Russian intelligence agencies made threats to harm the families of Wagner mercenary group leaders as the group marched to Moscow, a new report by The Telegraph daily states.
The report might offer clues into why Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin may have abruptly called off his mutinous march just hours before reaching the Russian capital on Saturday, May 24
“It has also been assessed that the mercenary force had only 8,000 fighters rather than the 25,000 claimed and faced likely defeat in any attempt to take the Russian capital,” the newspaper wrote.
The Telegraph did not name the specific Wagner leaders whose families were allegedly threatened and it was not possible to independently verify the report’s claims.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Saturday that President Vladimir Putin agreed to allow Prigozhin to escape criminal mutiny charges in exchange for standing down and going into exile in neighboring Belarus.
But the Kommersant business daily, and later state news agencies, reported Monday that Prigozhin was still under investigation for an armed rebellion that Putin had slammed as a betrayal.
The Telegraph cited its sources as saying that President Vladimir Putin “will now try to assimilate Wagner Group soldiers into the Russian military and take out its former leaders” following this weekend’s dramatic events.