Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner — who led a short-lived mutiny last month — is in Russia and not in Belarus, the leader of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, claimed.
Speaking to reporters in Minsk on July 6, Lukashenka also said that Wagner fighters have remained at the camps where they had lived before the rebellion on June 24.
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The whereabouts of Prigozhin have remained unknown since his fighters briefly captured a southern Russian city and marched toward Moscow last month, representing the biggest threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his more than two decades in power.
On June 27, Lukashenka said that Prigozhin was in Belarus.
Lukashenka, a Kremlin ally, helped broker a deal for Prigozhin to end the standoff in exchange for amnesty and security guarantees for himself and his troops. Under the deal, Prigozhin and his fighters were to be allowed to move to Belarus.
Lukashenka didn’t specify the location of the camps where the Wagner mercenaries are allegedly based, but they fought alongside Russian forces in eastern Ukraine before the mutiny.
Asked if Prigozhin and his mercenaries were relocating to Belarus, Lukashenka said that would depend on decisions by the Wagner chief and the Russian government.
The Belarusian leader said he saw no risk in deploying the PMC on Belarusian soil.
“I do not think that Wagner would rebel somewhere and turn their weapons against the Belarusian leadership and government,” he said. “I do not see such a situation today. I absolutely see no risks from deploying the Wagner PMC.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was not tracking Prigozhin’s movements.
Peskov told reporters on July 6 that no date had yet been set for a meeting between Putin and Lukashenka, adding that he could not yet confirm details of what would be on the agenda.
Russian state TV launched an attack on Prigozhin, calling him a “traitor” and accusing him of corruption. A report broadcast on the evening of July 5 purportedly showed law enforcement raids on Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg office and one of his “palaces.”
The footage showed bundles of cash, gold bars, an arms cache, and a collection of wigs in a luxurious residence, along with a helicopter that allegedly belong to Prigozhin.
The Kremlin did not immediately return a request for comment from Soldier of Fortune.
With reporting from RFE/RL and TASS.