Wagner Group’s March to Moscow: In a surprising turn of events, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the private military company Wagner, announced on Monday that the purpose of the march towards Moscow was to protest against the alleged destruction of his company by Russian forces. Prigozhin emphasized that the goal was not to overthrow the government but to bring those responsible for the mistakes made during the military operation to justice.
In an audio message released on Monday, Prigozhin explained his decision to turn around the march, stating that he wanted to prevent unnecessary bloodshed among Russians. He asserted that the initial intention was to protest against perceived injustice rather than to challenge the existing power structure. The abrupt change of course came after Wagner’s fighters faced an attack by the Russian army, resulting in the death of around 30 mercenaries.
Prigozhin revealed that the attack occurred just days before Wagner was scheduled to withdraw from its positions on June 30, handing over equipment to the Southern Military District in Rostov. The chief claimed that none of his soldiers on the ground were killed during the march, and he decided to halt the movement after assessing that continuing would lead to significant bloodshed.
Despite the lack of details about Prigozhin’s current whereabouts and future plans, he disclosed that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had extended a hand to find legal solutions regarding the Wagner Private Military Company’s future operations. The Belarusian president reportedly offered to mediate and facilitate discussions to resolve the ongoing situation.
On Saturday, a deal apparently mediated by Lukashenko led Prigozhin to agree to depart for Belarus, effectively ending the armed rebellion. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that Lukashenko had suggested the deal to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Saturday, aiming to resolve the brief mutiny.
The Wagner Group had previously left the Lipetsk region after Prigozhin decided to halt the march to Moscow, according to the regional government. Units of the private military company left the Lipetsk region, and the withdrawal from the southern Russian region of Voronezh continued steadily and without incident, as reported by the regional governor.
Earlier on Saturday, Prigozhin claimed that his forces had taken control of military facilities, including the airfield in Rostov-on-Don, in response to the alleged attack on a Wagner military camp by Russian forces. Russia’s Ministry of Defense, however, denied Prigozhin’s claim, labeling it an “information provocation.”
Following Prigozhin’s actions, President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation in a televised statement, condemning the Wagner Group’s “armed mutiny” as a “stab in the back.” Putin vowed to punish those involved in the mutiny, describing their actions as a betrayal and a threat to the Russian military.
The evolving situation raises questions about the relationship between private military companies like Wagner and the Russian government, as well as the complexities surrounding their operations both within and outside Russian borders. The involvement of Belarus in mediating a resolution adds another layer to this unfolding story, leaving many observers eager for further developments and clarification on the future of Wagner and its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.