RUSSIA – The Kremlin announced on Saturday that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the paramilitary group Wagner, had agreed to leave Russia for Belarus in a deal apparently brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, ending an armed insurgency that constituted the the most serious threat to the authority of Russian President Vladimir Putin in decades.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, confirmed an agreement with Prigozhin during a conference call with reporters. In other words, “You will ask me what will personally happen to Prigozhin?” That’s what Peskov said. His criminal charges will be dismissed. He plans to travel to Belarus on his own. According to Peskov, the Kremlin has no idea where the mercenary is at the moment.
Wagner’s commander had previously ordered his men to begin moving “towards our encampments, according to plan”. Wagner’s warriors will sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense and, according to Peskov, they will face no “legal action” for marching on Moscow.
Wagner’s troops seized a strategic military installation in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, and some fighters had headed for the capital before the statement was made. Prigozhin’s criticisms of Russian military leadership and their handling of the Ukrainian conflict went mostly unaddressed. However, in his weekend meeting with Putin, he crossed several lines.
The Russian president, who looked quite serious, addressed the nation and described Wagner’s actions as “a stab in the back of our country and our people.” “The president called it an insurrection and pledged to crush it, prompting Moscow to step up its security measures. However, on Saturday evening it seemed that Prigozhin’s calculations had changed, and the mercenary announced that his forces would suspend their assault on Moscow.Video verified and geotagged by CNN also showed soldiers from Prigozhin and Wagner withdrawing from Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-the-Don.Prigozhin can be seen in the footage relaxing on the back seat of the car. A man approaches the truck and shakes Prigozhin’s hand as onlookers cheer.