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Putin allows Wagner fighters to “leave to Belarus,” quit, or subordinate to Russia’s MoD

Putin statement Prigozhin
Screenshot from broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address regarding the coup of Wagner leader Prigozhin, a result of Russia’s weakening by the war against Ukraine.
Putin allows Wagner fighters to “leave to Belarus,” quit, or subordinate to Russia’s MoD

Fighters of the Russian PMC Wagner, which had on 24-25 June taken part in an armed insurrection headed by its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, will be allowed to continue their service as part of Russia’s Ministry of Defense, quit, or join Prigozhin in Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address.

Speaking on the evening of 26 June, Putin thanked the Wagner PMC fighters, who “stopped at the last line,” having taken “the only correct decision.” He also expressed his gratitude to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka “for his efforts and contribution to the peaceful resolution of the situation.”

Putin said that the armed mutiny would have been suppressed “in any case,” while the organizers of the mutiny “understood it in any case,” “despite their loss of adequacy. About the organizers, he also said that they “betrayed the country, their people” and those who “were drawn into the crime.” He also claimed that the Wagner fighters were also “patriots” and an attempt was made to use them “in the dark” against their brothers-in-arms.

The Russian president added that the “fratricide” was allegedly wanted by “neo-Nazis in Kyiv and their Western patrons.”

“It was the patriotic spirit of citizens and the consolidation of Russian society that played a decisive role in these days,” Putin said, thanking the “the courage and self-sacrifice of the fallen heroic aviators” who were shot down by the air defense weapons of the Wagner troops in Russia.

Prigozhin’s rebellion had taken place amid a demand that Wagner PMC become subordinated to the Russian MoD, a move that the Wagner leader likely saw as encroaching on his influence. The deadline for the volunteer fighters to sign contracts with the Russian MoD was on 1 July. Pigozhin had defied this demand. Instead, Prigozhin drafted his own “contract” and said he was awaiting an answer from Russia’s military leadership for it, but on 24 June started a “march for justice” instead.

Wagner coup: what happened earlier

After claiming that the Russian Ministry of Defense delivered a missile strike on the flanks of Wagner PMC and announcing a “march for justice” on the night of 24 June and seizing control of Rostov-on-Don, the headquarters of Russia’s invasion army, Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was prosecuted for organizing an armed insurrection and faced up to 20 years in prison.

In a televised address on Saturday morning, Vladimir Putin said that all those who had “chosen the path of blackmail and terrorist methods” would be punished. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the Russian dictator urgently left Moscow for Valdai, which is between Moscow and St.Petersburg.

Prigozhin has refused to lay down arms and said that Wagner mercenaries were the true “patriots” of Russia. The Russian media outlet Vazhnye Istorii wrote, referring to its sources in the Presidential Administration, that the Kremlin tried to negotiate with Prigozhin but got rejected.

The press service of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reported that the Belarusian leader had been in talks with Prigozhin all day on 25 June on behalf of Putin. A few minutes after this news, the owner of the PMC announced that his mercenaries were returning to the field camps as they were only 200 km from Moscow.

The Kremlin announced that the criminal charges against Prigozhin will be dropped and he will depart to Belarus. In the night of 25 June, Prigozhin departed from Rostov, with bystanders cheering him on.

Russia lost seven aircraft during the mutiny, as Wagner forces shot down the forces deployed to thwart the insurrection. Russian pro-war Telegram channels estimate that 13-20 Russian servicemen were killed. Additionally, an oil depot in the Voronezh Oblast was blown up, and 19 houses and roads were damaged by the march of Prigozhin’s private army in Russia, according to Russian pro-war media and Telegram channels. 

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