© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a televised address in Moscow, Russia, June 26, 2023. Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via REUTERS
(Reuters) -A jet linked to Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin arrived in Belarus from Russia on Tuesday, potentially carrying him to exile three days after he led an aborted mutiny against the Russian military.
Flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed an Embraer Legacy 600 jet, bearing identification codes that match a plane linked to Prigozhin in U.S. sanctions documents, descending to landing altitude near the Belarus capital Minsk. It first appeared on the tracking site above Rostov, the southern Russian city Prigozhin’s fighters captured on Saturday.
Prigozhin had said on Saturday he was going to Belarus under a deal brokered by its president, Alexander Lukashenko. But details of his proposed journey into exile were not made public and his whereabouts remained unconfirmed for three days.
He was last seen in public on Saturday night, smiling and high-fiving bystanders as he rode out of Rostov in the back of an SUV after ordering his men to stand down.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in address on Monday night that the mutiny leaders had betrayed their motherland, although he did not mention Prigozhin by name.
Putin said Wagner fighters would be permitted to establish themselves in Belarus, and Prigozhin said Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had agreed to let the group operate there.
Prigozhin, 62, a former Putin ally and ex-convict whose Wagner group mercenaries have fought the bloodiest battles of the Ukraine war, said his fighters had halted their campaign on Saturday to avert bloodshed after nearly reaching Moscow.
“We went as a demonstration of protest, not to overthrow the government of the country,” Prigozhin said in an audio message.
In his overnight speech, his first public comments since the mutiny, Putin confirmed that Russian pilots had been killed fighting against the march on Moscow. He thanked Russians for showing patriotic solidarity in the face of it.
Russia’s enemies wanted to see the country “choke in bloody civil strife” but Russsia would not succumb to “any blackmail, any attempt to create internal turmoil,” Putin said.
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