Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Wagner crisis in a brief address on Monday, saying Wagner Group mercenaries will be allowed to go to Belarus after their mutiny.
His comments came after Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who sent a convoy of mercenary fighters toward Moscow over the weekend in an extraordinary challenge to Putin’s authority, posted an 11-minute audio statement on Monday claiming he launched the rebellion after Russian forces killed 30 of his fighters. They were his first remarks since accepting a deal to avoid prosecution and withdrawing his fighters on Saturday.
The short-lived mutiny has forced a closer examination of Putin’s hold on power. Russia’s political system is “showing its fragilities, and the military power is cracking,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Monday at a summit of E.U. foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Questions remain about the whereabouts Prigozhin — who has not been seen in public since the episode came to a close — and about the future of Prigozhin’s Wagner Group mercenaries. Prigozhin said he accepted a deal to avoid prosecution and move to Belarus because Wagner could continue its operations there.
Putin is expected to make “a number of important statements” in the evening, Russian state broadcaster Channel One reported Monday, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “These statements, without exaggeration, will determine the fate of Russia,” Peskov said.
Belarusian state news agency BelTA in a crypitc Telegram post Monday said “The President WILL TELL everything, ANSWER everything. Very soon!”
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
Wagner rebellion and aftermath
Now, following the short-lived rebellion, Prigozhin has reportedly agreed to go into exile in Belarus, a dictatorship even more isolated than Russia and often referred to as the North Korea of Europe, Mary Ilyushina reports.
On some levels, Prigozhin’s most brazen gambit clearly failed — his rebellion ended without the ouster of his archenemies, Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the overall commander of the war in Ukraine. But he did not completely lose his private mercenary army, and he appeared to win some acclaim in Russia: After the news of his deal with Putin was announced, he got a celebrity send-off as he left the city of Rostov-on-Don, with many locals applauding and rushing to take selfies.