After almost 24 hours of tension in Russia, Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has ordered the mercenaries, who were advancing towards Moscow after declaring rebellion against the military command of the Russian Defense Ministry, to withdraw to the bases to avoid a ” bloodshed”. “The time has come when blood can be shed. Therefore, understanding all the responsibility that Russian blood is shed by one of the parties, our columns turn around and return to our bases according to plan, ”he said in an audio message on his Telegram channel.

The order comes after the President of Belarus, Alexandr Lukashenko, announced that he had negotiated a de-escalation agreement with Prigozhin. “Yevgueni Prigozhin accepted the proposal of the Belarusian president on the advance of Wagner’s troops on Russian territory and future steps to reduce tensions,” Lukashenko’s press service explained on Telegram.

This Friday night, Yevgueni Prigozhin, the head of the mercenaries, declared himself in absentia against the military command of the Russian Ministry of Defense, especially against Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the General Staff, Valeri Gerasimov, whom he accused of having “annihilated” 100,000 Russian soldiers and creating “chaos” with his command style in the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin also assured that a Russian missile attack killed dozens of his fighters -something they deny from Moscow- and promised “revenge”. It was then that Prigozhin urged a “march for justice” to Moscow, which was understood by some sectors as an attempted coup, something that the Wagner boss denied.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised for his part this morning to neutralize Prigozhin’s “armed mutiny”. The head of the Kremlin, who has described the rebellion as a “stab in the back”, has said that those responsible will be punished and that the Army and law enforcement have received “the necessary orders” in the country, where security measures they are reinforcing

In a defiant response to Putin’s speech, Prigozhin has charged directly at the president, saying he “was sorely mistaken about betraying the homeland.” “No one is going to turn themselves in (…). We do not want the country to continue living in corruption, bureaucracy and lies, ”he added in an audio on his Telegram channel. “We are patriots, and those who are against us are the ones who unite around the bastards.” In a subsequent message, Wagner’s leader has assured that his forces have been attacked “first with artillery and then from helicopters.”

Finally, the Kremlin has announced an agreement for Prigozhin to leave Russia for Belarus. “The criminal case that was opened to him will be closed and he will go to Belarus,” Putin’s team has said.

Arrival in Rostov-on-Don

The owner of the Wagner Group said Saturday morning that he and his troops had arrived in the key Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after crossing the border from Ukraine. In videos posted on social media early Saturday morning, Prigozhin has stated that he is at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov and has demanded that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s top general Valery Gerasimov go to the city, 1,000 kilometers south of Moscow and an important logistical node in the invasion of Ukraine.

In the afternoon, around 4:30 p.m. local time, local authorities reported that there were Wagner columns in Lipetsk, less than 400 kilometers south of Moscow. Shortly after this position became known, the mayor of Moscow, Serguei Sobyànin, has asked the inhabitants of the city to reduce their displacements “as much as possible” and has declared Monday as a “non-working” day except for the authorities and public services .

As the day progressed, before the news of the withdrawal of the troops, there were those who expected an armed confrontation or a possible civil war. “We have reached an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloody massacre on the territory of Russia. At this moment, there is an absolutely beneficial and acceptable solution to the situation on the table, with security guarantees for Wagner’s fighters”, explained Lukashenko’s press officer, present at the negotiations throughout the day. Around 8:00 p.m., the news broke that Prigozhin had ordered the troops to return to the bases to avoid “bloodshed.” Little by little, the troops have begun to withdraw from Rostov-on-Don, where several Russian citizens have come to see them off.

Ukraine: “Russia’s weakness is evident”

For the moment, Western countries say they are following developments closely. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, declared this Saturday that he is in contact with the leaders of the European Union to analyze the situation. Michel has indicated that what is happening in Russia is “an internal matter”, which it is “monitoring”, as is the United States, which has said that President Joe Biden is following the information on what happened with the Wagners as that the escalation grows.

The Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, has also reacted to the events, assuring that Russia’s “large-scale weakness” is “obvious” “Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it. And all this is a single man (…) although he is not capable of leading to anything else. Russia’s weakness is obvious. A large-scale weakness ”, he has written on his Telegram channel.

What does this mean for Ukraine?

As a Guardian article explains, it is impossible to know how the showdown will play out after the latest events. Most experts believed that Prigozhin would fail, but in any case, the fight is likely to benefit Ukraine. Weapons, soldiers and attention have been displaced from the front lines as kyiv intensifies its counteroffensive. Prigozhin said Saturday that he does not want to harm the war effort, but at least for now, and even if the fighting is limited, Russian generals are now more focused on what is happening inside their country.

Furthermore, according to Graham-Harrison, for Russia’s foreign policy, and for its projection of power, Wagner has been an effective tool. His fighters support Moscow’s partners and serve as a warning to leaders who do not want to listen. Even if Putin chooses to ignore the messages of this uprising, it is unlikely that he will be able to replace this mercenary force anytime soon. The leaders of other countries who had Wagner’s support must be rethinking their security.


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