Press TV – June 24, 2024
Russia says a criminal case previously filed against the head of Wagner paramilitary group has been dropped, after Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his forces to stop fighting and retreat to their bases.
The announcement came in a late Saturday statement by the Kremlin after Prigozhin ordered his fighters to stop marching towards Moscow and vacate the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, which they had taken control of after launching a mutiny.
According to the Kremlin’s statement, Prigozhin’s current whereabouts are unknown, but he will move to Belarus under a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which ended the mutiny that Prigozhin led against Russia’s military leadership.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the Belarusian president had offered to mediate himself, adding that the Russian leadership highly appreciated his efforts.
Before the deal, Wagner forces claimed they were heading north in a convoy of trucks, tanks, and infantry armored vehicles, hoping they would reach Moscow before being intercepted by the Russian army.
Prigozhin had accused Russia’s military top brass of ordering a rocket attack on Wagner’s field camps in Ukraine — where Russia has been leading a military operation — killing “huge numbers” of his paramilitary forces.
Prigozhin had earlier demanded that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov be handed over to him.
Asked if there would be changes in the Russian Defense Ministry as a result of the deal, Peskov said, “These matters are the sole prerogative and within the competence of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (Putin) in accordance with the constitution of the Russian Federation.”
“Therefore, it is unlikely that these topics could have been discussed in the course of the above-mentioned contacts,” he added.
Peskov also described the events that unfolded earlier in the day in the form of the mutiny as “tragic.”
He said those Wagner fighters, who had not partaken in the “march” toward Moscow, would be offered to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.
The rest of the group’s fighters, who had taken part in the mutiny, would not be prosecuted in recognition of their previous service to Russia, Peskov said, adding, “We have always respected their heroic deeds at the front.”
Still praising the deal, the Russian official said avoiding bloodshed was more important than punishing people.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Peskov said the mutiny would definitely not affect Russia’s ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.
Later on Saturday, the regional governor of Rostov-on-Don, Vasily Golubev, said Wagner group fighters had left the city, adding, “A Wagner column left Rostov and headed to their field camps.”
According to Russian media, all restrictions imposed on the country’s highways were lifted after Wagner forces started to go back to their bases.