Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday he persuaded President Vladimir Putin not to “wipe out” Yevgeny Prigozhin amid the Wagner mercenary chief’s two-day uprising.
Early Saturday Putin threatened to punish anyone involved in “armed rebellion” and accused them of treason. However, following a deal brokered by Lukashenko later Saturday, by Monday evening Putin was promising to drop all charges against the mercenaries—most of whom are convicts who were freed for the purpose of fighting with Wagner—if they joined the regular military through Russia’s Ministry of Defense or simply “go back to their homes.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service, FSB, said Tuesday that charges against Prigozhin had also been dropped.
While describing a Saturday telephone conversation with Putin, Lukashenko told reporters on Tuesday, “I also understood: a brutal decision had been made (and it was the undertone of Putin’s address) to wipe out” those involved in the rebellion.
Lukashenko added that he urged Putin “not to rush. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘Let’s talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders.’ To which he told me: ‘Listen, Sasha, it’s useless. He doesn’t even pick up the phone, he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.'”
The uprising began on Friday, when Prigozhin marched his columns of mercenaries into the Russian city of Rostov near Ukraine’s front lines. Prigozhin said his fighters “blockaded” the town “without firing a single shot.”
It ended Saturday after a deal was reportedly struck by Lukashenko that Prigozhin’s mercenaries would receive immunity, and that charges brought against Prigozhin himself would be dropped, once he turned his columns away from their subsequent march toward Moscow. Before turning back, the mercenaries had come within 200 kilometers of the capital city.
Prigozhin defended his actions by asserting that the uprising—which he refused to call a “coup”—was intended to be a protest against the prosecution of the war in Ukraine and not aimed at regime change in Russia.
According to Lukashenko, Prigozhin is now in Belarus as per the brokered deal.