Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, decided to stop his troops’ advance on Moscow to avoid any loss of Russian lives. Prigozhin, who has posed a significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule, has now agreed to reside in Belarus, effectively ending the threat posed by his rebellion.
Prigozhin’s Audio Message:
Despite his troops being just 200 kilometers away from the Russian capital, Prigozhin announced in an audio message that he had decided to turn his forces back to prevent bloodshed. He expressed concern that the situation could escalate and result in violence. With the potential for Russian blood to be spilled, he made the responsible choice to redirect his troops to their original field camps.
Response in Moscow:
In anticipation of the arrival of Prigozhin’s private army, Moscow took precautions by setting up checkpoints with armored vehicles and deploying troops along its southern edge. Red Square was closed, and motorists were advised to avoid certain roads.
Questions about Putin’s Power:
The smooth progress of Wagner’s insurrection without significant resistance from Russia’s regular armed forces has raised doubts about Putin’s hold on power in a nuclear-armed nation. The sudden halt to Wagner’s advance further adds to the uncertainty surrounding Putin’s grip on authority.
Negotiations and Settlement: Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko intervened and mediated with Prigozhin to halt the movement of Wagner’s troops following discussions with Putin. Lukashenko’s office announced that Prigozhin accepted the offer to cease the advancement of the Wagner group and initiate de-escalation steps. The settlement proposed by Lukashenko also includes security guarantees for Wagner troops.’
Prigozhin’s Request and Outcome:
It is unclear whether the Kremlin addressed Prigozhin’s demand to remove Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. As part of the agreement, Prigozhin will relocate to Belarus, and the criminal case against him will be closed. Those who participated in the uprising alongside Prigozhin will not face prosecution, while those who did not will be offered contracts by the defense ministry.
Potential Developments and Putin’s Response:
The resolution of the crisis leaves room for speculation about the future. The outcome depends on the concessions made and the agreement’s small print. Ceasefires are fragile, and the situation could quickly unravel. Observers suggest that Prigozhin may put the Wagner Group under the federal authority or redirect its activities back to Africa, where his mercenaries have been active.
Putin’s Reaction and Ukraine’s Perspective:
Putin, in a televised speech, labeled the rebellion as a betrayal and treason, vowing that all those involved would face punishment. The government has declared a “counterterrorist regime” in Moscow and its surrounding region, implementing stricter security measures. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remarked on the chaos exposed by the Wagner troops’ revolt, emphasizing the lack of control by the Russian authorities. He warned of increasing devastation if Russian troops remained on Ukrainian soil.
Prigozhin’s decision to halt the march on Moscow and his subsequent agreement to live in Belarus has effectively eliminated one of the significant challenges to President Putin’s rule. The outcome of this situation will have broader implications for Russia’s political landscape, with potential developments and consequences yet to be fully realized.