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Russian Mercenaries Retreat to Bases After Challenging Putin’s Rule

Heavily armed Russian mercenaries, belonging to the Wagner group, recently staged a rapid advance towards Moscow, challenging President Vladimir Putin’s authority and raising concerns about the stability of his rule. However, the mutiny was short-lived, as the mercenaries began retreating from the southern Russian city of Rostov under a deal that guaranteed their safety. The agreement, mediated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, also involved the relocation of Wagner group commander Yevgeny Prigozhin to Belarus.

The situation in Russia has attracted international attention, with various world leaders and officials sharing their perspectives. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that the turmoil could take several months to unfold fully. Meanwhile, Italy’s foreign minister commented that the events shattered the perception of Russian unity.

President Putin has not made any public statements since the deal was reached, but he emphasized the conflict in Ukraine as his top priority in a previously recorded interview. It is worth noting that the interview took place before the mutiny, and there was no mention of the recent events.

Efforts to address the situation continue, as Putin is expected to participate in a meeting of Russia’s Security Council in the upcoming week. Additionally, he has had further discussions with President Lukashenko, reflecting the ongoing efforts to manage the aftermath of the mutiny.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the 62-year-old commander of the Wagner group, was seen leaving the military headquarters in Rostov and his current whereabouts remain unknown. Prigozhin, a former Putin ally and ex-convict, justified the advance on Moscow as an attempt to remove corrupt and incompetent Russian commanders whom he blamed for the mishandling of the conflict in Ukraine.

The events in Russia have also caught the attention of other world leaders. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed the situation with U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, both of whom expressed ongoing support for Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russian aggression. Zelenskiy emphasized the need for international pressure on Russia until order is restored.

The unfolding events in Russia have prompted concern among Western leaders, particularly considering the country’s possession of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the emergence of “cracks” in the Russian facade, while China, a key ally of Putin, expressed support for maintaining national stability in Russia.

Videos shared on social media captured the moment when the Wagner mercenaries withdrew from Rostov in a convoy of armored vehicles, tanks, and coaches. The footage depicted residents cheering, chanting “Wagner,” and celebrating the retreat. Although the exact date of the video could not be verified, the show of support for the short-lived insurrection was striking in a country that typically exhibits little tolerance for public criticism of Putin and his rule.

The mood among the residents of Rostov following the retreat was primarily one of relief. Some individuals expressed understanding for Prigozhin’s grievances, acknowledging the serious problems within the country that need to be addressed. In Moscow, there were no visible signs of heightened security on Sunday, indicating a relative calm in the aftermath of the events.

The deal brokered between the parties involved included the dropping of a criminal case against Prigozhin for armed mutiny. In recognition of their previous service to Russia, the Wagner fighters who rallied with him will face no repercussions. Lukashenko’s mediation was facilitated by his personal acquaintance with Prigozhin over the past two decades.

During the height of the crisis, Putin addressed the nation in a televised speech, stating that the rebellion threatened Russia’s very existence. He vowed to punish those behind the mutiny and drew parallels with the chaotic events of 1917 that led to the Bolshevik revolution.

The Wagner group, known for its involvement in the bloodiest battles of the 16-month war in Ukraine, has expanded its operations beyond the region. It has become a sprawling international business with interests in mining and fighters deployed in Africa and the Middle East. The swift resolution of the recent turmoil indicates that Putin’s rule will likely remain intact, although it has raised questions about the unity of Russia and weakened its fighting force in Ukraine.

The events have garnered attention worldwide, and the impact on international relations and the geopolitical landscape will undoubtedly continue to unfold. The Russian Ministry of Digital Affairs recommended companies in the IT, telecoms, and media sectors to grant employees a day off on Monday, acknowledging the emotional and tense nature of the situation on Saturday.


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