Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wagner boss will leave Russia, charges will be dropped: Kremlin (3rd lead)

The criminal case, launched this weekend, against Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) founder Evgeniy Prigozhin will be dropped and he will leave Russia, the Kremlin has announced, a media report said.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that Prigozhin, a Saint Petersburg tycoon who made his initial fortune in catering, “will go to Belarus”.

He added that Wagner’s fighters will not be persecuted, taking into account their efforts on the frontlines of the Ukraine conflict. Peskov explained that President Vladimir Putin’s team “have always respected their exploits”.

Those PMC contractors, who refused to take part in the mutiny – and whole units did not – will be allowed to sign contracts with the Russian Defence Ministry, Peskov stated, RT reported.

The PMC group launched a major mutiny overnight, seizing control of the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, as well as advancing towards Moscow. The insurrection was stopped late on Saturday, following talks between Prigozhin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with the PMC leader agreeing to return his units to their “field camps”.

The Wagner Group private military company is returning back to its “field camps”, the PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced earlier.

His units staged a mutiny overnight, seizing control of multiple military and administrative installations in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, as well as launching an advance towards Moscow, the Russian media outlet reported.

The insurrection reached the brink of major bloodshed, Prigozhin said, explaining that Wagner’s advancing columns will return to their camps “according to plan”.

“They wanted to disband PMC Wagner. On June 23, we went on a March of Justice in a day. We advanced on Moscow just 200km short, and during this time we did not shed a single drop of the blood of our fighters,” he was quoted as saying by the media outlet.

During the mutiny, however, the private military outfit reportedly downed multiple aircraft and repeatedly skirmished with Russian forces.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Saturday that he had arranged a deal whereby Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin will abandon his mutiny in exchange for “security guarantees” for his fighters.

“Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal of President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the movement of armed men of Wagner in Russia and take further steps to de-escalate tension,” RT reported, citing a statement from Lukashenko’s office.

According to the statement, Lukashenko and Prigozhin held talks for the “whole day”, and “came to an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloodbath on the territory of Russia.”

Lukashenko’s office said that the talks were held in coordination with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that Prigozhin was offered “an advantageous and acceptable option of resolving the situation, with security guarantees for the Wagner PMC fighters”, the media outlet reported.

The news came as a Wagner convoy drew closer to Moscow, several hours after members of the private military outfit passed through the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. In a series of video statements released since Friday, Prigozhin declared that he was advancing on Moscow to confront Russian military officials he deemed corrupt.

Prigozhin garnered no support from the Russian establishment. Instead, Putin accused the Wagner chief of “backstabbing our country and our people,” while Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal investigation into Prigozhin for “calling for an armed rebellion.”

Senior Russian political and military figures denounced Prigozhin’s mutiny, and called on Wagner fighters to lay down their arms.

Shortly after Lukashenko’s announcement, Prigozhin confirmed that his troops were abandoning their push to Moscow and returning to their field camps.

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