Relief and sympathy as Wagner rebels stand down in Russian city

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – Residents of a Russian city at the heart of a brief rebellion against army top brass expressed relief on Sunday but also voiced some sympathy for the mutiny and questions about what exactly happened.

Fighters from the Wagner mercenary group with silver armbands and carrying assault rifles had deployed a day earlier across Rostov-on-Don in tanks and armoured cars.

They also said they had taken control of the military headquarters in the southern city – a major hub for Russia’s Ukraine campaign – and were marching on Moscow.

The Wagner group stood down later on Saturday after striking a deal with the Kremlin that will allow its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin go into exile in Kremlin-allied Belarus and not face mutiny charges.

Rina Abramian, a 28-year-old doctor, said she felt “relieved” about the outcome.

“When something routine in your city changes and you don’t really understand what’s going on, you feel very anxious and unsafe. So I felt relieved.”

Tank track markings could still be seen on the road in the city centre on Sunday morning and areas where armoured vehicles had been parked were cordoned off, while buses were back on their normal routes.

A large blue banner seen hanging in a city park read: “Brothers, let’s not allow bloodshed, there are no enemies here, we can only win together”.

Residents who had heeded a request by local government to remain in their homes on Saturday were enjoying the sunshine.

Tatyana, a 76-year-old teacher sitting on a bench, said she was “very upset” when she first heard about the rebellion.

“I did not go out because they said that it was better not to go out. I followed the news all day and was really worried so I’m glad everything turned out well.”