Kremlin: Charges against Wagner chief will be dropped; Prigozhin headed to Belarus

RUSSIA — As Russia accuses Yevgeny Prigozhin of urging an armed rebellion, the mercenary chief claims to have seized control of key military facilities in two Russian cities.

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Belarus president brokered deal

Update 8:15 p.m. EDT June 24: The deal that resulted in Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to halt his mercenary troops’ advance on Moscow was brokered by Belarus leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, The New York Times reported.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov told reporters that the deal reached between Lukashenko and Russian officials was the result of “a higher goal.”

“To avoid bloodshed, to avoid an internal confrontation, to avoid clashes with unpredictable consequences,” Peskov said. “It was in the name of these goals that Lukashenko’s mediation efforts were realized, and President Putin made the corresponding decisions.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Prigozhin will go to Belarus; criminal case dropped

Update 4:10 p.m. EDT June 24: Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, announced that the criminal case against Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhi would be dropped, The New York Times reported. Prigozhin will go to Belarus, Peskov said, and the fighters who rebelled with him would not be prosecuted by law because of their “service at the front,” according to the newspaper.

Wagner fighters who did not participate in the march can sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, Peskov said.

“You will ask me what will happen to Prigozhin personally?” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday, according to CNN. “The criminal case will be dropped against him. He himself will go to Belarus.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Prigozhin halts march

Update 2:05 p.m. EDT June 24: Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday he ordered his mercenaries to stop their march to Moscow and turn back around to their camps in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The announcement came after the office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made an announcement about negotiating a deal with Prigozhin once he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the AP 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,” a statement from Lukashenko said, according to CNN.

Original story: Early Saturday morning Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he would take “decisive actions” to put an end to an armed rebellion by the mercenary leader Prigozhin, according to The New York Times. Prigozhin’s forces claimed control of Rostov-on-Don and had a threatened march into Moscow.

“Without firing a shot, we captured the headquarters building. We have not interfered with the work of a single person,” said Prigozhn on a post in the app, Telegram, according to CNN.

“Why does the country support us? Because we went with a march of justice. We were attacked from the beginning by artillery and then by helicopters, and we passed without a single shot. We did not touch a single conscript. We didn’t kill a single person along the way,” Prigozhin added, per CNN.

Putin said that the situation in Rostov is “difficult” and blockaded military and civilian buildings, CNN reported.

“All those who prepared the rebellion will suffer inevitable punishment,” Putin said according to The Associated Press. “The armed forces and other government agencies have received the necessary orders.”

Lt. Gen Vladimir Alekseev, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, claimed in a video Friday evening calling Wagner’s actions “a coup d’etat,” CNN reported.

“What is happening now is a blatant fact of insanity. I cannot explain it in other words. Our country is in the most difficult position right now. When the whole Western world is turned against us. When the shells are coming from the whole world. Such things, that you started to fulfill now under someone’s provocation idea will lead to enormous losses. First of all, enormous political losses. Imagine the enthusiasm that this will be taken with by the West,” Alekseev said in the video, according to CNN.

Prigozhin claimed that “this isn’t a military coup, but a march of justice,” according to the AP. Prigozhin’s Wagner group which is a private military contractor that had been fighting with Russian troops in Ukraine.

“The rebellion marks an escalation in Prigozhin’s struggle with Russian military leaders, who he has accused of botching the war in Ukraine and hamstringing his forces in the field,” according to the AP.

Putin called Prigozhin’s rebellion “a stab in the back of our country and our people,” the Times reported.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin condemned the rebellion in Russia, according to CNN.

“At the moment, it is clear that the attempt to rock society, awaken the darkest aspirations in it, kindle the fire of a fratricidal civil war, has failed,” Naryshkin said in a statement on Telegram, per CNN. “The Russians have demonstrated civic maturity, the ability to distinguish truth from lies.”

Naryshkin says that armed rebellion is an unjustifiable crime, according to NBC News.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on Twitter that “Russia’s weakness is obvious,” according to the Times.

“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later,” Zelensky tweeted.

Ukrainian officials say that Prigozhin’s armed rebellion is a sign of “collapse of Putin regime,” according to CNN.

“The internal Russian confrontation between the leader of the so-called Wagner PMC Prigozhin and the military and political leadership of the aggressor state is a sign of the collapse of the Putin regime,” according to Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, per CNN.

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