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Wagner head says group standing down after claims of deal

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Wagner head says group standing down after claims of deal

New videos show Wagner private military chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his forces leaving the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don in southwestern Russia after announcing that his forces will turn around from a march toward Moscow.

Prigozhin has reached an apparent deal with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, but the Kremlin have only provided scant details about the agreement.

If you’re just now reading in, here’s what you should know:

Prigozhin will be sent to Belarus: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Prigozhin has “the word” of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he will be able to leave and go to Belarus. Though Prigozhin was seen leaving Rostov-on-Don, his current whereabouts are unknown.

Case against Prigozhin will be dropped: Peskov also revealed that Lukashenko was able to draw on a personal relationship with Prigozhin to broker the deal, which includes any criminal charges against Prigozhin to be dropped.

Wagner fighters will return to base: Peskov said the fighters will sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense and will not face legal action for taking part in the march, adding that the Kremlin has “always respected their heroic deeds” on the front lines.

What others are saying: Former Russian member of Parliament Sergey Markov told News Portal Space’s Christiane Amanpour that Prigozhin was never a threat to Putin, citing Putin’s popularity now being at “about 80%.”

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threw his support behind Putin on Saturday and condemned Wagner’s actions, saying that he rejected “any violent or unconstitutional change of power or uprising.”

Meanwhile, the leaders of UK, US, France and Germany spoke earlier in day to discuss the situation in Russia and reiterated their continuing support for Ukrainian sovereignty, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. Foreign ministers for the G7 countries have also been in contact, the spokesperson added.

The US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau to discuss the situation.

Ukraine’s reaction: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Prigozhin’s escalation “almost nullified” Putin and criticized Prigozhin for “suddenly” turning his forces around. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address, claimed Putin is “very afraid,” saying that the Russian president is “probably hiding somewhere, not showing himself.”

How we got here: Prigozhin on Friday accused Russia’s military of attacking a Wagner camp and killing a “huge amount” of his men. He vowed to retaliate with force, insinuating that his forces would “destroy” any resistance, including roadblocks and aircraft.

By Saturday, Igor Artamonov, governor of the southwestern Russian region of Lipetsk, said Wagner equipment was moving across the region’s territory. Russian military also carried out “combat measures” in the southern Russia city of Voronezh, the region’s governor said, in light of Prigozhin’s claim Saturday to have seized control of key military facilities in the Voronezh and Rostov regions.

What else is going on: Ukrainian forces launched simultaneous counteroffensives in multiple directions, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar. She said that “there is progress in all directions” without giving any further detail.

Earlier Saturday, Ukraine claimed it had taken back territory in the east that was held by Russia since it annexed Crimea in 2014. Ukrainian forces claim to have taken the area prior to the apparent Wagner insurrection but only announced it Saturday. News Portal Space cannot independently verify battlefield reports. 

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