An attempted uprising by mercenaries revealed cracks in Vladimir Putin’s authority, according to the US Secretary of State. Anthony Blinken said the uprising was a “direct challenge to Putin’s authority”.
The Wagner Group mutiny, in which their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his troops to march on Moscow, saw the Russian president in hiding from the public on Sunday after being forced into an amnesty deal.
Although the astonishing revolt was short-lived – the militants withdrew under the agreement that exiled Mr Prigozhin to Belarus – it has raised questions about Mr Putin’s retention of power.
The Russian president has remained silent publicly since agreeing to de-escalate one of the biggest challenges since he came to power more than two decades ago. In excerpts of an interview aired by state television on Sunday, he said his top priority was the conflict in Ukraine, which appeared to have been taped before the uprising.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Sunday the uprising was a “direct challenge to Putin’s authority.” Mr Blinken said the unrest had weakened Mr Putin in a way that could aid Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
Mr Blinken told US media: “We have seen more cracks appearing in the Russian facade. It’s too early to tell exactly where they’re going… but surely we have all sorts of new issues for Putin to grapple with in the coming weeks and months.”
Wagner Group forces were only 195 km (120 miles) from Moscow before the uprising was called off to avoid Russian bloodshed. Mr. Prigozhin had said that his “march” on Moscow was aimed at removing corrupt and incompetent Russian commanders whom he blames for botching the war in Ukraine.
For months, Mr Prigozhin has been accusing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valeri Gerasimov of being incompetent and withholding ammunition from his fighters in the battle for Bakhmut in Ukraine.
This month, Mr. Prigozhin defied orders to place his troops under the command of the Defense Ministry. He launched the insurgency on Friday after claiming the military had killed some of his men in an airstrike – a claim the Defense Department denied.
Mr Prigozhin, 62, was seen leaving the military district headquarters in Rostov, hundreds of kilometers south of Moscow, late on Saturday. His whereabouts on Sunday were not known.
The deal, brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, also means Wagner militants who have joined the “March for Justice” have nothing to fear.
In an earlier televised address on Saturday, Putin said the uprising threatened Russia’s existence.
“We are fighting for the life and security of our people, for our sovereignty and independence, for the right to remain Russia, a state with a thousand-year history,” Putin said, announcing punishment for those behind “an armed uprising.” stand. .
In his daily address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Mr Putin was “obviously very scared” and “probably in hiding,” while his Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the 36-hour mutiny showed Russian authorities were “weak.” be.
Mr Reznikov said: “Have a phone call to my friend and fellow Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
“We talked about recent events in Russia. We agree that the Russian authorities are weak and that withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine is the best choice for the Kremlin. Russia would be better off addressing its own problems.”
He added: “We also discussed the #UA Army counteroffensive and the next steps to strengthen our defense forces. Things are moving in the right direction. Ukraine will win.”
Meanwhile, the War Research Institute said Russia was having trouble responding clearly and coherently to the Wagner Group threat. It said the incident “exposed internal security weaknesses likely to stem from surprise and the impact of heavy casualties in Ukraine.”
The chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee, Tobias Ellwood, said that I Newspaper: “Putin’s days are clearly numbered, he may survive the initial wound for a while, but as Russian history shows, it often triggers a series of subsequent events leading to the fall of the leader.”
“The power is fading. The Wagner group may have been castrated, Prigozin banned, but Putin is definitely weaker and the hawks are circling now.”