The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has left for Belarus after the Russian government dropped charges against him and his mercenaries.
Russia was thrown into crisis on Friday after Prigozhin, a one-time ally of President Vladimir Putin, stepped up his feud with Moscow’s security establishment over the handling of the invasion of Ukraine with a series of military moves in Rostov-on-Don.
In his address to the nation, a visibly shocked Putin vowed to punish the armed rebellion against the Russian establishment.
He said: “Those on the path of treason or armed rebellion will be severely punished.
“It (the uprising) is a stab in the back of our country and our people.”
However, following a telephone conversation with Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian leader, Prigozhin told his forces to return to their bases to “avoid bloodshed.”
In an audio message, Prigozhin confirmed he would take further steps to de-escalate tensions.
The Wagner boss said he ordered his men to turn back to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.
He also agreed to leave for Minsk under the deal brokered by the Belarussian leader.
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in a statement that charges against Prigozhin and his forces would be dropped by Russian authorities.
He added that the Wagner boss and his fighters would also be safe from prosecution under the agreement.
The Wagner mercenaries who had previously taken control of the strategic military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don left the city on Saturday night and headed back to their field camp.
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