Over the weekend, it initially looked as though a mutiny or rebellion was underway in Russia when oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner and leader of an elite mercenary organization known as the Wagner Group, appeared to seize control of a major southern Russian city and then advance toward Moscow before stopping short of the capital city.
It has now been confirmed, as initial reports indicated, that the Russian government will drop all potential criminal charges against Prigozhin and his men, the Daily Wire reported.
That move follows a reported settlement negotiated by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Prigozhin and his men would receive exile in Belarus instead of facing harsh punitive measures and retaliation, or worse, actual fighting against the Russian military.
Just the News reported on Tuesday that Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, formally announced that all pending criminal charges against Prigozhin and his troops who joined him in the brief uprising would be dropped.
With regard to the "armed rebellion," which began Friday but was halted about 24 hours later on Saturday, "participants stopped actions directly aimed at committing a crime," the FSB said, per a translation of a statement. "Taking into account this and other circumstances relevant to the investigation, on June 27, 2023, the investigating authority issued a decision to close the criminal case."
Though Putin had previously denounced the move by the Wagner Group as being tantamount to treason, it had been announced by the Kremlin shortly after the advance was halted that charges wouldn't be pressed against Prigozhin and his men, likely as a condition of the Belarusian intervention in the matter.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that it appeared that Prigozhin had already moved to accept the offer of exile in Belarus for him and his men, as a private jet believed to belong to him was tracked from the southern Russian city of Rostov to an airport near the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
During the aborted advance on Moscow, the Wagner Group had taken control of Rostov and its regional military command headquarters without a fight, prior to moving on northward toward Moscow and the Kremlin.
The outlet further noted that it appeared that the estimated 25,000 Wagner Group troops who had remained in Ukraine, where they have served as a leading fighting force alongside the regular Russian military, had begun to turn over their heavy weapons and sign contracts to continue serving under Russian military command.
It was that same Russian military command in the Kremlin, particularly Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, that Prigozhin had ostensibly intended to oust -- not President Putin -- following months of complaints of mistreatment aimed at his troops, including inadequate supplies and even targeted attacks.
The AP also reported that Prigozhin, while seemingly dodging prosecution for waging an armed mutiny or rebellion against the Russian government, which could result in up to 20 years in prison, he may still face legal problems related to his catering business that for years has enjoyed exclusive and lucrative contracts with the Kremlin to provide food to the government and military.
Putin himself seemed to suggest that an investigation into the company's finances would be conducted when he referenced the company's catering contracts and said, "I hope that while doing so they didn’t steal anything, or stole not so much."
For what it is worth, the Russian government reportedly found around $48 million loaded in trucks during a search of Prigozhin's office in St. Petersburg, though the mercenary commander insisted those funds had been intended to be paid to the families of his troops.
All of that said, as with virtually everything news-related that comes out of Russia, a healthy dose of skepticism and a few grains of salt are recommended, as things often aren't always what they seem to be.