Most of the Russian casualties came when Wagner forces shot down a Russian army attack helicopter and a transport aircraft, killing everyone aboard, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
The Ilyushin Il-18 plane and the Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter were taken down at the height of the Wagner mutiny on Saturday, killing both crews totalling some dozen Russian troops, according to Focus.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry has yet to confirm any casualties among the country’s regular armed forces, the PAP news agency reported.
Wagner’s armed revolt against the Kremlin
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced his rebellion on Friday evening, saying that the Russian army had attacked rear camps of his mercenaries, killing many of the Wagner fighters, the PAP news agency reported.
Prigozhin said he commanded a force of 25,000 troops that would “restore justice,” and demanded the dismissal of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to news outlets.
Wagner forces on Saturday took control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, and began to advance on Moscow, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported.
However, on Saturday evening, Prigozhin said he had told his fighters to halt the march on Moscow and return to field camps in Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine, “to avoid bloodshed,” British public broadcaster BBC reported.
Prigozhin’s move was reportedly the result of an agreement to de-escalate the situation, struck after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko held talks with the Wagner leader, in coordination with Putin, according to PAP.
Under the deal, Prigozhin also agreed to leave Russia for Belarus, with Putin and Lukashenko guaranteeing his personal safety, according to the Kremlin.
‘Danger of disturbances in Belarus’: Polish expert
Meanwhile, Gen. Waldemar Skrzypczak, former commander of Poland’s ground forces, has warned of potential negative developments in Belarus.
In an interview with the PAP news agency on Sunday, Skrzypczak said that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko remained “a stooge” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Polish general stated: “Belarus will continue to generate the problems currently facing Poland, for example at the eastern border. And so if Poland should be worried by anything, it’s the potential events in Belarus.”
Skrzypczak added: “There is a danger that Belarus may be rocked by disturbances, as a result of which we’ll witness an exodus of Belarusian people to Poland.”
Opportunity for Ukraine
According to the Polish general, the latest events in Russia represent an opportunity for Ukraine to carry out an effective counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s invading forces.
Skrzypczak told PAP: “Prigozhin’s rebellion has clearly undermined the morale of the Russian army, which creates excellent conditions for the Ukrainian army to conduct an offensive.”
He said: “Ukraine should take advantage of this moment of weakness, and the absence of Prigozhin’s forces on the front.”
He added: “It seems to be happening, because on Saturday Ukraine launched a counteroffensive near Bakhmut on the eastern front. This push now has more chances of success, because if Prigozhin’s forces return to the battlefield, it will be in two or three days’ time at the earliest.”
Wagner mutiny sows seeds of civil war in Russia: Ukrainian expert
Saturday’s anti-Kremlin rebellion by Prigozhin and his Wagner Group has sown the seeds of civil war in Russia, a Ukrainian military analyst has said.
Oleksandr Musiyenko, who heads the Centre for Military and Legal Studies in Kyiv, told the PAP news agency on Sunday: “We’ve seen clashes between Wagner fighters and the regular Russian army. We’ve seen aircraft and helicopters being taken down. At least 15 Russian soldiers were killed on Russian territory. These are signs of a civil war.”
According to Musiyenko, Prigozhin made a mistake by agreeing to end his armed revolt and leave Russia for Belarus as part of a deal with the Kremlin brokered by Belarus.
The Ukrainian military expert said: “Prigozhin has failed to take his chance and he’s unlikely to get a second one ... In my view, it was a bad decision because Putin does not forgive such actions.”
However, Prigozhin’s rebellion will “embolden others,” Musiyenko said.
He told PAP: “People have seen the army and the authorities show weakness. Putin showed weakness by agreeing to this deal. The authorities showed weakness by dropping charges against Prigozhin for organising the rebellion. Everyone has realised that the elites are gripped by a great fear and that Putin is very afraid.”
Wagner revolt ‘plays into Ukraine’s hands’
Musiyenko believes that Prigozhin’s rebellion “has accelerated the disintegration of Russia,” the PAP news agency reported.
The Ukrainian military expert said: “Coups and civil wars aren’t necessarily completed in a few days or weeks. But many processes have accelerated. For us, the Ukrainian people, it plays right into our hands.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.
Monday is day 488 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: PAP, The Guardian, Ukrainska Pravda, BBC