Wagner chief Prigozhin to leave for Belarus, Russian state media says, as rebellion ends

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on June 23-24, 2023. See here for the latest updates.

Wagner appears to halt advance on Moscow as Belarus says it brokered deal
Wagner appears to halt advance on Moscow as Belarus says it brokered deal

Less than 24 hours after Wagner Group mercenaries took control of the strategic southern city of Rostov and began an armed convoy march towards Moscow, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin abruptly announced late Saturday that his violent, attempted insurrection was over.

"The moment has come when blood may spill. That's why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan," Prigozhin said on an official Telegram channel.

Within a few hours of the statement, Wagner mercenaries in Rostov were filmed climbing into their trucks and departing the city. As they did, civilians took selfies with the Wagner troops and cheered for them.

The apparent end of Wagner's march on Moscow came as the result of a deal reached between Prigozhin and the Kremlin, brokered by an unlikely intermediary: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

In exchange for his turning back, the criminal case against Prigozhin had been dropped, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters, according to the state controlled outlet TASS.

Prigozhin himself "will go to Belarus," Peskov said, describing what appeared to be a sort of official exile.

Wagner mercenaries who participated in Prigozhin's "walk" would not be prosecuted, said Peskov, citing their service to Russia so far in the Ukraine war. Instead, they would be given the opportunity to sign contracts to join the Russian military, ostensibly to return to the fight in Ukraine, TASS reported.

At first glance, the deal appeared to signal the end of the Wagner Group, and the integration of its fighters into the Russian armed forces.

Peskov also said Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be delivering an address or live comments on the events of the past 24 hours.

Putin's absence from the public eye as his grip on power faced its greatest challenge was yet another remarkable detail of the failed insurrection.

Soldiers in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on June 21, 2023.
Ercin Erturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

No criminal charges against Prigozhin, but he will go to Belarus, state media says

Head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin left the Southern Military District headquarters on June 24, 2023 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. 
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The criminal charges against Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin will be dropped and he will go to Belarus, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Saturday, according to Russian state media.

Russian authorities will not prosecute members of the Wagner that participated in the rebellion, and the PMC fighters who refused to participate in Prigozhin's "campaign" will sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense, Peskov said.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address, on June 24, 2023, as Wagner fighters stage rebellion.
Gavriil Grigorov | AFP | Getty Images

There will be no new televised address from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Peskov said the leader continued to work in the Kremlin all day.

Peskov said the rebellion will not affect the course of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in any way.

— Ashley Capoot

Belarus president facilitated negotiations

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus at the Kremlin on April 6, 2023.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko permission to hold negotiations with Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin on Saturday, according to a release from Lukashenko's administration.

The negotiations lasted all day, and the sides agreed it was "unacceptable to start a bloodbath in Russia's territory," the release said. Prigozhin also agreed to halt Wagner's advance and take steps to further de-escalate tensions during the talks.

"At present an absolutely advantageous and acceptable variant to defuse the situation is available, including safety guarantees for fighters of the private military company Wagner," Belarus officials said.

— Ashley Capoot

Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is standing down: 'We are turning back our convoys'

Head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin left the Southern Military District headquarters on June 24, 2023 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. 
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday he is standing down and turning back Wagner Group convoys, according to a post on Telegram.

A man holds the Russian national flag in front of a Wagner group military vehicle with the sign read as "Rostov" in Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023. 
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

"They were going to dismantle PMC Wagner," he said. "We came out on 23 June to the March of Justice. In a day, we walked to nearly 200km away from Moscow. In this time, we did not spill a single drop of blood of our fighters. Now, the moment has come when blood may spill. That's why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan." 

Members of the Wagner Group prepare to depart from the Southern Military District's headquarters and return to their base on June 24, 2023 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Ashley Capoot

Zelenskyy says Russian officials 'do not control anything'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for leadership and support for Ukraine in a Telegram post on Saturday.

He said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin "is probably hiding somewhere," and is likely no longer in Moscow.

"Today the world saw that the masters of Russia do not control anything. Nothing at all. Just complete chaos. Complete lack of any predictability," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy added that Ukraine will be able to protect Europe from Russian forces, regardless of who commands them.

— Ashley Capoot

President Biden spoke with world leaders about Russia, White House says

US President Joe Biden meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 13, 2023. 
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Saturday spoke with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to a statement from the White House.

The leaders expressed their "unwavering" support for Ukraine and discussed the ongoing situation in Russia, according to the statement.

— Ashley Capoot

Russian Foreign Ministry warns against taking advantage of rebellion

Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of the circus building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.
Denis Romanov | AFP | Getty Images

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned Western nations against taking advantage of the ongoing situation in Russia, according to a statement Saturday.

The ministry said that the "attempted armed rebellion" in the country "plays into the hands of Russia's external enemies."

A local resident walks past members of Wagner group in Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.
Denis Romanov | AFP | Getty Images

"We warn the Western countries against any hint of possible use of the domestic Russian situation to achieve their Russophobic goals," the ministry said in the statement. "Such attempts are futile and will not find a response either in Russia or among sensible political forces abroad."

The ministry said Russia will find a solution to the conflict in the "near future."

Members of Wagner group detain a man in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.
Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

"Our country will continue its sovereign course to ensure its security, protect its values, strengthen its prestige in the international arena, and form a just multipolar world order," it said.

— Ashley Capoot

Turkish President Erdoğan spoke with Putin by phone

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declaring a three-month state of emergency and vowing to hunt down the "terrorist" group behind the 2016 coup attempt during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016. Following the coup, a newsroom crackdown ensued and a series of trials against journalists were launched.
Adem Altan | Afp | Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone, his administration said in a tweet Saturday.

Erdoğan addressed the ongoing situation in Russia and urged parties to act with "common sense." He said Turkey is ready to help ensure the incidents are "resolved in a calm and peaceful manner," according to the tweet.

— Ashley Capoot

Mayor of Moscow declares Monday will be a 'non-working day'

The Russian flag flies on the dome of the Kremlin Senate building behind Spasskaya Tower, while the roof shows what appears to be marks from the recent drone incident, in central Moscow, Russia, May 4, 2023. 
Stringer | Reuters

Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, said that the situation in the city is "difficult," according to a Telegram post on Saturday.

He said Monday will be a "non-working day" in order to minimize risk, and he asked residents to refrain from traveling around the city as much as possible.

— Ashley Capoot

President Biden briefed on situation in Russia

President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with AI experts and researchers at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, June 20, 2023.
Jane Tyska | Medianews Group | Getty Images

President Joe Biden was briefed on the ongoing situation in Russia again Saturday morning, a White House official told NBC News.

The official added that the Biden administration is continuing to monitor developments.

— Ashley Capoot

Mercenary Wagner Group getting closer to Moscow

Armored vehicles are seen as the traffic density occurred where security measures taken along the M4 highway to Moscow amid escalating tensions between the Kremlin and the head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, in Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2023.
Boris Alekseev | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

PMC Wagner equipment is reportedly moving around the Lipetsk region, Governor Igor Artamonov said via Telegram Saturday.

This means the private army is getting closer to the Russian capital of Moscow.

"Law enforcement agencies and authorities, including those in municipalities, are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the population," Artamonov said.

— Ashley Capoot

Russia's neighboring nations tighten borders

Russia's neighboring nations are tightening security around their borders as tensions rise between Russian officials and the mercenary Wagner Group.

Edgars Rinkēvičs, minister of foreign affairs in Latvia, wrote in a tweet Saturday that border entry or visas from Russians attempting to leave the country "won't be considered."

He said Latvia is "closely following" the situation and that there is "no direct threat" to the country at this time.

Kaja Kallas, prime minister of Estonia, said Saturday that border security has been strengthened. She urged people not to travel to "any part" of Russia.

"I can assure that there is no direct threat to our country," she wrote in a tweet.

— Ashley Capoot

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with allies about Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as he meets with GCC Ministers at the GCC Secretariat in Riyadh on June 7, 2023.
Ahmed Yosri | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday morning that he spoke with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and G-7 Foreign Ministers about the fast-developing situation in Russia.

"The United States will stay in close coordination with Allies and partners as the situation continues to develop," he wrote in a tweet.

— Ashley Capoot