After previously refusing to surrender, Wagner private military company chief Yevgeny Prigozhin announced his forces were turning around from a march toward Moscow.
The announcement comes as the Belarusian government claimed President Alexander Lukashenko had reached a deal with the Wagner boss to halt the march of his forces on Moscow. Prigozhin said the move was in accordance with an unspecified plan and intended to avoid Russian bloodshed.
Here’s what you should know:
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.
Artamonov said authorities in Lipetsk were “taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population” as he implied that roads had been dug up by Wagner fighters. In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed that a “counter-terrorist regime” was declared in the city and also declared Monday a “non-working day.” Russian authorities earlier offered amnesty to Wagner mercenaries who agreed to lay down their arms, a lawmaker from the State Duma told Russian state media TASS on Saturday.
What others are saying:
Former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, accused Wagner of a “staged coup d’état,” Russian state media RIA Novosti reported on Saturday. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden and allies reaffirmed their “unwavering support for Ukraine” in a call with leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom Saturday about the situation in Russia.
Since Prigozhin’s announcement to stand down, Putin and Lukashenko had a phone call to discuss “the results of negotiations” with Prigozhin, according to the Belarusian presidential press service. Putin thanked Lukashenko, the press service said.
Ukraine’s reaction: In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed Putin is “very afraid,” saying that the Russian president is “probably hiding somewhere, not showing himself.”
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. CNN cannot independently verify battlefield reports.