Mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin issued on Monday his first statement after ending the short-lived insurrection over the weekend. He stressed that his men’s armed march on Moscow was a “demonstration” not an attempted coup and that it exposed “very serious security problems” in Russia.
He said in a statement on Telegram that his forces’ convoy stopped 200 kilometers away from Moscow and had “blocked all military infrastructure” including airfields that were on their way. He added that the decision to turn around and not continue on forward was because he was trying to avoid bloodshed.
Prigozhin said that the goal of the uprising was to save his embattled group and not oust the government. “We started our march because of an injustice… The purpose of the march was to prevent the destruction of Wagner group.” He asserted: “We went to demonstrate our protest, not to overthrow the government of the country.”
As for his exile to Belarus in a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin said Lukashenko had propositions as to how the Wagner group could continue operating. “Lukashenko extended his hand and offered to find solutions for the continuation of the work of the Wagner private military company within a legal jurisdiction.”
Prigozhin did not disclose his location or provide more details about his exile agreement. It was also not clear what would happen to Wagner’s men.
The top mercenary started a brief rebellion over the weekend which ended by him calling off his Wagner forces’ march on Moscow after agreeing to a deal, mediated by Lukashenko, which would see him exiled in Belarus without any legal action taken against him in Russia.
In typical fashion, he disparaged the ministry of defense in the statement and hailed the combat potential and experience of his men. This brief rebellion had marked the climax of Prigozhin's ongoing public feud with top Russian military brass – namely, defense minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov – over the conduct of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and, most recently, over the ministry’s mandate that all volunteering forces sign contracts with it to acquire the legal status required to operate in Ukraine.
The proposed contract system, which Prigozhin vehemently rejected, would have more tightly incorporated him and his group into the defense ministry's structure. This would have prevented Prigozhin from expanding his own political and military sway, an endeavor he had been pursuing for months.