Putin’s power ‘ebbs’ as Russian president disappears after Wagner rebellion

An attempted mercenary uprising has exposed cracks in Vladimir Putin’s authority, according to the US secretary of state. Anthony Blinken said the revolt was a “direct challenge to Putin’s authority”.

The Wagner Group mutiny, which saw its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin order his troops to march on Moscow, left the Russian president in hiding on Sunday after being forced into an amnesty deal.

Although the astonishing revolt was short-lived – with the withdrawal of fighters under the deal which saw Mr Prigozhin exiled to Belarus – it raised questions about Mr Putin’s grip on power.

The Russian president has not commented publicly since the deal was struck to defuse one of the biggest challenges since he came to power more than two decades ago. He said he gave top priority to the conflict in Ukraine in excerpts from an interview broadcast on state television on Sunday, but it appeared to have been recorded before the rebellion.

Vladimir Putin addresses the nation on Saturday


Speaking on Sunday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the revolt was a “direct challenge to Putin’s authority”. Mr Blinken said the unrest had weakened Mr Putin in ways that could help Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Mr Blinken told US media: “We have seen more cracks appear in the Russian facade. It’s too early to say exactly where they’re headed… but certainly, we have all kinds of new questions for Putin to answer in the weeks and months to come.

Wagner Group forces were only 195 km (120 miles) from Moscow before the rebellion was called off to avoid shedding Russian blood. Mr Prigozhin had said his “march” on Moscow was aimed at eliminating corrupt and incompetent Russian commanders whom he accuses of botching the war in Ukraine.

Mr Prigozhin has for months accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov of incompetence and withholding ammunition from his fighters as they fought to take Bakhmut in Ukraine.

This month, Mr. Prigozhin defied orders to place his troops under the command of the Defense Ministry. He launched the rebellion on Friday after claiming the army had killed some of his men in an airstrike – a claim denied by the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Prigozhin, 62, was seen on Saturday evening leaving the Rostov district military headquarters, hundreds of kilometers south of Moscow. His fate on Sunday was not known.

Mercenary leader Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves Rostov


The deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko also means that Wagner fighters who joined the “march for justice” will face no action.

In an earlier televised address on Saturday, Mr Putin said the rebellion threatened Russia’s very 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 millennial history,” Putin said, vowing to punish those behind it. “an armed insurrection”. .

In his daily address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Mr Putin was “obviously very scared” and “probably in hiding”, while his Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the 36-hour mutiny shows that the Russian authorities are “weak”.

Mr Reznikov said: “I had a phone conversation with my friend and fellow Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III.

“We talked about recent events in Russia. We agree that the Russian authorities are weak and that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine is the best choice for the Kremlin. Russia would be better served to solve its own problems.

He added: “We also discussed the #UAarmy counter-offensive and the next steps in strengthening our defense forces. Things are moving in the right direction. Ukraine will win.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War said Russia was struggling to respond clearly and coherently to the Wagner Group threat. He said the incident highlighted “internal security weaknesses likely due to surprise and the impact of heavy casualties in Ukraine”.

Commons defense committee chairman Tobias Ellwood told the I newspaper: “Putin’s days are clearly numbered, he may survive the initial injury for some time, but as Russian history shows, it often triggers a series of subsequent events that lead to the downfall of the ruler.

“Power is flowing back. The Wagner group may be castrated, Prighozin exiled, but Putin is definitely weaker and the hawks are now circling.

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