Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russian mercenary group Wagner, said he told his forces to immediately halt their advance on Moscow and return to their bases in Ukraine as fear gripped the country about a potential deadly power struggle.
“We are turning our columns around and going back to field camps,” Prigozhin said in an audio post on Telegram on June 24, adding that he did not want to “spill Russian blood.”
Prigozhin said his troops, which he claimed numbered 25,000, were just 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the Russian capital when he made the decision. He did not say whether he had spoken with the Kremlin or the Russian military before announcing the move.
The insurrection, which began a day earlier, heralded the most serious challenge to Putin’s leadership during his nearly 24 years at the top of Russia’s power structure and comes at a critical time for the Kremlin’s war …