Russian security services threatened the families of Wagner forces to get them to back down, report says

FSB headquarters
This photo taken on June 24, 2023 shows the headquarters of Russian Federal Security Service in Moscow, Russia.Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Xinhua via Getty Images
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  • Russian security services threatened the families of Wagner mutineers, The Telegraph reported.

  • Wagner forces seized control of a city in Russia and were bearing down on Moscow.

  • But the rebellion was called off after Wagner leaders and the Kremlin brokered a deal.

Russian security services threatened the families of the leaders of those leading the Wagner group's mutiny against the Russian government, UK intelligence sources told The Telegraph.

The report offers a reason Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin may have called off the rebellion when his forces were bearing down on Moscow Saturday, having seized control of the city of Rostov-on-Don and other parts of southern Russia.

The report said that UK intelligence believes that Prigozhin had around 8,000 fighters under his command, a significantly lower number than the 25,000 he claimed to have.

Wagner military column passes Russian city of Voronezh.
Wagner military column passes Russian city of Voronezh.Reuters

Prigozhin, a convicted criminal who ran a catering firm before founding his private army, was long seen as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin' s closest allies, and his forces have played a key role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But for months Prigozhin has ferociously criticised Russian defense chiefs over the Ukraine war, and on Saturday launched the most serious challenge to Putin's authority since he took office in 1999.

Having accused the Russian military of bombing Wagner forces, on Saturday Prigozhin led his troops to seize the southern city of Rostov-on-Don then continued to push north towards Moscow, saying he was seeking the resignation of Russia's military leaders.

Russian military and security services sought to blockade the capital, and Putin in a furious video message accused the Wagner group of destabilizing Russia and pledged that the mutineers would be punished.

Then in another surprise development late on Saturday, Prigozhin called off the rebellion late Saturday.

The Kremlin said charges against Prigozhin and other Wagner fighters would be dropped, and Prigozhin would be allowed to go into exile in Belarus. It said that Wagner fighters who didn't take part in the mutiny would be absorbed into the Russian military.

The EU and US have imposed sanctions on two of Prigozhin's children and his wife, and says they are all closely involved in his businesses. The sanctions limit their capacity to travel outside Russia.

Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian security services, told BBC News on Saturday that though Prigozhin's forces did not appear strong enough to topple Putin, they exposed serious limits to his power.

Read the original article on Business Insider