Prigozhin ordered the Wagner member who was heading to Moscow to turn back and return to the barracks to “avoid bloodshed,” following the efforts of the President of Belarus to negotiate.
“They want to dissolve the Wagner military company. We started the march for justice on June 23. In 24 hours, we were about 200 km from Moscow. No Wagner members shed blood during the process. This program,” boss Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin on the evening of June 24 (in the morning of June 25, Hanoi time) said in the recording published on his personal Telegram account.
“Now, the danger of bloodshed is near. We understand that if there is bloodshed, it will be Russian blood regardless of side, so we decided to change the formation and return to the barracks as planned.”, Prigozhin said.
Minutes before Prigozhin’s statement, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s office said that with Putin’s consent, Lukashenko used a private communication channel to hold talks with Prigozhin several times throughout the day.
“The parties agreed not to allow unnecessary bloodshed on Russian territory. Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal from President Lukashenko, ordering member Wagner to stop all operations in Russian territory and take steps to relieve tension,” the Belarusian President’s Office said.
The Belarusian statement said that Prigozhin had been offered “a favorable and acceptable way to resolve the situation, with security guarantees for Wagner members” but did not elaborate.
Russia’s Security Service (FSB) announced on June 23 that it had opened an investigation into Prigozhin for “inciting sedition” by calling Wagner forces to oppose the Ministry of Defense. Earlier, Prigozhin accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of flying to Rostov to direct a missile strike on Wagner’s training camp, causing massive casualties. The Russian military denies this.
Wagner forces entered the city of Rostov-on-Don on the morning of June 24, taking control of the headquarters of the Russian Southern Military District. Prigozhin insists this is “an operation for justice, not a coup.” Wagner then entered the city of Voronezh, 500 km south of Moscow, prompting Russia to launch an anti-terrorist operation there in response.
The governor of Lipetsk province Igor Artamonov on the evening of June 24 said that Wagner’s military vehicles moved through this locality, 400 km from Moscow.
Before Prigozhin announced his withdrawal, Reuters on the evening of June 24 quoted a source close to the Russian-appointed Donetsk leader as saying that a convoy of 5,000 Wagner soldiers led by senior commander Dmitry Utkin was heading towards Moscow. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin asked people to limit their movement because the city is imposing an anti-terrorism mechanism. He said the situation was “difficult” and announced that people would be off work on June 26 to “minimize risks.”
In his speech at noon on June 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the actions of Wagner and Yevgeny Prigozhin as “treason,” putting ambition and personal interests before the interests of the people. He claimed the military had received orders to take “necessary action” and warned anyone who acted treasonously would be punished. The Russian Defense Ministry called on Wagner fighters to leave Prigozhin tycoon, guaranteeing their safety.