Russia drops charges against Prigozhin and others who took part in rebellion

Russian authorities have announced the closure of a criminal investigation into the armed rebellion led by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, with no charges filed against him or any others. The Federal Security Service (FSB) stated that those involved in the mutiny had ceased activities related to the crime. This development comes after the Kremlin pledged not to prosecute Prigozhin and his fighters following the revolt, despite President Vladimir Putin initially labeling them as traitors.

The charge of mounting an armed mutiny carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, making Prigozhin`s escape from prosecution notable given the harsh treatment of opposition figures involved in anti-government protests in Russia. Prigozhin`s whereabouts remain unknown, although it has been suggested that he might be exiled to neighboring Belarus.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, brokered a deal with Prigozhin to halt the uprising. Lukashenko portrayed the revolt as a clash between Prigozhin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, framing it as a significant threat and placing Belarus` armed forces on combat footing during the mutiny.

In a televised address, Putin criticized the organizers of the rebellion as traitors aligned with Ukraine`s government and its allies. While critical of Prigozhin, Putin praised Wagner commanders, possibly to retain their loyalty as Russia faces the early stages of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

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Prigozhin`s short-lived insurrection has caused turmoil within Russia`s leadership. Putin aimed to project stability in his speech, condemning the “organizers” of the uprising without mentioning Prigozhin explicitly. He also commended Russian unity and the Wagner fighters for preventing major bloodshed. However, it remains unclear whether Prigozhin will be able to retain his mercenary force, as Putin offered them options to join the Russian Defense Ministry, leave service, or go to Belarus.

The situation surrounding Prigozhin and the rebellion has raised questions about the fractured relationship between Putin and Prigozhin, with some suggesting that Belarus may serve as a potential trap. (With inputs from AP)

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