By Guy Faulconbridge

MINSK (Reuters) -Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who last month brokered a deal to end an armed mutiny in Russia, said on Thursday that Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus.

Lukashenko said on June 27 that Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group whose fighters briefly captured a southern Russian city and marched towards Moscow, had arrived in Belarus as part of the deal that defused the crisis three days earlier.

But Lukashenko told reporters on Thursday that Prigozhin was now in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city, or may have moved on to Moscow. “He is not on the territory of Belarus.”

Lukashenko also said the question of Wagner units relocating to Belarus had not been resolved, and would depend on decisions by Russia and by Wagner.

His comments highlighted the huge uncertainties surrounding the terms and implementation of the deal that ended the mutiny, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said could have plunged the country into civil war.


Russian state TV on Wednesday launched a fierce attack on Prigozhin and said an investigation into what had happened was still being vigorously pursued.

Lukashenko said he had agreed to meet Putin in the near future and would discuss the Prigozhin situation with him.

Prigozhin is “absolutely free” and Putin will not “wipe him out”, Lukashenko added.

A business jet linked to Prigozhin left St Petersburg for Moscow on Wednesday and was heading for southern Russia on Thursday, according to flight tracking data, but it was not clear if the mercenary chief was on board.

Lukashenko said an offer for Wagner to station some of its fighters in Belarus – a prospect that has alarmed neighbouring NATO countries – still stands.

“We are not building camps. We offered them several former military camps that were used in Soviet times, including near Osipovichi. If they agree. But Wagner has a different vision for deployment, of course, I won’t tell you about this vision,” he said.

Lukashenko also said he did not see a Wagner presence in Belarus as a risk to his country and did not believe Wagner would ever take up arms against Belarus.

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Gareth Jones)

Brought to you by