A day after an armed rebellion threatened his grip over Russia, President Vladimir Putin declared that Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin will “be brought to justice.”
“Any blackmail or attempts to arrange internal unrest are doomed to failure,” Putin said in a televised speech Monday evening. “The organizers of the rebellion have betrayed their country.”
However, he also appeared to acknowledge that an immunity deal struck between the two to end the standoff will be upheld for now. Putin said that those who participated in the rebellion would have the option to leave with Prigozhin to Belarus and avoid prosecution or return home to their families, while also extending them the opportunity to repent by joining the Russian army.
He did not specifically name Prigozhin or mention a plan to revoke immunity, which analysts say means the Wagner leader will be able to continue to lead the group in Belarus without consequences.
A Kremlin spokesperson had initially said the speech would “without exaggeration, will determine the fate of Russia,” but Putin only spoke for about five minutes and provided no signifcant update about the armed rebellion.
He added that the rebellion was ultimately squashed by “patriotism of Russians,” saying that many of the Wagner fighters were also patriots but were tricked by Prigozhin.
Putin also thanked Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko for his help in bolstering a treaty. Lukashenko is expected to offer more details on the treaty tomorrow.
Prigozhin ordered his troops to march to Moscow Friday after claiming that the Russian military shelled his forces, sending the Kremlin into high alert given its already-weakened defense capabilities.
Later, Prigozhin denied any coup attempt, but agreed that the uprising had exposed Moscow’s security shortcomings.
Experts agree that the rebellion tested Putin’s grip on power, with many arguing that cracks in Russia’s power structure will only worsen, and that those below Putin will have more power going forward.