After previously refusing to surrender, Wagner private military company chief Yevgeny Prigozhin announced his forces were turning around from a march toward Moscow — suddenly defusing a crisis that threatened Russia’s stability.
It followed an intervention by the Belarusian government, according to the Kremlin, who said a deal had been reached that would see the Wagner boss leave for Belarus.
Here’s what you need to know.
How did we get here? Prigozhin on Friday accused Russia’s military of attacking a Wagner camp and killing a “huge amount” of his men. He vowed to retaliate with force, insinuating that his forces would “destroy” any resistance, including roadblocks and aircraft. Wagner troops then took control of a key military facility in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and some fighters advanced toward Moscow. The insurrection ended with the deal apparently brokered by Belarus.
What’s happening now? Prigozhin said he was turning his forces around from a march toward Moscow shortly after the Belarusian government’s apparent deal to halt the advance. The Wagner boss said the move was in accordance with an unspecified plan and intended to avoid Russian bloodshed.
The Wagner boss has agreed to leave Russia for neighboring Belarus, a spokesperson for the Kremlin said. However, his current whereabouts remain unclear.
What’s next for Prigozhin? Criminal charges against Prigozhin will be dropped and Wagner’s fighters will face no legal action for their part in the insurrection, a Kremlin spokesperson said. But experts have warned that the danger isn’t over for the chief of the mercenary outfit.
What does this mean for Putin? The armed standoff was one of the most dramatic moments for Putin since his rise to power 23 years ago, and arguably one of the most volatile moments since his brutal onslaught in Ukraine began more than a year ago.
Experts say despite the apparent deescalation, the Russian leader’s strongman reputation has been compromised and many questions remain over what could happen next.
How has Ukraine responded? President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address, claimed Putin is “very afraid,” saying that the Russian president is “probably hiding somewhere, not showing himself.” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Prigozhin’s escalation had “almost nullified” Putin and criticized Prigozhin for “suddenly” turning his forces around.