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As the Wagner forces drove north towards Moscow on 25th of June, a contingent of military vehicles diverted east on a highway in the direction of a fortified Russian army base that holds nuclear weapons. These are big developments which are reported now. You know, it didn't come to light earlier
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Absolutely shocking revelations here And this is according to videos that have been posted online as well as interviews that Reuters conducted with local residents Ukraine's head of military intelligence Kirillov Buranov has also stated that the Wagner fighters had reached the base in fact. He said that they reached the nuclear base and that their intention was to acquire Soviet era nuclear devices and this was done in order to raise the stakes in their mutiny.
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By the way, you touched upon a very interesting topic. Do you know what exact kind of nuclear weapons are in Voronezh-45? Apart from regular nuclear charges, there used to be and there still are what in Soviet unions are called backpacks. Yes, backpacks. So called units of backpackers, a folk name.
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These are extremely small nuclear charges which are portable, that can be transported in a backpack. This was 1 of the key storage for these backpacks. That's 1 of the reasons why they went there."
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Budenov adds that the only barrier between the Wagner fighters and nuclear weapons were the doors to the nuclear storage facility. A source close to the Kremlin with military ties confirmed parts of Budenov's account.
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This comes after the Kremlin says Wagner chief Rogozin met Russian President Vladimir Putin days after the mercenary group marched towards Moscow in this short-lived rebellion.
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According to a Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Putin invited around 35 people to a meeting at the Kremlin on 29th June, including Wagner unit commanders.
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This meeting lasted for around 3 hours. He said that Putin had listened to the commanders' own explanations of what had happened and had offered them further options for employment and combat.
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In a related development, reports of the recent departure of large numbers of Wagner personnel from Central African Republic had fueled speculation in recent days that the group is pulling out of the country. However, spokesperson for the C.A.R. Presidency has stated that the departure of hundreds of Russian Wagner troops from the country is part of a rotation of forces and not a withdrawal.
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Some reports also tell that Kremlin has permitted the Wagner Group military company to continue its major operations in Africa. Last month, Russian Foreign Minister stated that the group would continue working in Africa if the regional governments wanted to make contacts with the group.
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The fate of agreements between those African countries and PMC Wagner is up to the leadership of those countries to decide. How much are they interested to continue such cooperations to ensure the security and the safety of the authorities?
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Any restructuring of Wagner operations in C.A.R. Could have substantial commercial ramifications. According to reports, Moscow's objective might be to establish its first military naval base in Africa on the Red Sea coast.
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Now, for more on this, we have with us Peter Kucznik, professor of history and the director of Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University, joining us live from Washington DC. Professor, thank you so much for joining us on the broadcast.
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Glad to be with you.
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Now, sir, seems that Wagner group reached much further than was initially anticipated and reported. They had nuclear ambitions to gain leverage. It's a big reveal, actually. How do you see Russia and Wagner's relationship now?
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Well, if those reports are true, and we have to remember that we do not have confirmation. Reuters, which broke the story, was able to follow them to within a certain distance from the nuclear facility. And then we don't know what happened. Our main source on this is the head of Ukraine's military intelligence, which is not the most trustworthy source. But if they did actually get to that Voronezh-45 facility and did try to get access to those nuclear weapons, that would be very, very troubling.
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But there is a lot of protection there. They were not, from what we know, able to break into the areas where the nuclear weapons were held. Those weapons are not assembled. So they would then still have to reassemble them, put the various parts together, which requires exceptional expertise, and then to be able to detonate them would require a whole other level of skills and knowledge, which the Wagner troops would not have. But it is still alarming.
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Anything that deals with the threat of use of nuclear weapons is appropriately troubling And this would be 1 of those cases.
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Peter, I also wanted to check with you and get your opinion on this. Now, there are reports of Prigushin having a meeting with Putin just days after the aborted mutiny. And Wagner is still continuing operations in Africa. Is Russia dependent on Wagner for its extrajudicial workings? And is Wagner and Russia, have they divorced in any formal way or are they still very much together?
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It's a complex relationship. Speak to us about that.
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We know that Putin, following up on Shoigu, the defense minister, insisted as early as June 10th that Wagner had to sign up with the Russian military by the end of the month. But Pugoshin did not like that arrangement, and that's part of what triggered Prygozhin's rebellion. He never blamed Putin directly. He targeted Gerasimov. He targeted Shoigu and the Russian defense ministry.
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But he did not blame Putin directly. However, that seems to be what triggered the uprising. But we don't know what's happened since then. We don't know where those Wagner troops are. We know that Pugosian seems to be running around in Russia, back to St.
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Petersburg, getting his money back, getting his weapons back. The whole thing is quite baffling. It suggests that maybe Putin's control is not as great as people anticipated and believed. We don't really know. This is really a big mystery.
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We do not know. It's going to take some time to figure this all out. Different sources are reporting different things. It looks like the Russians have not completely cracked down on Wagner. And it looks like the people who led that uprising were able to meet with Putin 5 days afterwards, as well as other officials inside Russia, and that there is no evidence yet that any of them have been punished.
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So we don't know what's going on inside of Russia right now. It seems to be a black hole in terms of the Western knowledge and understanding.
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Nicely put it there Peter. That was it's definitely like a black hole there. And you know time will tell what that relationship actually holds for the rest of the world. Thank you so much for joining in. That was Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University.
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