The Russian military “coup” story gets even more bizarre. On Saturday, Russian state media announced that all charges will be dropped against mercenary insurrection leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
The Wagner mercenary group’s chief will be moving to Belarus, the Kremlin said on Saturday afternoon.
Prigozhin reached the agreement to relocate to Belarus after reaching a deal with Putin, mediated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, effectively ending the armed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov informed reporters that Lukashenko, having a personal acquaintance with Prigozhin for approximately two decades, had offered his mediation services with the consent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a result, the criminal case against Prigozhin for his involvement in the armed mutiny will be dropped.
Additionally, the Wagner fighters who participated in his “march for justice” will not face any legal repercussions due to their prior service to Russia.
Peskov further disclosed that fighters who did not participate in the mutiny would be required to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry, which aims to bring all autonomous volunteer forces under its control by July 1.
While Putin had previously vowed to punish those involved in the mutiny, Peskov emphasized that the primary objective of the agreement was to avoid confrontation and bloodshed.
Regarding potential concessions made to Prigozhin, Peskov refrained from providing specific details, except for assurances of safety extended to him and his men.
Russian state media, however, earlier reported that the Kremlin would likely accede to Prigozhin’s demands to shake up the military leadership.
“According to Russian State Media, Major Changes to the Leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense including changes to the current Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu and Army Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov have reportedly been Agreed upon in order to Stop the March of the Wagner PMC Group towards the Capital of Moscow; these Negotiations have also reportedly included the assured ‘Security of the Wagner Group’,” OSINT defender reported.
“These Negotiations are also reported to have included a ‘Stipulation’ that the Majority of Wagner PMC Forces will be Redeployed out of Russia and Ukraine to Africa,” he added.
Prigozhin had announced on Saturday that he is standing down, adding that he ‘doesn’t want to spill Russian blood,’ and the Wagner convoys were retreating back to their bases.
— Douglas Matthew Stewart (@realDougStewart) June 24, 2023
“They were going to dismantle PMC Wagner,” he said in an audio statement on Telegram. “We came out on 23 June to the March of Justice. In a day, we walked to nearly 200km away from Moscow. In this time, we did not spill a single drop of blood of our fighters. Now, the moment has come when blood may spill. That’s why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan.”
The announcement followed a statement from the office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, claiming that he had reached an agreement with Prigozhin after discussing the issue with Putin.