Despite President Vladimir Putin calling them traitors, the Kremlin stated over the weekend that it would not prosecute Prigozhin and his troops after he pulled his men back on Saturday to avoid bloodshed, less than 24 hours after the revolt began.
“In the course of investigating the criminal case initiated by the investigative department of the FSB … it was established that on June 24, its participants stopped actions directly aimed at committing a crime,” the FSB’s press service said in a statement carried by state news agencies.
The charge of mounting an armed mutiny carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
Some observor’s say Putin’s speech calling Prigozhin a traitor was to serve as a reminder and a warning to any others thinking of rebellion.
On Monday, Putin called Prigozhin a traitor but said he would fulfill his promises to free them to save more bloodshed. Putin would have had to destroy Prigozhin’s men if they had entered Moscow, and The Wagner Group is popular. Some analysts say bloodshed presents a bad image, and Putin felt they were strong enough to be magnanimous.
As for Prighozhin, his plane landed in Minsk.
Separately, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that preparations were underway for the transfer of Wagner’s heavy military equipment to units of the Russian Armed Forces.
Putin also told The Wagner Group that they could go to Belarus or fight for their country in the Russian military. This was part of the deal. The exception is the men who participated in the attempted coup. They cannot fight for Russia.
Pressures on Prigozhin
There are rumors that Prigozhin was under monetary pressure as Putin canceled contracts. This is not confirmed.
Meanwhile, the head of The Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, insisted his march to Moscow was not a coup. He sent 4,000 men to Moscow to allegedly rescue Putin from bad advisors. Perhaps he thought he’d pick up civilian supporters on the way. He allegedly called for the people to join him. No military unit, pro-Western oligarchs, Chechans, civilians participated in the rebellion. Prigozhin had no choice but to take the deal.
None of the Wagner Group officers participated in the non-coup. Most of the Wagner Group did not participate in the coup, non-coup.
On Monday night, the Kremlin held an emergency meeting of Putin meeting and top security, law enforcement, and military officials. The meeting included Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Earlier on Monday, the Defense Ministry released a video of Shoigu inspecting troops in Ukraine.
According to Tass, Putin told military and enforcement agencies that they saved Russia from civil war.
“You have protected the constitutional order, the lives, the security, and freedom of our citizens. You saved our homeland from turmoil and actually stopped a civil war. In a dramatic situation, you acted clearly and coherently, proved your loyalty to the people of Russia and the military oath, and displayed responsibility for the fate of the Motherland and its future,” Putin said.
Lukashenko said that the armed opposition in Belarus was ready to stage a coup along with the Moscow coup.