On Tuesday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Wagner head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had arrived in Belarus 3 days after he led an armed rebellion against Russia’s defense ministry.
“Yes, today he’s in Belarus,” Lukashenko said according to state-run news agency Belta.
“We’ll help you if you want to stay with us for a while at [Wagner’s] expense of course,” he added. The same day Lukashenko made his remarks about Prigozhin, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that over the course of the past year, the Russian government has paid the Wagner group approximately $1 billion for contracts carried out to support the war in Ukraine.
During a speech in which he thanked security services and soldiers for stopping “stopping civil war,” Putin also said that “The upkeep of the entire Wagner Group was fully provided for by the state.”
Meanwhile, in Belarus, the government has been squashing rumors that Wagner could participate in guarding the Russian tactical nuclear weapons that Putin recently transferred to Belarus indefinitely.
On Tuesday, Lukashenko said of the Wagner group, “But I could use such a unit in the army,” before announcing that he had instructed his defense minister to consider the possibility of having Wagner assist the Belarusian military.
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Lukashenko mediated the ceasefire between Wagner and the Russian military on Saturday during the armed uprising and claims that he personally encouraged Putin not to kill Prigozhin in response to the short-lived mutiny.
“I said to Putin: we could waste (Prigozhin), no problem. If not on the first try, then on the second. I told him: don’t do this,” Lukashenko said.
While Putin still referred to Prigozhin and his mercenaries as traitors, he did uphold his word to Lukashenko and allowed the Wagner head to safely leave Russia for Belarus.
It is widely believed that Prigozhin left Russia onboard his private jet which is an Embraer Legacy 600. According to regional media, “An Embraer Legacy 600 – which investigative journalists have previously linked to the Russian businessman – landed southwest of the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Tuesday at 07:37 a.m. local time, flight tracking data showed.”
Despite Putin remarking on Tuesday about a possible shake-up in the defense ministry and about bringing future corruption charges against Wagner, to date, nothing of that nature has materialized and Defense Minister Shoigu has continued to be present at all major events over the past few days.
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