June 25, 2023

A Day To Remember in Rostov-on-Don


A Day To Remember in Rostov-on-Don
A graduation on Rostov-on-Don with Wagner Group soldiers in the background. War Monitor, Twitter.

On June 23, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin released a video on Telegram that unleashed the greatest threat President Vladimir Putin has faced in his multi-decade presidency: the next day, Rostov-on-Don awoke to Wagner mercenaries and tanks patrolling its streets.

How did Rostovans live through that moment?

The governor of Rostov Oblast, Vasily Golubev, issued stay-at-home orders three times, but Rostovans ignored him. DOXA collected testimonies of witnesses, who reported seeing some residents taking selfies with military equipment and wearing Wagner merch. Pavel, an anonymous Rostovan, said people approached the tanks as if there were "a second May 9 [Victory Day] parade." 

Most essential services such as hospitals, markets, and public transportation – excluding trolleybuses – continued operating. City properties, including the Don Public Library and Loga Park, were closed. The "Tom Sawyer Fest," a festival that gathers volunteers to restore monuments of historical relevance, suspended its activities, along with other weekend festivals. Students were told to stay in their dorms and take exams online. The UK and Italian visa application centers announced they would be closed for several days. But the city's zoo remained open.

Meanwhile, transport agencies reported a spike in demand for train tickets out of the city. No bus tickets were sold to cities where the highways were blocked. The governor of the oblast also reported residents had rushed to gas stations.

Late in the evening, Rostovan gathered to watch tanks retreat from the city after Prigozhin agreed to retreat and leave for Belarus.

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