President Vladimir Putin’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Sunday that Wagner soldiers who were not part of Saturday’s armed mutiny will be invited to sign new contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.
“An agreement was reached that PMC Wagner troops would return to their camps and places of deployment,” Peskov explained, adding, “Some of them, if they wish to do so, can later ink contracts with the Defense Ministry. It also applies to fighters, who decided against taking part in this ‘armed mutiny.’”
Russia faced an armed insurrection on Saturday, as the Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin drove his troops to Rostov-on-Don, occupied the city without firing a single shot, and declared that he wanted the head of Russia’s defense ministry Sergei Shoigu, whom Prigozhin accused of firing on his troops. President Putin vowing spoke to the nation Saturday morning, promising to punish the Wagner soldiers if they follow their leader to Moscow.
The furious Putin insisted Wagner’s betrayal was a “stab in the back of our country and our people,” he said, comparing their actions to the 1917 revolution that brought down Czar Nicholai II during WW1.
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied Prigozhin’s accusations, and Russia’s internal security force launched a criminal investigation against Prigozhin, a.k.a. “Putin’s chef,” who began his career as a petty criminal and spent nine years in prison. After his release from prison in 1990, Prigozhin began selling hot dogs, then got into the gambling racket, opened several restaurants, and shortly thereafter was made by a former classmate the CEO of privatized state-owned businesses. Soon enough, he became a close confidant of Putin, and together they hatched the idea of establishing a mercenary army to carry out assignments that a proper army could not.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Putin had escaped from the Kremlin to a secret hiding place in St. Petersburg, and suggested Wagner’s march on Moscow would result in a coup d’état. But then, as quickly as the astonishing coup attempt had begun, it ended when Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia for Belarus, in a deal that was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
According to the Kremlin, Russia is unaware of Prigozhin’s current whereabouts. But according to Moscow Times, on Saturday, Putin spoke to his ally, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko––the first international leader he contacted after news of the coup broke out. According to Belarus state media, “The president of Russia called the president of Belarus this morning, there was a phone conversation. Vladimir Putin informed his Belarusian colleague about the situation in Russia.”
President Lukashenko has routinely allowed Russian troops to use Belarusian territory as part of their war against Ukraine.