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Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin to move to Belarus under Wagner deal, Kremlin says

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will move to Belarus under a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to end an armed mutiny that Prigozhin had led against Russia’s military leadership, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement, because he had known Prigozhin personally for around 20 years.

Peskov said the criminal case that had been opened against Prigozhin for armed mutiny would be dropped, and that the Wagner fighters who had taken part in his “march for justice” would not face any action, in recognition of their previous service to Russia.

Fighters who had not taken part would sign contracts with the Defence Ministry, which has been seeking to bring all autonomous volunteer forces under its control by July 1.

Although Putin had earlier vowed to punish those who participated in the mutiny, Peskov said the agreement had had the “higher goal” of avoiding confrontation and bloodshed.

Peskov declined to say whether any concessions had been made to Prigozhin, other than guarantees of safety for him – something he said Putin had given his word to vouch for – and for Prigozhin’s men, to persuade him to withdraw all his forces.

He called the events of the day “tragic”.

“There are no more conditions that I can tell you about,” said Peskov.

Prigozhin had earlier demanded that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov be handed over to him.

Asked if there would be personnel changes in the Russian Defence Ministry as a result of the deal, Peskov said:

“These matters are the sole prerogative and within the competence of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (Putin) in accordance with the constitution of the Russian Federation. Therefore, it is unlikely that these topics could have been discussed in the course of the above-mentioned contacts”.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Andrew Osborn)