Having led an armed rebellion in Russia that sent shockwaves across the world, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was meant to relocate to Belarus as part of a deal brokered by the ex-Soviet nation’s president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Both Lukashenko and Prigozhin have for years held strong ties with President Vladimir Putin.
But last month’s mutiny threw the top mercenary’s relations with the Russian leader into question and, so it seemed, he was exiled.
Tensions had come to a head after Prigozhin raged for months at Russia’s top brass in foul-mouthed diatribes, accusing them of incompetence in their war efforts in Ukraine. He cast his Wagner fighters as leading on the battlefields, before marching towards Moscow.
On Thursday, however, Lukashenko told reporters that the Wagner boss was back in Russia. The details were vague.
“Yevgeny Prigozhin is in St Petersburg … Where was he this morning? Maybe he went to Moscow, or some other place. But he is not in Belarus,” Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying.
According to some reports in Russian media, Prigozhin was in Russia to finalise his affairs there. The Kremlin said it was not following his movements, but confirmed the Wagner boss’s departure for Belarus was part of the deal negotiated by Lukashenko.
Al Jazeera spoke to Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence and military analyst based in Moscow, about the latest uncertainties surrounding the Russia-Belarus-Wagner scandal.