The Kremlin has confirmed that Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will move to Belarus as part of the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who offered to mediate, to put an end to the armed mutiny that Prigozhin led against Russia’s military leadership. Furthermore, the criminal investigation against Prigozhin will be dropped, even though the Kremlin has announced that it does not know Prigozhin’s whereabouts at the moment.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to Lukashenko’s offer since he had known Prigozhin personally for around 20 years and that Putin’s word can be considered a guarantee for allowing Prigozhin to depart to Belarus.
“A criminal case [against Prigozhin] will be terminated and he will leave for Belarus. If you ask, what is the guarantee that Prigozhin could leave for Belarus, it is the word of the Russian president,” Peskov told reporters.
After Peskov called today’s events “tragic”, he expressed the Kremlin’s appreciation for Lukashenko’s efforts, which resulted in avoiding further losses and averted internal confrontation.
“There was the highest goal of avoiding bloodshed, internal confrontation and clashes with unpredictable results. It is for these goals that Lukashenko’s mediation efforts were made, and President Putin made a relevant decision on that,” he told journalists, adding that the phone call between the two presidents was sincere and “very constructive”.
Furthermore, according to the spokesperson, fighters who did not partake in the mutiny will sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry and vowed that those who did participate won’t be prosecuted in recognition of their service.
The reason is that, according to Peskov, avoiding bloodshed was far more important than issuing punitive measures.
In another context, the Kremlin Spokesperson confirmed that the current developments will not in any way affect the special military operation in Ukraine as soldiers continue to repel the counteroffensive successfully.
“Under no circumstances. The special military operation in Ukraine continues, our soldiers at the frontline are demonstrating heroism, they are quite effectively and successfully countering the counteroffensive of Ukraine’s armed forces. And the operation will continue,” Peskov told journalists, answering the question of whether the events with the Wagner PMC would have an impact on Russia’s operation in Ukraine.
Wagner evacuation ongoing, restrictions lifted
The regime of a counter-terrorist operation imposed in several regions of Russia will be lifted in the nearest future, he further added.
“The counter-terrorist operation [regime] will be lifted in the nearest future,” Peskov said, adding that there would be every prerequisite for that.
Indeed, following his statement, authorities in the southern Russian region of Lipetsk started lifting restrictions after Wagner announced earlier it would fall back.
“We are beginning to lift restrictions introduced today,” Governor Igor Artamonov said on Telegram.
Russia’s military headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia has also been vacated as confirmed by the RIA news agency.
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Earlier, Lukashenko’s office mentioned in a statement that “in line with the agreements and as agreed with the Russian president, the Belarusian president held talks with the head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, after additionally clarifying the situation via its own channels.”
On his part, Prigozhin confirmed that PMC Wagner is turning its troop columns back and moving back to its field camps.
“Understanding all responsibility that Russian blood from one of the sides could be spilled, we are turning our columns back and moving to the opposite direction to field camps in accordance with plans,” he announced in an audio statement released on his Telegram channel.