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Belarus president confirms Wagner leader Prigozhin has arrived in Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivering his speech during a ceremony presenting the general's epaulettes in Minsk.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivering his speech during a ceremony presenting the general's epaulettes in Minsk. Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Office
Copyright AP/Belarusian Presidential Press Office
By Euronews with Agencies
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Prigozhin’s exile in Belarus had been earlier announced by the Kremlin as part of the deal that ended the rebellion

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed on Tuesday that Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary Wagner Group, has arrived in Belarus after a short-lived armed mutiny in Russia. 

Prigozhin’s exile in Belarus had been announced by the Kremlin earlier as part of the deal that ended the rebellion. Lukashenko on Tuesday said Prigozhin has moved to Belarus and he and some of his troops would be welcome to stay in the country “for some time” at their own expense.

Lukashenko also said that the rebellion was the result of a breakdown in relations between Wagner and the Russian army.

"The situation got away from us, then we thought it would be resolved, but it hasn't been resolved," Lukashenko told journalists. "There are no heroes in this story". 

The aborted rebellion by the Wagner group has been the biggest challenge faced by Putin since taking office more than two decades ago. Faced with critics who believe he has been greatly weakened by this crisis, the Kremlin took a stand on Tuesday.

"We don't agree," replied Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov. "These events have shown the extent to which society is consolidating around the president."

Russian authorities have announced they are dropping mutiny charges against Prigozhin and other Wagner members. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said its investigation found that those involved in the mutiny “ceased activities directed at committing the crime,” so the case would not be pursued.

Avoided 'civil war'

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to his army, which he said had prevented a "civil war" during last weekend's Wagner uprising.  The fighters have been pardoned but the group has been ordered to hand over its heavy weapons.

While the shockwaves of the revolt led by Prigozhin's men have yet to be measured, the Kremlin has already denied that Vladimir Putin has been weakened by this crisis, the worst in more than two decades of his reign.

"You have protected the Constitutional order, the life, security and freedom of our citizens. You have protected our Motherland", Putin said at a ceremony in front of the military in Moscow. "In fact, you prevented a civil war," he added.

With a solemn expression on his face and his head bowed, the master of the Kremlin then observed a minute's silence in tribute to the army pilots killed by Wagner Group forces while "performing their duty with honour".

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