The leader of an armed Russian mercenary group on Saturday said he has ordered his troops to halt their march to Moscow in order to avoid bloodshed, Reuters reported.

Earlier in the day, the armed group – Wagner – claimed it has taken control of the southern Russian city of Rostov in an attempt to oust the country’s military leadership. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the group, later claimed that his troops had reached within 200 kilometres of Moscow.

“In this time we did not spill a single drop of our fighters’ blood,” Prigozhin, dressed in a combat uniform, said in a video released from an undisclosed location. “Understanding ...that Russian blood will be spilled on one side, we are turning our columns around and going back to field camps as planned.”

The Kremlin arrived at a deal with the Wagner group, according to which Prigozhin will go to neighbouring Belarus and Russian authorities would drop charges of mounting an armed rebellion against him, the Associated Press reported.

The Russian government also said that it would not prosecute fighters who took part in the attempt to oust the military leadership.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that in allowing Prigozhin and his armed group to go free, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest aim was “to avoid bloodshed and internal confrontation with unpredictable results”, according to AP.

Visuals on social media showed residents of Rostov waving to the Wagner group chief as he prepared to leave the city.

Earlier, Putin had promised to punish those behind the armed uprising, calling it a “betrayal” and “treason”.

The Russian president also drew a comparison of the situation with the Russian Revolution in 1917 when the Tsar, or monarch, was overthrown and the Bolsheviks took power following widespread popular unrest.

“Russians were killing Russians and brothers were killing brothers, while all sorts of political adventurers and foreign forces profited from the situation by tearing the country apart to divide it,” Putin said. “We will not allow this to happen again. We will protect our people and our statehood from any threats, including from internal betrayal.”

In the early hours of Saturday, around 3,000 Chechen soldiers were pulled out from the conflict in Ukraine and rushed to Moscow. Authorities in Moscow had erected checkpoints with armoured vehicles and troops at the southern end of the city.

The mayor had asked motorists to stay off some roads, and the city’s historic Red Square had been shut down.