Wagner boss Prigozhin agrees to quit Russia in Belarus-brokered deal

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, has be seen leaving the district military headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don in an SUV in a video posted on Telegram by the Russian state news agency RIA.

Prigozhin had earlier agreed to end a rebellion against Moscow's military leadership after mediation from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and the Kremlin said he would be moving to Belarus under the deal they had agreed.

Prigozhin who turned his Wagner force against the military leadership in Moscow, will leave for Belarus and a criminal case against him will be dropped, Russia said early on Sunday.

"Avoiding bloodshed, internal confrontation, and clashes with unpredictable results was the highest goal," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Under the agreement, brokered by Lukashenko, Wagner fighters will not be prosecuted, Peskov added.

"We have always respected their heroic deeds at the front."

"An agreement has been reached that Wagner would return to its bases," Peskov said, adding that those fighters who had not participated in the rebellion would be allowed to formally join the Russian army.

Unclear if Prigozhin got concessions

Peskov declined to say whether any concessions had been made to Prigozhin, other than guarantees of safety for him — something he said Putin had given his word to vouch for — and for Prigozhin's men, to persuade him to withdraw all his forces.

He called the events of the day "tragic".

"There are no more conditions that I can tell you about," said Peskov.

Prigozhin called off his troops' advance toward Moscow on Saturday, pulling Russia back from its most serious security crisis in decades.

The feud between Wagner chief Prigozhin and Russia's military top brass had boiled over, with mercenaries capturing a key army headquarters in southern Russia and then heading north to threaten the capital.

Peskov also said it was "out of the question" that Wagner's aborted rebellion would impact Russia's campaign against Kiev.

Moscow was grateful to Lukashenko for his role in mediating the crisis, he added.

Wagner troops have played a crucial role in the Ukraine war, capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut, an area where the bloodiest and longest battles have taken place.

But Prigozhin has increasingly criticised the military brass, accusing it of incompetence and of starving his troops of munitions.

At loggerheads with defence establishment

The fighters led by Prigozhin, a former convict, include thousands of ex-prisoners recruited from Russian jails.

His men fought the bloodiest battles of the 16-month Ukraine war, including for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

He railed for months against the military's top brass, especially Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, accusing them of incompetence and of withholding ammunition from his fighters.

This month, he defied orders to sign a contract placing his troops under Defence Ministry command.

He launched the apparent mutiny on Friday after alleging that the military had killed many of his fighters in an air strike.

The Defence Ministry denied this.

He said he had captured the headquarters of Russia's Southern Military District without firing a shot in Rostov-on-Don, which serves as the main rear logistical hub for Russia's entire invasion force in Ukraine.

The surrounding area is also an important oil, gas and grains region.

Residents of the city had milled about calmly, filming on mobile phones as Wagner fighters in armoured vehicles and battle tanks took up positions.

One tank was wedged between stucco buildings with posters advertising a circus.

Another had "Siberia" daubed in red paint across the front, an apparent statement of intent to sweep across the breadth of Russia.

"Will there be civil war?" a woman in Rostov asked the mercenaries. "No, everything will be fine," one answered.


Source: TRT