The Russian Wagner Group mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin cut a deal Saturday and will exile himself to neighboring Belarus after his fighters, some 5,000 of them, came within 120 miles of Moscow, in a mutiny launched against the Russian military.
“We will destroy everything that stands in our way,” the Wagner Group chief had been quoted as saying earlier, angered by friendly fire attacks on his men on the frontlines of the war on Ukraine.
But then, according to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin agreed to drop treason charges against Prigozhin if he left the country. The deal was reportedly brokered by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and was announced by the Belarusian foreign ministry on Twitter.
Lukashenko reportedly held negotiations with Prigozhin throughout Saturday and said that the Wagner Group leader accepted the proposal of the Belarus leader, who is sometimes referred to as “the last dictator in Europe.”
Occupied by Nazi Germany, Belarus was retaken by Stalinist Russia in 1944 and remained under Soviet control until 1991, when it declare its independence. Since 1994, it has been run by Lukashenko and is an authoritarian state.
As leader of the private mercenary army, Prigozhin has been a key figure in prosecuting the war against Ukraine. Early Saturday, his group of fighters took control of Russia’s military regional headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. This remarkable move is the equivalent of a group of militia in the United States taking control of U.S. Central Command in Tampa. It looked like a civil war in the military was quickly developing.
Within hours, Prigozhin, who was once a trusted insider who was close with Putin, announced that he ordered his forces to return to their respective bases.
As for the official response from the United States, it was curious.
The U.S. State Department on Saturday nonchalantly published a press release about pollinating birds and habitat. The White House kept up a steady stream of Twitter posts about LGBTQ+ issues and the coming anniversary of the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court last year, and repeating how awful the decision was and how much the nation needs to have a national abortion law such as Roe v. Wade.
Readers are advised that war reporting is incomplete, comes from unreliable sources, and is subject to disinformation campaigns from various parties.