Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed he had warned Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to watch his back following his brief mutiny against the Russian military that ultimately led to his apparent demise this week.
“I told him: ‘Yevgeny, do you understand that you will doom your people and will perish yourself?’,” Lukashenko told Prigozhin, according to Belarusian state news agency BELTA.
Outlets have variously reported Prigozhin’s response to this warning as “To hell with it – I will die,” “I will die then, damn it!” and “To hell with it, let me be killed!”
“I told him: ‘Yevgeny, I will send you a rope and a piece of soap right now’,” Lukashenko continued, to which he claimed Prigozhin said, “No, no, no. I don’t want it this way. I will die a hero.”
The comment about rope and soap is an apparent Russian idiom that refers to preparing a noose for hanging – or that Prigozhin should just hang himself now, an expert told Fox News Digital.
Lukashenko claimed he later told Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, another Wagner leader, to “watch out” when they visited him. BELTA did not specify when the second conversation may have occurred.
Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia for Belarus following his mutiny in June, during which he marched his mercenary forces towards Moscow and stopped some 150 miles from the city to discuss terms of a surrender with Lukashenko, who negotiated on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But the mercenary warlord continued to move around in Russia even after agreeing to live out his time in exile. He met his apparent end when his plane crashed following an explosion, in which Russia has denied any involvement.
The plane departed Moscow for the city of St. Petersburg, where Prigozhin had a residence, which he had visited just days after his “exile” to Belarus started.
The Pentagon on Thursday said that its “initial assessment” determined that “it’s likely Prigozhin was killed,” but it could not comment on whether his death was part of a deliberate assassination.
Lukashenko also revealed that Prigozhin never asked for any increased security during his time in Belarus or return to Russia.
“I suggested it,” Lukashenko explained, saying he made the offer during his private negotiations following the mutiny. “I said: ‘If you are afraid of something, I will talk to President Putin, and we will extract you to Belarus. We guarantee full security to you in Belarus.'”
“Credit where credit is due, Yevgeny Prigozhin has never asked me to separately pay attention to security matters,” he stressed.
Lukashenko offered the anecdote as an explanation for how he failed to fulfill his security promises to Prigozhin, adding that it is unfair to expect him to “ensure Prigozhin’s safety in Africa” or while he was in Russia.
“This is why I am not the guy you should be asking to answer these questions,” he insisted. “Moreover, we’ve never had this conversation. About ensuring security in someone else’s territory.”
Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, argued that Lukashenko is likely trying to “whitewash” his conversations and better protect himself from criticism, saying, “There was no deal that Lukashenko could make to ensure Prigozhin’s safety” or “go against Putin.”