A view of a tent camp that Belarusian Defense Ministry officials say could be proposed as one of the places to house Wagner fighters, at the Tsel military settlement in the Asipovichy district of the Mogilev region in Belarus on July 7, 2023.
Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images
Mercenary fighters from Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group are preparing to move to Belarus under a deal that defused their mutiny against Russian military leaders, a senior commander of the group has said.
Since the June 23-24 mutiny, which saw Wagner’s fighters briefly seize a southern Russian town and march towards Moscow, the exact fate of Prigozhin and his mercenaries has been unclear.
Under the deal that ended the mutiny, Prigozhin was to move to Belarus, and his men – some of them former convicts released early to fight in Ukraine – were given the opportunity to travel with him to Belarus. , to join the Russian regular armed forces or to return home.
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However, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that Prigozhin and thousands of his fighters were still in Russia, raising questions over the implementation of the deal.
Anton Yelizarov, whose nom de guerre is “Lotus”, was quoted by a channel on the messaging app Telegram on Saturday as saying that the fighters were now taking a vacation until early August, on Prigozhin’s orders, before surrendering. in Belarus.
“We need to prepare bases, training grounds, coordinate with local governments and administrations, organize interaction with Belarusian law enforcement agencies and establish logistics,” he said as quoted by the channel “Evgeny Prigozhin on Telegram”.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the interview.
Prigozhin himself has become uncharacteristically quiet over the past two weeks. He has not posted on his favorite Telegram channel – Yevgeny Prigozhin Press Service – since June 26, when he defended his fighters’ mutiny actions.
An adviser to the Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Friday that no one from the Wagner group had yet visited the disused military camp that Lukashenko had offered to the fighters.
Yelizarov said there had been no attempts by Russian security forces to “hit” Wagner fighters since the mutiny.
Prigozhin, long fiercely critical of Russia’s Defense Ministry and General Staff chiefs over their handling of the war in Ukraine, said he launched his ‘march of justice’ on Moscow to protest corruption and the incompetence of senior officers.
Asked about the recent attacks on Prigozhin in Russian state media, Yelizarov said it was an attempt by the Russian military establishment to drive a wedge between the mercenary leader and his Wagnerian fighters.
The attempt would fail, he said, because Prigozhin himself had created and shaped the Wagnerian fighters “when the state did not need us”. Yelizarov compared Prigozhin and his men to the mythical King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
This week, Russian state television aired footage allegedly shot during law enforcement raids on Prigozhin’s office in St. Petersburg and one of his “palaces”.
He said an investigation against Prigozhin was still ongoing despite the June 24 agreement, under which criminal charges against him for the failed mutiny were dropped.