In a de-escalation of a significant threat to President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power, the leader of Russian mercenary fighters from the Wagner militia, which had advanced close to Moscow, announced on Saturday that they agreed to retreat to prevent further bloodshed.
The deal to halt further movement of Wagner fighters across Russia in return for guarantees of safety for the rebels was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Reuters reported.
Fighters from the Wagner Group, led by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, had rapidly advanced northwards through western Russia and were already most of the way to the capital.
According to Reuters, Prigozhin said in an audio message that the fighters would return to base because of the risk of blood being spilled.
Earlier in the day, Putin ordered his military to act against the Wagner paramilitary group that seized the southern Russian city of Rostov.
“All those who deliberately stepped on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed insurrection, who took the path of blackmail and terrorist methods, will suffer inevitable punishment, will answer both to the law and to our people,” Putin said.
Prigozhin had said his men had been on a “march for justice” to remove corrupt and incompetent Russian commanders he blames for botching the war in Ukraine. Reuters earlier reported video footage showing troop carriers and two flatbed trucks, each carrying a tank driving 30 miles beyond Voronezh, more than halfway to Moscow, when a helicopter fired on them.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a social media message that “Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness, and the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later.”
US to Delay New Sanctions on Wagner for Fear of Siding With Putin
In another development, the U.S. reportedly plans to postpone implementing new sanctions on Wagner over concerns that a delay in imposing sanctions could unintentionally benefit Putin, the Wall Street Journal reported.
According to people familiar with the situation, the U.S. State Department had planned to announce new designations on Wagner’s gold business in Africa on Tuesday, including on a mining operation set up by the group in the Central African Republic.
The report said Washington had already imposed sanctions on the group for its alleged involvement in disinformation campaigns, including during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and its participation in the Ukrainian conflict. The Biden administration had intended to intensify efforts to target the group’s international business operations as part of a broader crackdown.
Image and article originally from www.benzinga.com. Read the original article here.