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Wagner hands over arms, claims Russian Defence Ministry

In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, artillery systems belonging to Russia's Wagner group ahead of a handover to Russian military, July 12 2023
In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, artillery systems belonging to Russia's Wagner group ahead of a handover to Russian military, July 12 2023 Copyright AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service
Copyright AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service
By Euronews with AFP, AP
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Russia's Defence Ministry said the haul included tanks, rocket launchers, heavy artillery, 2,500 tonnes of ammunition and some 20,000 small arms.

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The Russian military announced on Wednesday that it has received military hardware from the Wagner mercenary group following its short-lived mutiny last month that challenged the Kremlin’s authority.

The major haul includes tanks, 2,500 tonnes of ammunition, and around 20,000 small arms.

"More than 2,000 pieces of equipment and weapons have been transferred," Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement. 

"Among the transferred equipment, dozens of units [which] have never been used in combat conditions."

The ministry added that mobile rocket launchers and anti-aircraft systems had been transferred.

The disarming of Wagner reflects efforts by Russian authorities to defuse the threat posed by the group, appearing to confirm an end to its military operation in Ukraine.

The transfer of weapons comes amid speculation over the fate of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and the terms of a deal that ended his armed rebellion. 

He and his mercenaries were reportedly offered amnesty along with permission to move to Belarus. But there has since been doubt whether he is actually in Russia's western neighbour. 

On Monday, the Kremlin revealed Russian President Vladimir Putin had met Prigozhin, plus some 34 Wagner senior officials, just five days after the aborted mutiny. 

Few details of the meeting were released, but the encounter was reported to have lasted around three hours.

Putin has said Wagner troops had to choose whether to sign contracts with the Defense Ministry, move to Belarus or retire from service.

AP/PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE
In this handout image taken from a video released by Prigozhin Press Service on May 5, 2023, the head of Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin.AP/PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE

The Russian leader denounced the revolt as an act of treason when it started and vowed harsh punishment for those who participated in it. But the criminal case against Prigozhin was dropped hours later as part of the deal.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered the deal that ended the mutiny, said last week that his country offered Wagner field camps but noted that Prigozhin was in Russia and his troops remained at their home camps.

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