President Vladimir Putin’s government has announced that the head of a private military contractor that led a rebellion against Russian forces will depart for neighbouring Belarus and will not be prosecuted.
The Kremlin said Yevgeny Prigozhin’s fighters who joined him in the attempt to seize Moscow on Saturday would also not be prosecuted. Those who did not join in have been offered military contracts, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement Saturday night.
Following the deal on Saturday evening, Mr Prigozhin, leader of military contractor Wagner, announced the retreat of his troops who had been advancing on Moscow, ordering them back to their camps across the country. Wagner forces had earlier seized control of the southern city of Rostov.
The deal entered appeared to promptly de-escalate a crisis that unfolded rapidly between since Friday night, fueling concerns among Western countries, who said they were keenly monitoring the situation.
It was not immediately clear whether or not the deal would hold, or if Mr Prigozhin will be truly spared as he makes the over 100 miles journey to Belarus, presumably by road. Mr Putin had earlier on Saturday ordered Russian soldiers to neutralise Mr Prigozhin and his fighters for their alleged betrayal of Russia.
In his truce statement, Mr Prigozhin said he was reluctant to shed Russian blood on both sides of the battle, even though he had initially sought justice for Russian people.
“They were going to dismantle PMC Wagner. We came out on 23 June to the March of justice. In a day, we walked to within 200 km 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 mercenary commander said.
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