MOSCOW (Reuters) - Mutinous Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Saturday he had ordered his fighters advancing on Moscow in convoy to turn around and return to their bases to avoid bloodshed.
Prigozhin had earlier said that he wanted to oust the army's top brass and "restore justice". Putin said the mutiny had to be decisively put down.
The office of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he had spoken to Prigozhin with Putin's approval, and that the head of the Wagner militia had agreed to de-escalate the situation.
In an audio message released by his press service, Prigozhin said:
"They wanted to disband the Wagner military company. We embarked on a march of justice on June 23. In 24 hours we got to within 200 km of Moscow. In this time we did not spill a single drop of our fighters' blood.
"Now the moment has come when blood could be spilled. Understanding responsibility [for the chance] that Russian blood will be spilled on one side, we are turning our columns around and going back to field camps as planned."
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Kevin Liffey)