Wagner Chief Says He's Halting Advance to Moscow

Belarus reports it negotiated a deal with Prigozhin to end the Russian threat
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2023 1:41 PM CDT
Wagner Chief Says He's Halting Advance to Moscow
A serviceman stands atop of an armored vehicle of the Wagner Group military company, as he guards an area at the HQ of the Southern Military District in a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2023. Russia's security services had responded to Prigozhin's declaration of an armed rebellion...   (AP Photo)

The head of the armed mercenary force rolling toward Moscow announced Saturday that he was halting the advance, as Belarus said it had negotiated a deal with Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Wagner Group troops are "turning our columns around," Prigozhin said in an audio message on Telegram, per CNN. Belarus released a statement saying President Alexander Lukashenko intervened, reaching a deal with Prigozhin after conferring with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The statement said Prigozhin then agreed to stop his convoy's movement toward the capital, which was preparing for battle, and return to Ukraine.

Prigozhin said in his message that Wagner forces were within 125 miles of Moscow. They'd gone as far as they could without bloodshed, he said. "So, understanding all responsibility for the fact that Russian blood will be spilled, on one side, we are turning around our column and are leaving in the opposite direction to field camps in accordance with the plan." Prigozhin did not say whether the mercenaries will pull out of Rostov-on-Don, a city they had seized that's a Russian military hub. Belarus, whose president is a close ally of Putin's, suggested Wagner could receive security guarantees as part of the deal.

Earlier in the day, Putin had promised to punish those responsible for the uprising, and Russian officials said they're charging Prigozhin with "organizing an armed rebellion" against Putin. Wagner forces are fighting along with the Russian military in Ukraine, and Prigozhin has been bitterly critical of Russian military leaders for not adequately supplying his troops. Prigozhin has demanded that Putin remove Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; neither he nor the Kremlin addressed that issue Saturday. Videos showed pro-Wagner banners being taken down in Moscow and the St. Petersburg area after Prigozhin's announcement, per the Times. (More Russia rebellion stories.)

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