Following a short rebellion in Russia, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has landed in Belarus, according to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
After stopping their march on Moscow, Prigozhin and his men had the option of exiling in Belarus according to a pact to quell the uprising over the weekend that Lukashenko is credited with brokering.
Although Prigozhin did deliver an audio message on Monday defending Wagner’s uprising, which appears to center on a standoff with Russia’s military leadership and their handling of the war in Ukraine, it was unclear in the days that followed exactly where Prigozhin was after leaving the southern Russian city of Rostov on Saturday. However, Prigozhin’s exact whereabouts did become unclear.
On Monday, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters he had no idea where Prigozhin was.
By Tuesday, flight monitors and satellite data had shown that two of Prigozhin’s aircraft had touched down at a facility outside of Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted that Prigozhin was reportedly staying in a Minsk hotel without any windows, highlighting a potential concern of being tossed out of one.
In addition to announcing Prigozhin’s presence in Belarus, Lukashenko allegedly welcomed at least some Wagner members to remain at an “abandoned” base there and praised their “invaluable” expertise. The leader of Belarus further said that he convinced Vladimir Putin of Russia not to escalate the situation.
Several regional officials expressed concerns over Wagner’s presence in Belarus.
President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda warned that all nearby nations would be considerably more at risk of turmoil if Wagner sent its serial murderers to Belarus.
Putin stated in a speech on Monday that the instigators of the uprising will be “brought to justice” despite Russia dropping criminal mutiny charges against Wagner members and declaring they would give over military hardware.
Putin also offered Wagner members the chance to join the Russian Ministry of Defence or other law enforcement organizations, return home to see their loved ones or go to Belarus.