Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed Tuesday that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has arrived in Belarus three days following the armed uprising he led against Russia's defense ministry, which has grabbed world headlines.
"Yes, today he’s in Belarus," Lukashenko was cited in state-run Belta news agency as saying. "We’ll help you if you want to stay with us for a while at [Wagner’s] expense of course," the Belarusian leader said. Ironically the words came the same day President Putin revealed in a speech that the Russian government paid Wagner group about $1 billion in contracts over the past year of conflict in Ukraine.
"The upkeep of the entire Wagner Group was fully provided for by the state," Putin had said while also thanking soldiers and security services for their part in "stopping civil war".
The Minsk government has also batted down rumors that Wagner could play a role in guarding the Russian tactical nukes now stationed on Belarusian territory.
And yet Lukashenko still said of Wagner in the Tuesday statements, "But I could use such a unit in the army," and revealed that he instructed his defense minister to explore such a possibility as assisting the armed forces.
It was Lukashenko who mediated a ceasefire deal between the Russian military and Wagner on Saturday. He said that he personally urged Putin not to kill Prigozhin amid the uprising.
"I said to Putin: we could waste (Prigozhin), no problem. If not on the first try, then on the second. I told him: don't do this," Lukashenko said.
As for Putin, he said that he will uphold his word in giving Prigozhin and his mercenaries pardon, and allow the Wagner chief's safe departure to Belarus, despite also calling them traitors.
Prigozhin is widely believed to have exited Russia in his private jet, an Embraer Legacy 600. Regional media reported that "An Embraer Legacy 600 — which investigative journalists have previously linked to the Russian businessman — landed southwest of the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Tuesday at 07:37 a.m. local time, flight tracking data showed."
there is nobody funnier Putin could have asked to intervene in all this than Lukashenko, not even close.— max seddon (@maxseddon) June 27, 2023
the man never shuts up (he's been going for something like 8 hours and still hasn't finished) and has the habit of saying what he thinks https://t.co/fXT9s5w7pm
Putin also on Tuesday teased the possibility of future corruption charges against Wagner, or possible members of the defense ministry. But so far the expected shake-up of top brass hasn't materialized, and Defense Ministry Shoigu has been present at all major events of the past days.