In a stunning turn of events, Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly agreed to leave Russia for Belarus on 24 June, effectively halting the group’s advance on Moscow. The Kremlin has announced that Prigozhin and his troops will not face prosecution, indicating a resolution to the armed rebellion that posed a significant threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority.

The agreement between Prigozhin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appears to have played a crucial role in brokering the deal. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, revealed in a conference call with reporters that Prigozhin will be free from the criminal case against him, as he will relocate to Belarus. Peskov also admitted that the current whereabouts of the mercenary leader involved in the armed rebellion are unknown to the Kremlin.

Earlier, Prigozhin had ordered his troops to turn back and return to their field camps as per their premeditated plan.

In response to the mutiny by the Wagner group, President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech condemning their actions. Putin drew parallels between the uprising and the events triggered by Russia’s 1917 revolution. He claimed that Russia had been betrayed from within during World War I, leading to their defeat and subsequent civil war.

However, Professor Peter Bergen, an expert on national security, dismisses Putin’s historical analogy, emphasising that the Russians were not “stabbed in the back” during World War I. Bergen points out that the Russian leadership, particularly Nicholas II, demonstrated extreme incompetence during the ruinous land war in Europe. The mounting losses on the battlefield and mutinies among Russian soldiers were crucial factors that contributed to the 1917 revolution.

Putin’s statement holds significance due to the Communist regime’s roots in the 1917 revolution, in which Putin himself served as a KGB officer. The disastrous leadership of Nicholas II during World War I and his earlier mistakes during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 paved the way for the revolution.

Heightened security measures

For an extended period, Yevgeny Prigozhin orchestrated an apparent insurrection, with an armoured convoy advancing towards Moscow, raising concerns about President Putin’s grip on power. However, the situation has de-escalated significantly with his departure for Belarus and the agreement reached with Lukashenko.

As a precautionary measure, security has been tightened in Moscow, and the mayor has urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel. Furthermore, all mass outdoor events have been cancelled until 1 July, reflecting the lingering uncertainty and cautious approach following the recent upheaval.