Russia prepared to take possession of heavy military hardware held by Wagner as Moscow moved to bring the mercenary group under its control after its aborted mutiny.
The uprising at the weekend sparked Russia’s most serious security crisis in decades, raising questions over President Vladimir Putin‘s grip on power as his campaign in Ukraine drags on.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was to leave for Belarus in a deal to defuse the confrontation, with Russia’s FSB saying Tuesday that the criminal case against the group’s troops was now closed.
“Preparations are underway for the transfer of heavy military equipment from the private military company Wagner to units of the Russian armed forces,” the defense ministry said.
Putin on Monday accused Ukraine and its Western allies of wanting Russians to “kill each other” during the revolt, which stunned the country.
In his first address to the nation since the rebels pulled back, Putin said he had issued orders to avoid bloodshed and granted amnesty to the Wagner fighters.
Prigozhin had earlier defended his aborted mutiny as a bid to save his mercenary outfit and expose the failures of Russia’s military leadership — but not to challenge the Kremlin.
The rogue warlord’s first audio message since calling off his troops’ advance on Moscow was released as Russian officials attempted to present the public with a return to business as usual, with authorities in the capital standing down their enhanced security regime.
Fighting continued in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces claimed new victories in their battle to evict Russian troops from the east and south of the country.
Prigozhin, who did not reveal from where he was speaking, said in an online audio message that his revolt was intended to prevent his Wagner force from being dismantled and bragged that the ease with which it had advanced on Moscow exposed “serious security problems.”
“We went to demonstrate our protest and not to overthrow power in the country,” Prigozhin said, boasting that his men had “blocked all military infrastructure” including air bases on their route before they stopped 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Moscow.
Prighozin called off the advance and pulled out of a military base his men had seized in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, a nerve center of the war in Ukraine, late on Saturday after mediation efforts from Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Saturday’s extraordinary sequence of events has been seen internationally as Russia’s most serious security crisis in decades. Wagner shot down six Russian helicopters and a command and control plane during their advance, according to Russian military bloggers.
The Kremlin has since been at pains to stress that there had been a return to normal.