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Mercenary fighters chief strikes deal with Putin

MOSCOW: The chief of the rebel Wagner mercenary force will go to Belarus and will not face charges after calling off his troops’ advance on Moscow, the Russian government said, easing the country’s most serious security crisis in decades.

The feud between Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russia’s military brass came to a violent head in the past day, with his forces capturing a key army headquarters in southern Russia on Saturday and then heading north to threaten the capital.

Within hours of Prigozhin’s about-face, the Kremlin announced he would leave for Belarus and Russia would not prosecute him or Wagner’s members.

It had been a dramatic day, with President Vladimir Putin warning against civil war, Moscow telling locals to stay off the streets and Kyiv revelling in the chaos engulfing its enemy.

The tide shifted suddenly when Prigozhin made the stunning announcement that his troops were “turning our columns around and going back to field camps” to avoid bloodshed in the Russian capital.

Prigozhin, who has feuded bitterly with Moscow’s military leadership even as his outfit led parts of Russia’s Ukraine offensive, said he understood the importance of the moment and did not want to “spill Russian blood”.

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