Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has declared that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner private military company and the central figure behind a recent rebellion in Russia, is currently in St. Petersburg, Russia, and not in Belarus as previously speculated. Prigozhin’s location has been the subject of speculation since the mutiny occurred.
As part of the agreement to end the stand-off, charges against Prigozhin were dropped, and he was offered refuge in Belarus. However, President Lukashenko stated on Thursday that Prigozhin is not on Belarusian territory, contrary to his previous claim that Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus.
In response to Lukashenko’s remarks, the Kremlin stated that it is not actively tracking Prigozhin’s movements. Lukashenko had played a role in brokering the deal to resolve the mutiny and had previously stated that Yevgeny Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus.
The BBC had tracked Prigozhin’s private jet flying to Belarus in late June and returning to Russia the same evening. Since then, the jet has made several flights between St. Petersburg and Moscow. But it remains unclear whether Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board.
Lukashenko, addressing reporters, affirmed that he had spoken to Prigozhin on the phone the previous day and stated with certainty that Prigozhin remained a free man. He also mentioned that the rest of the Wagner fighters were believed to be at their bases, which could include locations in eastern Ukraine or a training facility in Russia’s Krasnodar region.
Wagner Fighters’ Bases: Lukashenko’s Insights
Lukashenko reiterated that the offer for Wagner to station some of its fighters in Belarus. An offer that has raised concerns among neighbouring NATO countries, is still open. He has provided several Soviet-era military sites for their potential use. However, he indicated that Wagner may have different plans and stated, “Of course, I won’t tell you about that.”
The Belarusian leader expressed his belief that Wagner fighters relocating to Belarus would not pose a risk and dismissed the idea that they would take up arms against his country.
On the previous night, Russian state TV broadcast footage of a raid on a “palace” owned by Prigozhin. Showcasing his wealth and weapons. This move seemed to indicate a shift in the media’s portrayal of Prigozhin.