Moscow, Jun 24 (EFE).- Twenty-four hours after setting out on a “march for justice” in response to an alleged Russian army attack on his fighters, PMC Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday that he had ordered his men to return to their bases.
“In a day we traveled to within 200 km (120 mi) of Moscow. In this time, we have not shed a single drop of our fighters’ blood. Now the moment has arrived when blood may be shed. Therefore, understanding our full responsibility for the possibility of Russian blood being shed by one of the sides, we are turning our columns around and heading in the opposite direction to our encampments in accordance with the plan,” he said late Saturday in an audio message posted on Telegram.
The announcement followed word from the government in Belarus that President Alexander Lukashenko had persuaded Prigozhin to end the mutiny.
Lukashenko made contact with Prigozhin following a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and “negotiations continued throughout the day,” official Belarusian news agency BELTA reported.
“Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company on the territory of Russia and take further steps to de-escalate tensions,” BELTA said.
BELTA said that “an absolutely profitable and acceptable option for solving the situation is on the table, with security guarantees for the Wagner PMC fighters.”
Russia’s official news agency, TASS, said that the Wagner fighters who had taken up positions outside the regional army headquarters in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, a key hub for Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, began withdrawing Saturday evening.
Images and videos of the Wagnerites leaving were posted on social media, along with clips showing the withdrawal of Russian Guard personnel and armored vehicles from checkpoints in Moscow.
Saturday night, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov disclosed some of the terms of the agreement brokered by Lukashenko, including what amounts to an amnesty for Prigozhin and all of the Wagner personnel who joined the mutiny.
“The criminal case that was opened against him will be closed and he (Prigozhin) will go to Belarus,” Peskov said, according to TASS.
“The guarantee that Prigozhin will be able to leave for Belarus is the word of the president of Russia,” the Kremlin said.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) announced Friday the opening of an investigation into Prigozhin for “statements and actions” that “effectively constitute calls for an armed civil conflict on Russian territory.”
Wagner fighters who did not take part in the rebellion will be offered contracts with the Defense Ministry, Peskov said.
Amid rumors that the Russian government had agreed to Prigozhin’s demands for the removal of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Kremlin said that personnel changes in the ministry were not part of the negotiations.
Prigozhin has been complaining for months that the ministry was not providing Wagner with sufficient ammunition and other supplies as the mercenaries were on the front line of the fight to take the Ukrainian bastion of Bakhmut.
Putin had vowed to quell the rebellion, labeling it an act of treason.
“Those who organized and prepared the military rebellion have betrayed Moscow and will answer for it,” he said early Saturday in a televised address to the nation.
Pointing to the historical consequences of internal divisions, Putin drew parallels with the disintegration of the Russian state and the loss of territories in 1917 during World War I.