An unannounced agreement, mediated by the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, between Moscow and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, ended the rebellion crisis initiated by Prigozhin, whose forces returned to the epicenter of the rebellion in Rostov-on-Don after having been halfway to Moscow.
The agreement—the specifics of which have not been made public—was confirmed in a subsequent step by the announcement that Wagner had left Rostov-on-Don. Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Belarus for coming to an agreement in a statement citing the Kremlin, and in response, Progozhin confirmed that he had accepted the agreement to prevent bloodshed, both stressing that the crisis is over. In parallel, as a sign the crisis was over, Moscow authorities and the affected regions started to lift restrictions that had been put in place all day.
Both Parties Retreat
After President Putin retracted everything he said in his morning speech, in which he seemed determined to hold those involved in the rebellion accountable, a position with which the army sided and stigmatized Wagner with betrayal and backstabbing, the course of all scenarios that predicted the crisis that erupted on Saturday, 24 June, would escalate was reversed. In a similar vein, Prigozhin retracted his suggestion that Russia needs a new leader, which was intended to leave room for speculation about the rebellion evolving into a coup, and he confirmed that he supports Russia’s military operations, retracting his earlier claims that NATO posed no threat to Russia and that Putin had been misled and deceived.
The Role of Belarus
Following his televised morning speech, the Russian president made his first contact with Lukashenko. It appears that the latter kept in touch with Prigozhin, who said that attempts to reach an agreement were ongoing and constant. This suggested that until an agreement was reached, Prigozhin was able to move freely while pressing toward the capital. It is possible that Prigozhin told Lukashenko what he refrained from saying during his sporadic live broadcasts on Telegram, and Lukashenko then persuaded President Putin that Wagner’s adventure might lead to problems for which Moscow will pay, particularly the potential for the start of a civil war.
The terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, and they may not be fully or unambiguously disclosed in the future. The Kremlin has declared that contracts with the Ministry of Defense will be signed with Wagner fighters who did not take part in the coup. Additionally, it has made statements regarding the dismissal of treason charges and the departure of Prigozhin for Belarus without making it clear whether or not the commander of Wagner ceded control of Wagner as part of the agreement. Media reports citing observers in Moscow also claim that the Wagner commander has at least been assured that he will not be held accountable for what occurred and possibly that some of his demands related to launching an inquiry into accusations that army leaders bombed his forces in Bakhmut, which they controlled in Ukraine, will be investigated.
According to the Kremlin, the crisis ended without any casualties. Even if some Russian observers justify Putin’s retreat by preventing a catastrophe whose repercussions would have constituted a setback for the Russian Federation and for the Russian military operations in Moscow, the fact remains that Russia’s image was shaken in light of the scene of slipping into internal battles and that the image of the Russian leadership was affected.
Moscow will likely try to advance, to alter the scene of the Wagner rebellion, by going back to the front lines of the war in Ukraine and trying to gain a decisive advantage there. But it is unclear whether the crisis has already passed or if its effects have not yet subsided. Will President Putin change the military leadership or will he be able to move past all the events? Meanwhile, the Wagner case is heading towards resolution.