, saying: ‘We didn’t march to overthrow Russia’s leadership.’
In his video message, he said: ‘The aim of the march was to avoid destruction of Wagner and to hold to account the officials who through their unprofessional actions have committed a massive number of errors’.
He says Wagner regrets ‘they had to hit Russian aviation’ and they turned around ‘to avoid spilling blood of Russian soldiers.’
He added: ‘We have shown the level of organisation that an army must meet.’
Prigozhin also insisted that he is still receiving words of support from civilians – and some of his fighters were greeted with flags.
‘They were all happy when we passed by. Many of them still write words of support, and some are disappointed that we stopped,’ he said.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the mercenary leader ‘drove a coach and horses through President Putin’s case for war.’
Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Cleverly quoted Wagner leader Mr Prigozhin’s public statements which suggested the war in Ukraine was started so Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu could collect personal accolades and other reasons that differ from the official Kremlin line.
The Foreign Secretary said: ‘He drove a coach and horses through President Putin’s case for war.’
He added: ‘Now that Russia’s leadership cannot justify this war, even to each other, the only rightful course is for Putin to withdraw his troops and end this bloodshed now.’
Cleverly said the mutiny was an ‘unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority.’
He added: ‘The Russian government’s lies have been exposed by one of President Putin’s own henchman.
‘Now, the full story of this weekend’s events and the long-term effects will take some time to become clear and it is not helpful to speculate.
‘But (Yevgeny) Prigozhin’s rebellion is an unprecedented challenge to President Putin’s authority and it is clear that cracks are emerging in the Russian support for the war.
‘I, of course, hold no candle for Prigozhin or his forces. They have committed atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere. But he has said out loud what we have believed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, that this invasion was both unjustified and unprovoked.
‘The events of this weekend are an unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority, with an armoured column approaching his own capital city.’
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