The Wagner mercenary group’s weekend mutiny was launched in a last-ditch bid to ensure its continued existence, its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has said.
The rebellion, in which Wagner seized a Russian city and drove a military convoy towards Moscow, was not intended to topple the government, he added.
It was Prigozhin’s first public statement since he agreed to bring an end to the extraordinary events.
He halted the mutiny to stop “spilling the blood of Russian soldiers”.
In the 11-minute long audio message posted on Telegram, Prigozhin insisted he had not wanted to challenge Vladimir Putin’s rule, although he did not mention the Russian president by name.
He said the mutiny was instead a response to government plans to take direct control of Wagner – a private army of mercenaries that has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine – as well as a protest over mistakes made by officials in the war with Ukraine.