The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, will leave Russia for Belarus without facing charges, after he ended Saturday the advance of his forces towards Moscow under an agreement he struck with the Kremlin to turn the page on Russia’s most serious security crisis in decades.
Having promised the previous day to liberate the Russian people by sending his troops towards Moscow, Prigozhin announced his retreat in order to avoid spilling Russian blood, saying, “Our convoys are returning to the field camps”.
The governor of the Rostov region, southwest of Russia, Vasily Golubev announced on Saturday evening that the group’s forces left the city after occupying the headquarters of the Russian army in the morning, which is the center of operations in Ukraine.
The decision to end the rebellion made after Wagner fighters became less than 400 kilometers from the capital earlier on Saturday.
After his forces leave Russia, the authorities will drop criminal charges against Prigozhin, who will go to Belarus, according to the Kremlin.
Nor will any of the fighters of the group, which played a major combat role alongside the Russian army in Ukraine, be prosecuted.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the agreement with Prigozhin aims to avoid bloodshed, stressing that the ultimate goal is to avoid a bloodbath, internal clash and clashes whose results cannot be predicted.
The Russian official praised the settlement without further losses.
Nor group’s fighters will be prosecuted, according to Peskov, who declared, “We have always respected their heroic actions on the front”.
The Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko played a key role in the mediation, and his office announced that it was he who suggested to Prigozhin to halt his forces advance in Russia.
In this regard, the Kremlin spokesman said, “We’re grateful to the President of Belarus for his efforts,” noting that “the evening conversation between the two presidents was very long”.
Following the announcement of the agreement, the Russian authorities began to lift the exceptional security measures taken in the face of Wagner’s progress.
“Today (Sunday) the restrictions began to be lifted,” said Igor Artamonov, governor of the Lipetsk region south of Moscow, which the group’s fighters entered, via Telegram.
“In the short term, we will allow traffic to return to the region’s roads,” he added.
Moscow’s mayor had called on residents to limit movement in the city, describing the situation as difficult and declaring Monday a holiday.
Movement restrictions also imposed in Russia’s Kaluga region, whose capital is located 180 km south of Moscow.
This comes after Putin denounced treason and spoke of the specter of civil war at the beginning of the biggest challenge he has faced since he came to power at the end of 1999.
He also earlier warned Western countries against any attempt to exploit the internal situation in Russia to achieve its anti-Russian goals.
However, while his spokesman confirmed in the evening that the aborted Wagner rebellion wouldn’t affect the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Kiev announced field gains.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian army announced its advancement in all directions on the eastern front, as it confirmed the launch of new attacks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky considered that his country had become responsible for the security of the eastern wing of Europe, urging the West once again to hand over to his country all the necessary weapons, especially the US-made F16 fighter jets.
He also said that Wagner’s rebellion showed that the Russian leadership has no control over anything, adding, “It’s clear that the Kremlin man is very afraid”.
“Prigozhin humiliated Putin/the state and showed that there is no longer a monopoly on violence,” said aide to Ukrainian President Mykhailo Podolak on Twitter.
For their part, Western countries are closely following the crisis situation in Russia.
On Saturday, US President Joe Biden spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who indicated a possible impact of this rebellion on the war in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that Washington will remain in close coordination with its allies regarding developments in the situation in Russia.
As for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, she said that these events show how aggression against Ukraine also causes instability in Russia.