No charges for Wagner mercenaries who took part in armed uprising, Kremlin says
- Members would be offered contracts with regular Russian forces, it was claimed
- The deal was brokered by Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko
Wagner mercenaries who took part in the armed uprising will not face charges, the Kremlin has said.
Members of the private military group, who have been accused of rape, murder and torture around the world, would also be offered contracts with regular Russian forces, it was claimed.
The deal was brokered by Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko who said he had persuaded Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to call off his troops to avoid bloodshed. On Saturday, they were filmed leaving Rostov-on-Don with Prigozhin to cheers from some locals.
Prigozhin said he had ordered his troops back to field camps in occupied areas of Ukraine. It remains to be seen what happens to the group now and whether any troops will follow him to Belarus.
Officially, Wagner – formed in 2014 – did not exist. But Prigozhin built it into a powerful force through interventions in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine, where it has emerged in a high-profile role.
Yevgeny Prigozhin said he had ordered his troops back to field camps in occupied areas of Ukraine. It remains to be seen what happens to the group now and whether any troops will follow him to Belarus
Citizens standing near military vehicles on a street of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023
On Saturday, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said troops who took part in the revolt would not be prosecuted given their ‘achievements at the front’.
Putin had said all ‘volunteer units’ should sign contracts by July 1 bringing them under the control of the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. This is thought to have angered Prigozhin. One ex-Wagner commander told the Guardian it was ‘unlikely’ many would join the regular Russian army. He said: ‘It is either Wagner or nothing.’
But there were reports that others had accused him of ‘walking off’. In one video, a Wagner unit said Prigozhin was ‘not a man’. ‘Rumours say you walked off, lied to all the lads,’ one said.
Lord Dannatt, an ex-British Army chief of general staff, raised concerns of whether Prigozhin was being repositioned to lead an attack on Kyiv from Belarus.
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