Wagner troops abruptly reversed course after advancing through southern Russia toward Moscow on Saturday, bringing an apparent end to an acute civil crisis that had boiled over between the mercenary forces and the Kremlin.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner Private Military Company, announced Saturday:
In the course of a day, we marched to 200 km from Moscow. In that time, we did not lose a single drop of blood from among our fighters. Now the moment has arrived when blood could be spilled. Because of that, understanding that it would be Russian blood being spilled. Therefore, recognizing the grave responsibility that Russian blood would be shed on one side or the other, we are turning our columns back and moving in the opposite direction, back to the field camps, in accordance with plans.
Earlier Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had accused Prigozhin of treason and vowed swift, tough action as the latter’s mercenary forces advanced through Rostov-on-Don and Lipetsk.
It was not immediately clear what had caused Prigozhin’s about-face, though Belarusian authorities claim their country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko facilitated negotiations between the parties throughout the day Saturday. Speculation continues to swirl over what Saturday’s events will mean for Putin’s political future, Prigozhin’s fate, and what this will all mean for Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
This is a developing story.