Russia Drops Criminal Charges Against Prigozhin After Wagner Rebellion

The Russian domestic intelligence agency said on Tuesday that it was dropping “armed mutiny” criminal charges against Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and members of his Wagner force, while the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the mercenary group’s fighters were preparing to hand over military equipment to the army.

An amnesty for Wagner fighters who participated in the mutiny was part of a deal brokered on Saturday between Mr. Prigozhin and President Vladimir V. Putin that brought an end to the rebellion, in which Wagner troops seized a military installation in southern Russia and marched to within 125 miles of Moscow. The Wagner forces also shot down several Russian aircraft, leading to the deaths of an undisclosed number of airmen whom Mr. Putin has praised as “fallen hero pilots.”

But the announcement by the intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., made clear that Mr. Prigozhin and his associates would not face criminal punishment for the violence.

“It was established that its participants stopped their actions directly aimed at committing a crime on June 24,” the F.S.B. said in a statement on Tuesday. “Taking into account these and other circumstances of value to the investigation, the investigative agency resolved on June 27 to terminate the criminal case.”

At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Wagner troops were preparing to hand over the group’s “heavy hardware” to the army, an apparent reference to military equipment. The ministry did not provide details.

The announcements appeared to be an effort to address one of the questions that has lingered since the weekend mutiny: the fate of Wagner’s heavily armed forces. Mr. Putin has said that all private armies fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine would have to come under the supervision of the Russian Defense Ministry by July 1, including members of Wagner.

Fighters with the Wagner group in Rostov-on-Don on Saturday.Credit…Reuters

But there was no immediate response from the Wagner group or from Mr. Prigozhin, who has not been seen publicly since Saturday. And there were few details on how much of Wagner’s equipment would be relinquished to the Defense Ministry or on how many Wagner fighters — whose numbers Mr. Prigozhin recently put at 25,000 — would agree to be placed under the Russian Army’s command.

Mr. Prigozhin, in an audio message published on Monday by his news service, said that, before the rebellion, “less than 2 percent” of his forces had been willing to agree to the new command structure. He also said that he and his fighters had been preparing to give up their heavy equipment last week, despite his reservations, but decided against it after what he said was a Russian Army attack on a Wagner base, a claim for which he has offered no evidence.

The Wagner group has a wide range of equipment, including tanks, multiple rocket launcher systems and aircraft.

It was possible that the group would seek to keep some of their equipment and move it to Africa, where it operates as a private militia and Russian proxy force in several countries. According to the deal brokered this weekend by the president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Mr. Prigozhin and Wagner would be able to continue their work in Africa, where the group has faced numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said that he could not give details about what would happen to Wagner recruiting centers inside Russia. There were reports on Tuesday that at least one of the centers in Siberia remained open.

Mr. Prigozhin has not been seen publicly since a video on Saturday night showed him leaving the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, surrounded by cheering supporters. Under the deal brokered over the weekend, Mr. Prigozhin was to leave for Belarus, Russia’s neighbor and closest ally. The Kremlin also did not comment on questions about whether some Wagner forces would move to Belarus.

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