Wagner mercenary boss will 'move to Belarus after rebellion halted', Kremlin says

Vladimir Putin remains as Russia's president, but even those on his side are now questioning how much longer he can last, ITV News' Emma Murphy reports

The leader of the Wagner mercenary group has had criminal charges dropped after calling off a rebellion and ordering his troops to stop marching on Moscow, the Kremlin has said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin will also move to Belarus as part of a deal struck to diffuse tensions with the Russian military, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

However, the saga raises many questions about what this means for the war in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin's leadership, which after this saga now appears weaker than ever.

This has has been one of the most damaging days of his 23 years as Russia's president, given how close Wagner got to the capital with little resistance.

Mercenaries who joined in the uprising will not face prosecution and those who did not will be offered contracts by the Defense Ministry, Peskov added.

Its leader was once one of Vladimir Putin's closest confidants, and his private army is behind some of the fiercest fighting in Ukraine, so what persuaded the Wagner Group to turn on Russia's military? ITV News' Martha Fairlie explains

After months of criticism over a lack of equipment and ammunition provided to Wagner's fighters, the Russian military's handling of the war, and the motivations for invading.

Prigozhin was keen to stress his outfit's success on the battlefield, and viewed the Russian military of taking credit for Wagner's successes.

Tensions reached boiling point on Friday when Prigozhin accused defence minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike on his troops camping in Ukraine, taking out a "huge amount" of his forces.

He vowed to take "revenge" and ordered his men to cross the border back into Russia to oust the country's top brass, insisting his fighters would "not surrender".

Wagner fighters guard an area at the HQ of Rostov-on-Don's southern military district. Credit: AP

He denied accusations of "high treason" and "betrayal" made by Putin, adding: “We do not want the country to live on in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy.”

Wagner troops took over the city of Rostov-on-Don and seized a military base, and were moving at speed towards Moscow when Prigozhin unexpectedly called off his men today.

His fighters were just 200km away from the Russian capital when they were ordered to stop, with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko claiming he had negotiated a peace deal.

In a voice note on his Telegram channel, Prigozhin said he'd agreed to de-escalate the situation to avoid "shedding Russian blood".

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