The Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh, which Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claims to have taken control of, are very important tactically for Russia's war in Ukraine, said Estonian Minister of Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) on ETV Show "Aktuaalne kaamera."
"We will meet in the Ministry of Defense in an hour to review all the operational information, which has changed since this morning," Pevkur said.
"There is a lot of noise, but the fact is, that if the Russian president comes on the air and says that all those, who have stood up, will be punished, then the situation is serious for the Kremlin. They are not in control. If Prigozhin has already come out to Voronezh, then this is certainly a great cause of concern for the Kremlin," Pevkur said.
According to Pevkur, it is the task of the Ministry of Defense to monitor the situation near Estonia's borders to and ensure calm.
While Putin did not mention Prigozhin's name once in his speech, Pevkur said it was common practice for Putin's regime to refuse to focus attention on a specific person. "However, if a state of counter-terrorism has already been declared in Moscow, that means clear restrictions on people's access to the internet, restrictions on movement, everything. So, we certainly have to monitor very seriously what is going on there," he said.
Asked whether Prigozhin's boldness might have come from the knowledge that support for Putin was weak, Pevkur said it was more likely to be a result of information he had heard from the frontlines in Ukraine.
"He will hear from the soldiers, both regular troops and his own soldiers, what their responses are. The lack of ammunition, lack of control, the friendly fire, which certainly weakens morale. We are already hearing from several sources, that various units, up to brigade-size, are supporting Prigozhin. This is definitely not a good sign for the Russian armed forces."
According to Pevkur, it is difficult to take all the information currently circulating as the truth without further investigation, as both Wagner soldiers and Russian regulars are in similar uniforms
The Estonian Minister of Defense added, that there has been no change to Russia's behavior in Ukraine, as Ukrainian cities continue to be bombed.
"What makes the situation difficult for Ukraine - why there hasn't been a major breakthrough - is that there are really large minefields and getting through them is a big operation. If they can get through the first lines of defense, then maybe there will be better prospects," Pevkur said.
"If you look at the control scheme of the Russian Armed Forces, both Rostov-on-the-Don and Voronezh are important nodes, from a logistics point of view and from a command and control perspective. One in the Kharkiv direction and the other in the direction of Zaporizhzhia - very important tactical locations, which have been chosen by Prigozhin," Pevkur continued.
"In fact, it also has to be born in mind, that Prigozhin has not changed his view of Ukraine. Perhaps he wants to take Voronezh and Rostov because he also wants to free up ammunition for the regular Russian troops," Pevkur said, adding that, given Putin's actions, there is a risk of things escalating in Russia.
Editor: Michael Cole