Biden pushes back on suggestion the West played a role in Russia unrest

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Monday that neither the United States nor its military allies played a role in the failed mutiny in Russia, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “no excuse” to blame the West.

As the crisis unfolded over the weekend, Biden said he met virtually with U.S. allies to discuss a coordinated approach.

“They agreed with me that we had to make sure we didn’t give Putin any excuse…to blame the West or blame NATO,” Biden told reporters. “We made it clear that we weren’t involved, we didn’t have anything. It was part of a struggle within the Russian system.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT television on Monday that Russian security services were “already investigating” whether there was any Western involvement in the brief uprising by the Wagner mercenary group of Yevgeny Prigozhin. Lavrov provided no evidence of Western involvement.

The paramilitary group Wagner fought alongside the Russian regular army in Ukraine. On Saturday, Prigozhin said his fighters were heading to Moscow. They abruptly reversed course under what Priogozhin described as a deal brokered by the leader of Belarus to avoid Russian bloodshed.

Biden, in his first public remarks on the situation in Russia, said it was still “too early” to determine the repercussions of the attempted coup.

“We will continue to assess the fallout from the events of this weekend and the implications for Russia and Ukraine,” Biden said. “But it’s still too early to draw a definitive conclusion on where it’s headed.”

He said he would soon meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the second time. The US president said he stressed to Zelenskyy during their weekend call that the US will continue to support Ukraine’s defense and sovereignty no matter what happens in Russia.

Biden said when the chaos began, he ordered his national security team to report to him “hour by hour” and to “prepare for a range of scenarios.” He did not detail their assessments in his remarks on Monday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden: US and NATO played no role in Russia crisis, Putin has ‘no excuse’

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