Chief of Wagner Group, Prigoschin, Reportedly Returns to Russia

news 06-Jul-2023 Europe

Prigoschin back in Russia?

The chief of the Wagner group, Prigoschin, who was believed to be in exile following the uprising of his fighters in Belarus, may have returned to Russia, according to Belarusian leader Lukashenko.

Lukashenko's Surprise Announcement

After the end of the Wagner uprising about a week and a half ago, one of the conditions set by the Kremlin for the mercenary group's chief, Yevgeny Prigoschin, was to leave Russia and go into exile. Prigoschin complied and went to Belarus. However, Lukashenko unexpectedly announced that he has now returned to Russian territory.

According to the state news agency Belta, Lukashenko stated, "Regarding Prigoschin, he is in St. Petersburg. He is not in Belarus." Lukashenko further mentioned that the Wagner group fighters are also not currently in Belarus, although his country is still ready to accommodate "a certain number" of mercenaries.

No Confirmation from Prigoschin or Russia

If Lukashenko's statements are accurate, Prigoschin would have returned to his hometown. He resides in St. Petersburg, where the headquarters of his business empire, "Concord," are also located. However, there is no confirmation from Prigoschin himself regarding Lukashenko's claim.

The Kremlin says it is not aware of Prigoschin's whereabouts. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated, "No, we are not tracking Yevgeny Prigoschin's movements. We do not have the means or the intention to do so," according to the Interfax news agency. Peskov confirmed that the condition for amnesty, which required Prigoschin to leave for Belarus, still remains in effect.

Prigoschin denies seeking a change in power

In his latest public statement, released via a voice message on Telegram on June 27, Prigoschin denied that the Wagner uprising aimed to bring about a change in power in Moscow. He claimed that it was only a form of protest.

At the same time, the mercenary leader emphasized the role of Lukashenko, whose mediation contributed to ending the uprising. On the same day that Prigoschin's last public message was released, Lukashenko announced that the Wagner chief had arrived in Belarus.

Kremlin had promised impunity to Wagner fighters

On June 24, Prigoschin and his Wagner fighters crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia. They seized the headquarters of the Russian army in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. After approximately 24 hours of uprising, Prigoschin unexpectedly reversed course and ordered his mercenaries back to their camps.

In return, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Prigoschin and his fighters impunity and the opportunity to go into exile.

Television releases footage of house search

Officially, the Russian domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, closed its investigation into Prigoschin three days after the end of the uprising, even though media reports suggested otherwise just a day earlier. However, pressure on the Wagner chief continues as several of his companies have been shut down.

Now, several state and private Russian television channels have released footage of the search conducted at Prigoschin's house in St. Petersburg. The search took place during the Wagner uprising. The footage shows the discovery of cash in US dollars and Russian rubles, gold bars, numerous weapons, as well as multiple passports with different names and a wardrobe full of wigs.

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