| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Putin assures Wagner Group members that his promise to let them be free will be kept

Late on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin provided reassurances to members of the Wagner Group, affirming that his commitment to granting them freedom would be honored.
“Today you have the opportunity to continue serving Russia by entering into a contract with the Defense Ministry or other law enforcement agencies, or to return to your family and loved ones. Whoever wants can (also) go to Belarus,” said Putin in a televised address to nation.

“The promise I made will be fulfilled. I repeat, the choice is yours, but I am sure it will be the choice of Russian soldiers who have realized their tragic mistake,” he added.

Putin said that the “overwhelming majority” of the fighters and commanders of the Wagner Group are also “Russian patriots, devoted to their people and state,” adding that they proved it with their courage on the battlefield.

He said the Wagner members were kept in the dark in an effort to use them “against their brothers in arms, with whom they fought together for the sake of the country and its future.”

The Russian leader underlined that from the very beginning of the Wagner Group weekend munity, on his direct instructions, steps were taken “to avoid any large bloodshed.”

“Some time was needed for that, including to give those who made a mistake a chance to think again, to understand that their actions are strongly rejected by society, and to what tragic, destructive consequences for Russia, for our state, the adventure in which they were dragged would lead.”

Putin also thanked those fighters and commanders of the Wagner Group who “made the only right decision – they did not go to fratricidal bloodshed,” by stopping before crossing the line.

An armed rebellion would have been suppressed in any case, he said, adding that the Wagner organizers “could not fail to understand this. They understood everything, including that they resorted to criminal acts, to split and weaken the country, which is now confronting a colossal external threat, unprecedented pressure from outside.”

Putin highlighted that Russia’s enemies – “both the neo-Nazis in Kyiv, and their Western patrons, and all sorts of national traitors” – seek a fratricide in the country.

“They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other, to kill military personnel and civilians, so that in the end Russia would lose, and our society would split up, choke in bloody civil strife. They rubbed their hands together, dreaming of taking revenge for their failures at the front and during the so-called counteroffensive, but they miscalculated,” he said.

Civic solidarity

Putin thanked Russians for their “endurance, solidarity, and patriotism” in the face of the Wagner Group’s mutiny.

The highest consolidation of society, executive and legislative power at all levels was shown, he said, adding that a firm, unambiguous position in support of the constitutional order was taken by public organizations, religious denominations, and the leading political parties.

“This civic solidarity has shown that any blackmail, any attempt to create internal turmoil is doomed to failure,” he said.

The organizers of the rebellion betrayed the country and the Russian people and those who were drawn into the rebellion.

“They lied to them, pushed them to death, pushed under fire, to shoot at their own (people).”

Putin also thanks Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his “efforts and contribution to peaceful resolution of the situation.”

Bloodshed averted

On Saturday, the paramilitary Wagner Group accused the Russian Defense Ministry of attacking its fighters.

The announcement was followed by group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin declaring “A March of Justice” and crossing the Ukrainian border into the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where his forces captured a critical military installation.

Prigozhin said his fighters would proceed to Moscow, prompting the Kremlin to tighten security across various regions of the country.

He later said his fighters decided to turn back to avoid bloodshed when they were 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Moscow, while Lukashenko said he held talks with the Wagner head with Putin’s consent, and Prigozhin accepted a de-escalation deal.

  • Anadolu Agency