Lukashenko recounted how he convinced Wagner’s chief to halt his mercenary advance into Russian territory and order them back to their barracks when his fighters were about 200km from Moscow.
The so-called “Last Dictator of Europe”, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko takes on an enhanced role and visibility from Saturday, brokering an end to the mutiny of the Wagner paramilitary organization against the Russian political and military leadership.
Speaking today, after confirming the arrival of Yevgeny Prigozhin in Belarus, Lukashenko told how he persuaded the Wagner chief to halt the advance of his mercenaries on Russian soil and order them back to their barracks, while his fighters were in distance about 200 km from Moscow. It was a phone conversation, charged, full of profanity.
In a deal brokered by Lukashenko, Prigozhin’s old friend, the latter ended this “march for justice” by thousands of his men to Moscow in exchange for safe transfer to Belarus.
His mercenaries – who have played a dominant role in much of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – were also pardoned and given the choice to follow Prigozhin to Belarus, integrate into the Russian regular army, or simply return home.
Lukashenko recounted to Belarusian officers and officials his role in Saturday’s dramatic moments, describing Prigozhin as a “heroic guy” who had been shaken by the deaths of many of his men in Ukraine.
“He was pressured and influenced by those who led the raiding parties (in Ukraine) and witnessed these deaths,” Lukashenko said, adding that Prigozhin arrived in the southern Russian city of Rostov from Ukraine in a “semi-crazy state.”
With Prigozhin’s men having taken Rostov and others headed for Moscow, Lukashenko reported trying for hours by phone to reason with Wagner’s chief, who was furious with the corruption and incompetence of the military leadership and wanted to avenge the attack on his mercenaries.
Lukashenko said that in their phone calls there was “ten times more profanity” than in an ordinary communication between them.
“‘But we want justice! They want to suffocate us! We’re going to Moscow!'” Prigozhin said, and “I say ‘halfway they’ll just crush you like an insect,'” was one of the exchanges in the phone calls, according to Belarusian president.
Lukashenko also said that, earlier on Saturday, Putin asked for his help, saying that Prigozhin was not answering any phone calls. Lukashenko stressed that he advised Putin not to “hurry” to crush the rebels and not to assassinate Prigozhin during the mutiny. “I told Putin: we can kill him, that’s not a problem. Either with the first attempt or with the second. But I told him: don’t do it,” Lukashenko said.
Prigozhin said yesterday that he did not plan to topple Putin’s government, but sought the ouster of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.
“No one will give you either Shoigu or Gerasimov,” Lukashenko is reported to have told Prigozhin, ultimately convincing him that Moscow would defend itself and that continued rebellion would plunge Russia into turmoil and pain.
Now that Prigozhin is in Belarus, Lukashenko said his country would benefit from the “experience” of Wagner’s fighters and suggested they stay in abandoned military bases.
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