Aleksandr Lukashenko has stated that the head of the Wagner mercenary force is not on Belarusian soil.
The whereabouts of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who orchestrated an armed takeover of the Kremlin in late June, have been the subject of numerous rumours.
The warlord had consented to leave for exile in the adjacent nation as part of a deal to put an end to the uprising that was mediated by the president of Belarus.
He has not been seen in public since the mutiny, and last week it was believed he had landed in the capital Minsk.
But Lukashenko said Prigozhin is in Russia and ‘may’ be in St Petersburg or even Moscow.
He told reporters today: ‘As for Prigozhin, he is in St Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus.’
A business jet linked to Prigozhin left St Petersburg for Moscow yesterday, and was heading for southern Russia today, according to flight tracking data.
But it was not clear if the mercenary chief was on board the plane.
Lukashenko said an offer for Wagner to station some of its fighters in Belarus – a prospect that has alarmed neighbouring Nato countries – still stands.
He said he did not see it as a risk to Belarus and did not believe they would ever take up arms against his country.
Separately, Russia has said the for-hire soldiers can go to Belarus, sign up with its regular armed forces or demobilise.
Lukashenko’s comments came just hours after Russian security serve agents raided Prigozhin’s mansion in St Petersburg.
FSB officers found fake wigs and beards, forged passports, guns and ammo, a sledgehammer, gold bars, a stuffed alligator.
A framed photo allegedly showing the severed heads of Prigozhin’s enemies was also among the belongings.
Images of the raid were then leaked and published by the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia.