Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, claimed on Saturday that his troops were about 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the Russian capital Moscow when they chose to turn back to avoid bloodshed.
Prigozhin said in a Telegram statement that Russian officials tried to dismantle his group, so they “set off for the March of Justice.”
“We left on June 23…. We covered so much ground in one day that it was only 200 kilometres to Moscow. We have not shed a single drop of blood from our fighters during this period.
“Now the time has come when blood can be shed; therefore, accepting full responsibility for the fact that Russian blood will be shed on one of the sides, we turn our columns around and return to the field camps as planned,” he declared in an audio message.
Separately, Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko stated that he had spent the entire day in conversations with Prigozhin, which resulted in Prigozhin’s agreement to de-escalate.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin informed his Belarussian counterpart this morning about the situation in Russia’s south involving the private military company Wagner.” The leaders of state decided to collaborate on activities.
“As a follow-up to the agreements, the President of Belarus, having further clarified the situation through his own channels, in coordination with the President of Russia, held talks with the head of the Wagner PMC (private military company), Yevgeny Prigozhin,” said Lukashenko’s press service.
As a result, the parties reached “an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloody massacre on the territory of Russia.”
“Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the movement of armed people from the Wagner company on Russian territory and to take further steps to de-escalate tensions,” the statement stated.
“There is an absolutely beneficial and acceptable solution to the situation on the table,” the statement continued, “with security guarantees for the fighters of the Wagner PMC (private military company).”