An eerie calm has enveloped Russia after the dramatic end of an armed uprising that poses the greatest threat to Vladimir Putin’s nearly a quarter-century rule.
The man who led the uprising was unusually silent. The president has not appeared in public since denouncing the mutiny as “treason” and threatening “harsh” sanctions that never happened.
In 24 hours of bewilderment, a stunned international audience watched the army loyal to Russian mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin advance hundreds of miles toward Moscow at breakneck speed only for him to abruptly stop attacking and agree. went into exile with all charges dropped in due time. night deal.
The chain of events quickly confounded the United States and Europe over the political implications of an uprising that has shattered Vladimir Putin’s invincible image as Russia’s leader. The crisis comes amid bitter divisions in Russia over the stalling war in Ukraine, the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, as a Ukrainian counterattack continues to try to push the Russian forces out of the occupied territories.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Wagner mercenary group’s uprising was a “direct challenge” to President Putin’s administration and “raises profound questions”, in an interview today. Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We cannot speculate or know exactly where that will go. We know that Putin has a lot to answer in the coming weeks and months.”
A few days ago, the US had intelligence that Prigozhin was plotting armed action against Russian defense officials, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In China, which has strengthened ties with President Putin and refused to join US-led sanctions related to the war, Foreign Minister Qin Gang met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko at Beijing on Sunday to discuss international and regional issues of mutual concern. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu also met with Rudenko on Sunday, pledging to protect the two countries’ common interests in the “complicated and harsh” international environment. Chinese state media covered the uprising in Russia, while the Global Times published an article by former editor-in-chief Hu Xijin analyzing possible scenarios including regime change. degree.
The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the Russian leadership to stabilize the situation in the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.
Even North Korea is concerned. Deputy Foreign Minister Im Chon Il “expressed firm confidence that the recent armed uprising in Russia will be successfully quelled” at a meeting with the Russian ambassador, North Korea’s central news agency reported.
Vladimir Putin, 70, did not comment on the deal brokered by his ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to end the Prigozhin uprising. The Kremlin said President Putin assured Wagner would be allowed to travel to Belarus and drop criminal charges of sedition against him and the militants who took part in the rebellion.
“Putin had to give in and actually surrender, and instead of defeating Prigozhin, he had to negotiate with him and provide security guarantees, demonstrating to the public his vulnerability.” Kirill Rogov, former Russian government adviser, now head of Re:Russia, said. a think tank based in Vienna. “In the past, Putin absolutely did not allow anyone to speak to him in the language of public ultimatums.”
Prigozhin’s whereabouts are unknown and he has not commented since announcing his forces would withdraw to avoid bloodshed late Saturday in an audio message on Telegram. Video on social media showed crowds cheering and shaking his hand as he was evicted from a military facility in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don that Wagner took over early in his life. mutiny.
President Putin thanked Lukashenko in a phone call late Saturday for conducting negotiations and reaching an agreement, Belarus’ state Belta news service reported.
Russia began to lift restrictions urgently to try to quickly restore a sense of normalcy. Hastily installed roadblocks were removed on Sunday on highways leading into Moscow, although authorities said Monday would remain a non-working day announced by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin after imposing put “anti-terrorist regime” in the capital.
The Central Bank of Russia said that trading on the Moscow Exchange will take place as usual on Monday.
Regional officials in Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh and Lipetsk reported that Wagner troops had left their territory and were heading to their field bases.
Wagner called back first
The agreement was announced just hours after Vladimir Putin told Russians on state television that participants in the uprising had “betrayed Russia and will pay for it.” The decision not to prosecute Prigozhin and his men for treason is in stark contrast to the zeal with which the authorities have imposed long prison sentences against those for even the smallest peaceful protests against war again.
Police Chief Wagner marches to Moscow in mutiny defying Putin
The Wagner founder for months attacked Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and top military officials in Moscow about waging the war, arguing that they had failed to adequately support Wagner’s troops fighting in the country. Ukraine and especially in the battles for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
He has also repeatedly called on the Kremlin to introduce tougher measures including full mobilization and martial law, warning that Russia risks losing the war without them.
What is Russia’s Wagner Corporation and why is it accused of sedition?
Tensions flared Friday when Prigozhin, 62, posted an audio message on Telegram vowing to “punish” the Department of Defense for what he alleged was a missile attack on the Wagner base and its losses. “tens of thousands” of Russian troops during the war. Britain accused Sergei Shoigu of plotting to “destroy” Wagner. The Ministry of Defense denied Prigozhin’s claim of a strike.
The confrontation has resonated in Russian history, where leaders including Tsar Nicholas II and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev were ousted after military mistakes. President Putin himself, in a televised address, compared the divisions in Russia during World War I that led to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the civil war.
In Voronezh, a city of 1 million, shocked residents sought to accept the mayhem. Petr, 46, a local car dealer who asked not to be named out of concern for his security, said: “What seemed impossible yesterday, suddenly appears in your life today.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)