Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has turned his troops back from Moscow to “avoid bloodshed” in the Russian city.
In an audio message, the mercenary group leader said his soldiers would return to their bases, in a dramatic U-turn just hours before they were expected to reach the city.
He said he gave the order to turn back from their advance on Moscow “because of the risk of blood being spilled”.
The announcement appeared to defuse a growing crisis as Moscow braced for the arrival of the private army led by the rebellious commander, with residents told to stay at home and work cancelled on Monday.
It comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin had vowed he would face harsh consequences for what he described as a mutinous assault on Russia.
Mr Prigozhin said his men were just 120 miles from Moscow but he had decided to turn them back to avoid “shedding Russian blood”.
He did not say if the Kremlin had responded to his demand to oust defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
The announcement comes after the office of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Mr Putin, claimed he had negotiated a deal with Mr Prigozhin after discussing the situation with Mr Putin.
Mr Lukashenko’s office said the Wagner boss had accepted his offer to halt the group’s advance and further steps to de-escalate the tensions, adding that the proposed settlement contains security guarantees for Wagner troops.
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