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Wagner chief orders troops to turn around from Moscow ‘to avoid bloodshed’

Yevgeny Prigozhin announced through a post on social media that his troops are “turning our columns around … to avoid bloodshed.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reportedly revealed he had initiated negotiations with Prigozhin on behalf of and under the authorization of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The negotiations lasted throughout the day. 

Prigozhin agreed to stop the movement of his company toward Moscow. 

“At the moment, an absolutely profitable and acceptable option for solving the situation is on the table with security guarantees for the Wagner PMC fighters,” a statement from the Belarusian government claimed.

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Yevgeny Prigozhin picture

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private mercenary group, leaves a cemetery before the funeral of a Russian military blogger killed in a bomb attack in a St. Petersburg cafe in Moscow April 8, 2023. (Reuters/Yulia Morozova/File Photo)

Prigozhin’s announcement seemingly puts an end to what observers called the most significant challenge to Putin’s regime in his 23 years in power.

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The Associated Press reports Prigozhin didn’t say whether Moscow has responded to his demand to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.

Video obtained by Reuters showed troop carriers and two flatbed trucks each carrying a tank traveling 30 miles (50 km) beyond Voronezh, more than halfway to Moscow, where a helicopter fired on them.

A split image shows Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, Vladimir Putin, and a tank in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don

A split image shows Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Wagner group patrol in an area near a tank in Rostov-on-Don and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the center. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP/STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images / Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

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Prigozhin said he had captured the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don without firing a shot. The city has served as the main logistical hub for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Chris Pandolfo, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

This is a developing story. Check back for further updates. 

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