Mercenary Wagner Group’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says he has ordered his forces, who had been advancing on Moscow, to turn around and return to their bases to avoid bloodshed.
In a surprise move, Yevgeny Prigozhin said his fighters were returning to field camps in Ukraine and did not want to “spill Russian blood”.
Authorities in Moscow and nearby areas had earlier proclaimed a “counterterrorism” state of emergency after Prigozhin claimed control of military sites in Rostov.
President Vladimir Putin responded by pledging to punish those who had “betrayed” Russia.
The Wagner Group is a mercenary private army that has been fighting alongside Russia’s official army in Ukraine.
Tensions had been building between them over how the war was being fought, with Prigozhin recently criticizing Russia’s military leadership.
According to Russian TV channel Rossiya 24, the agreement to substantially de-escalate the situation came after conversations between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Prigozhin.
The Wagner organization previously claimed to have conquered the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and military sites in Voronezh. Wagner forces had also begun marching on Moscow after breaching the Ukrainian border.
Russian authorities had increased security in various regions, including Moscow, where the mayor had advised citizens to avoid traveling.
Commenting on the day’s events, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation was “complete chaos”. He once again urged Western allies to support Ukraine.
“The man from the Kremlin is obviously very afraid and probably hiding somewhere, not showing himself. I am sure that he is no longer in Moscow,” he said in a statement.
“He knows what he is afraid of, because he himself created this threat. All evil, all losses, all hatred – it is he who spreads it.”