Wagner Group commander Yevgeny Prigozhin was warned that his troops would be “squashed like a bug” if they reached Moscow during his attempted coup, it was revealed on Tuesday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he told the mercenary leader his men would be totally destroyed while describing how he brokered a deal for Wagner to stop the riot march in exchange for immunity, CNN reported.
Lukashenko detailed his frantic back-and-forth phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin on Saturday to try to stop the attempted coup, during which Wagner’s boss mostly cursed.
He said Prigozhin had been adamant about advancing on Moscow in protest of alleged wrongdoing against Wagner, but the mercenary leader quickly changed his mind once the negotiator informed him he would face devastating results.
«For a long time, I was trying to convince him. And at the end, I told him, ‘You know, you can do whatever you want. But he is not offended by me. Our brigade is ready to be transferred to Moscow,’” Lukashenko, a longtime Putin ally, told state media.
Lukashenko told Prigozhin that even if he viewed the rebellion as a protest, the consequences of a Russian bloodbath could spell disaster for Moscow and neighboring nations.
“This situation concerns not only Russia. It is not only because it concerns our Motherland and because God forbid, but this turmoil would also spread throughout Russia, and the requirements for it were colossal, we were next”, he added.
Lukashenko bragged about the success of his negotiation on Tuesday, as his country hosted Prigozhin and offered Wagner’s troops an abandoned military base in Belarus, saying he had been the key figure in securing peace over the weekend.
Lukashenko said he spoke to Putin by phone at 10:00 am local time on Saturday, after Wagner’s forces had established a base in the Russian city of Rostov to continue their march on Moscow.
«The most dangerous thing, in my opinion, is not what the situation was, but how it could develop and its consequences. I also realized that a hard decision had been made: destroy,” Lukashenko recalled, suggesting that Putin was more than willing to order an attack on Wagner.
“I suggested to Putin not to rush. Let’s talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders,” he added.
Lukashenko stated that Prigozhin did not respond to Putin’s calls, so they established three communication channels with Rostov to negotiate with Wagner.
According to Lukashenko, within an hour of his initial call with Putin, he was able to connect with Prigozhin, who answered immediately and sounded elated at the opportunity to negotiate.
Although Prigozhin was delighted to speak, Lukashenko said the talks were initially heated, with Wagner’s boss spending the first 30 minutes swearing mobly over the phone.
When things calmed down, Lukashenko was able to negotiate an end to the coup attempt by offering Prigozhin and his troops immunity, and the boss agreed to go into exile in Belarus.
The Guardian reports that Lukashenko confirmed that Prigozhin landed in Belarus on Tuesday, and the president offered an abandoned military base to Wagner’s troops.
He added that his country would provide additional camps for the mercenaries if required.
Prigozhin declared on Monday that his troops remain loyal to him despite admitting that 1-2% of them have already accepted the Kremlin’s offer to join the Defense Ministry.
Putin reiterated the offer later that day, telling soldiers they could choose to join the Russian government or throw down their weapons and go home.