Russia will drop charges against Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary group.
The move came after Prigozhin halted his forces’ march on Moscow yesterday.
The Kremlin spokesman said Mr. Prigozhin would go to Belarus. The outlines of a deal that appeared to defuse a rapidly evolving Russian security crisis began to come into focus late yesterday, as the Kremlin announced that a Russian mercenary leader, who for nearly 24 hours led an armed uprising against the country’s military leadership, would flee to Belarus and his fighters would escape repercussions.
The announcement capped one of the most tumultuous days in President Vladimir
V. Putin’s more than 23-year rule in Russia and followed an apparent intervention by the leader of neighboring Belarus, who stepped in to negotiate a solution to the crisis directly with the head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was leading the revolt.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters that under an agreement brokered by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, Mr. Prigozhin would go to Belarus and the criminal case opened against him for organizing an armed insurrection would be dropped.
The Wagner fighters who didn’t participate in the uprising would be given the
option of signing Russian Defense Ministry contracts, Mr. Peskov said, and the rest would avoid prosecution, considering their “heroic deeds on the front.”
“There was a higher goal — to avoid bloodshed, to avoid an internal confrontation, to avoid clashes with unpredictable consequences,” Mr. Peskov said. “It was in the name of these goals that Lukashenko’s mediation efforts were realized, and President Putin made the corresponding decisions.”
In an audio statement earlier in the evening, Mr. Prigozhin announced that his troops marching toward Moscow would turn around. His forces, which had seized the Southern Military District
headquarters in Rostov-on- Don, also appeared to be leaving in footage shared on social media.
In a brief address yesterday morning, Mr. Putin had called the mutiny an act of treason by people who were delivering “a stab in the back of our country and our people.”
Mr. Prigozhin, after lashing out on Friday at the Russian military over its handling of the war in Ukraine, took control of Rostov in the early morning and began moving his armed military convoys toward the Russian capital. Mr. Putin, in turn, scrambled security forces in southwestern Russia and Moscow.
The situation shifted quickly late Saturday when Mr. Lukashenko’s office, in statement, said that Mr. Prigozhin had agreed to the Belarusian leader’s proposal “to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company.” In an audio statement posted to Telegram shortly afterward, Mr. Prigozhin said he was “turning around” to avoid Russian bloodshed and “leaving in the opposite direction to field camps in accordance with the plan.”
Mr. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the leader of Belarus, who had long been personally acquainted with Mr. Prigozhin, proposed serving as a mediator — and Mr. Putin agreed.
“We are grateful to the president for his efforts,” Mr. Peskov said.