Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to crush an armed mutiny after the private army of mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin seized control of a southern city as part of an attempt to oust the military leadership.

In Russia's first armed insurrection since the Chechen wars decades ago, heavily armed fighters from Prigozhin's Wagner militia were in control of the streets of Rostov-on-Don, a city of more than a million people close to the border with Ukraine.

Prigozhin, whose private army fought the bloodiest battles in Ukraine even as he feuded for months with the top brass, said he had captured the headquarters of Russia's Southern Military District after leading his forces into Russia from Ukraine.