After an aborted rebellion against Russia’s military leaders, the head of the Wagner Group was thought to be in Belarus. But new reports suggest Yevgeny Prigozhin is in Russia. Where is he and why does it matter?
After the short-lived Wagner rebellion against Russia’s military leaders was aborted – a deal was supposedly struck by the President of Belarus between Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin.
As part of that agreement, it was claimed the head of the mercenary group would go into exile in neighboring Belarus.
Not long after, there were several reports of Prigozhin’s private jet landing near the Belarussian capital Minsk. But Russian state media said the head of the Wagner Group was recently spotted at his offices in St. Petersburg.
An unnamed Pentagon official also hinted that Yevgeny Prigozhin has actually been in Russia for most of the time following the mutiny, suggesting it was unclear whether he’d ever been in Belarus.
The Kremlin has since said that Putin met Prigozhin and 35 senior Wagner commanders on 29 June – five days after the mutiny.
In a three-hour meeting, Putin offered an assessment of Wagner’s actions on the battlefield in Ukraine, while Prigozhin assured the Russian president that his troops were loyal to the country.
All of which calls into question whether a deal exiling Prigozhin to Belarus ever took place.
After Prigozhin’s mutiny, the Kremlin launched an information campaign portraying Yevgeny Prigozhin as corrupt and a liar. A narrative Russian state media has maintained.
There have even been videos released of the FSB, the Russian security services, raiding Prigozhin’s residences.
Since the raid, the head of the Wagner Group has allegedly been seen in Moscow and St Petersburg, where he was reclaiming cash and weapons seized by the FSB.
These reports have further raised questions over the status of Prigozhin’s mercenaries.
When a deal was reportedly struck between Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin, Wagner fighters were expected to set up camp in Belarus, forcing neighboring countries to tighten their borders.
But according to Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, the Wagner Group is not there yet.
Wagner’s mercenaries had apparently been ordered to “take leave” from their permanent camps until early August.
While those mercenaries seem to be on leave for now at least, it looks like Yevgeny Prigozhin is able to operate freely in Russia and most likely protected by security guarantees.
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Imy Harper. Additional reporting by Arsenii Rubis.