New York: Russia dropped the “armed mutiny” criminal charges against Wagner mercenary group’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and its members, a domestic intelligence agency said, The New York Times reported.
In a statement, the Federal Security Service said, “It was established that its (Wagner) participants stopped their actions directly aimed at committing a crime on June 24,” adding, “Taking into account these and other circumstances of value to the investigation, the investigative agency resolved on June 27 to terminate the criminal case.”
An amnesty for the Wagner fighters who participated in the mutiny was part of a deal brokered last week by Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko between Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin that brought an end to the war and also avoided the possible bloodshed in the country.
The Wagner forces also shot down several Russian aircraft, leading to the deaths of an undisclosed number of airmen whom Putin has praised as “fallen hero pilots.”
Meanwhile, the Russian defense ministry announced that the mercenary group’s fighters were preparing to hand over military equipment to the army, reported The New York Times.
The announcements appeared to be an effort to address one of the questions that have lingered since the weekend mutiny: the fate of Wagner’s heavily armed forces.
Putin has said that all private armies fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine would have to come under the supervision of the Russian Defense Ministry by July 1, including members of Wagner.
But there was no immediate response from the Wagner group or from Prigozhin, who has not been seen publicly since Saturday.
Prigozhin, in an audio message published on Monday by his news service, said that the march was a demonstration of protest and not intended to overthrow power.
Explaining his decision to turn around his march on Moscow, Prigozhin said he wanted to avoid Russian bloodshed.
“We started our march because of an injustice. We went to demonstrate our protest and not to overthrow power in the country,” Prigozhin said in an audio message, Al Jazeera reported.
In his new audio message, Prigozhin said that about 30 of his fighters died in the Russian army’s attack on the mercenary group last weekend. He said the attack came days before Wagner was scheduled to leave its positions on June 30 and hand over equipment to the Southern Military District in Rostov.
Putin’s position absolutely stable: Kremlin diplomat
President Vladimir Putin’s position is absolutely stable and there is no change in the overall situation in Russia, a senior Kremlin diplomat said, days after a brief rebellion against Putin by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin last week.
Russia’s special presidential representative for international cultural cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy said Prigozhin wanted to become Russian president but it was a “mistake”.
“The current situation in Russia is stable and the contemporary position of President Putin is also absolutely stable,” he said, replying to a question by reporters.
“The situation is more or less the same. Russia is totally united,” he said while refusing to elaborate further.