Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner force, stated on Saturday that he has issued orders for his mercenaries to cease their advance towards Moscow and instead retreat to their field camps in Ukraine, in order to prevent any loss of Russian lives.
This announcement from Prigozhin appears to have diffused a growing crisis, as Moscow had been preparing for the arrival of the private army under the command of the rebellious leader. President Vladimir Putin had previously warned of severe consequences in response to their actions.
Prigozhin explained that despite his forces being a mere 200 kilometers (120 miles) away from Moscow, he made the decision to redirect them to avoid “shedding Russian blood".
It remains unclear whether the Kremlin has addressed the request to remove Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as no official response has been provided by the Kremlin at this time.
In an audio statement released on Saturday, Prigozhin said, "They were going to dismantle PMC Wagner. We came out on 23 June to the March of Justice. In a day, we walked to nearly 200km away from Moscow. In this time, we did not spill a single drop of blood of our fighters. Now, the moment has come when blood may spill. That’s why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan."
The recent announcement comes in the wake of a statement from the office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who revealed that he had engaged in a deal with Prigozhin after previously discussing the matter with Putin.
According to Lukashenko's office, Prigozhin has agreed to accept Lukashenko's proposal to halt the advancement of the Wagner group and take further measures to de-escalate the prevailing tensions. The statement also mentions that the proposed settlement includes security assurances for the Wagner troops, without providing additional details.