Russia Drops Criminal Charges Against Prigozhin After Wagner Rebellion – News Block

Russia’s national intelligence agency said on Tuesday it would drop criminal charges of “armed mutiny” against Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and members of his Wagner force, while the Russian Defense Ministry announced fighters from the mercenary group were preparing to hand over military equipment to the armies.

An amnesty for Wagner fighters who took part in the mutiny was part of a deal negotiated on Saturday between Prigozhin and President Vladimir V. Putin that ended the rebellion, in which Wagner’s troops seized a military installation in the south. from Russia and marched to within 125 miles of Moscow. Wagner’s forces also shot down several Russian planes, killing an undisclosed number of airmen whom Putin has hailed as “fallen pilot heroes.”

But the announcement by the intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, made it clear that Mr. Prigozhin and his associates would not face criminal punishment for the violence.

“It was established that its participants stopped their actions directly aimed at committing a crime on June 24,” the FSB said in a statement on Tuesday. “Taking these and other circumstances of value to the investigation into account, the investigative body resolved on June 27 to terminate the criminal case.”

At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Wagner’s troops were preparing to hand over the group’s “heavy equipment” to the army, an apparent reference to military equipment. The ministry did not provide details.

The announcements appeared to be an effort to address one of the questions that has lingered since the weekend riot: the fate of Wagner’s heavily armed forces. Mr Putin has said that all private armies fighting on Russia’s behalf in Ukraine should come under the supervision of the Russian Defense Ministry by July 1, including Wagner members.

Fighters with the Wagner group in Rostov-on-Don on Saturday.Credit…Reuters

But there was no immediate response from the Wagner group or from Prigozhin, who has not been seen in public since Saturday. And there were few details about how much Wagner equipment would be turned over to the Defense Ministry or how many Wagner fighters — whose numbers Mr. Prigozhin recently put at 25,000 — would agree to be placed under the command of the Russian army.

Prigozhin, in an audio message released Monday by his news service, said that before the rebellion, “less than 2 percent” of his forces had been willing to accept the new command structure. He also said that he and his fighters had been preparing to deliver their heavy equipment last week, despite their reservations, but decided against it after what he said was a Russian army attack on a Wagner base, the claim by the which has not offered anything. evidence.

The Wagner group has a wide range of equipment, including tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, and aircraft.

The group may have sought to keep some of its equipment and move it to Africa, where it operates as a private militia and a Russian proxy force in several countries. Under the deal negotiated this weekend by Belarusian President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Prigozhin and Wagner could continue their work in Africa, where the group has faced numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said he could not give details about what would happen to Wagner’s recruitment centers inside Russia. There were reports Tuesday that at least one of the centers in Siberia remained open.

Prigozhin has not been seen in public since video on Saturday night showed him leaving the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, surrounded by cheering supporters. Under the deal negotiated over the weekend, Prigozhin would leave for Belarus, Russia’s closest neighbor and ally. The Kremlin also did not comment on questions about whether some of Wagner’s forces would move to Belarus.

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