Russia crisis reveals ‘real cracks’ in Putin’s authority: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the private Wagner Group's aborted insurrection revealed

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says private Wagner Group’s aborted insurgency exposed ‘real cracks’ in President Vladimir Putin’s regime, but top US diplomat says it’s too early to say how the crisis will unfold (SAMUEL CORUM)

The Russian crisis involving the abortive revolt of a group of mercenaries against the Kremlin has revealed “real cracks” in the regime of President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.

The uprising of the Wagner armed group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin over the weekend, with Prigozhin’s private army rushing to Moscow before they were quashed in a stunning development for nuclear-armed Russia, marked “a direct challenge to Putin’s authority,” Blinken said. CBS News talk show “Face the Nation”.

“So it raises some deep questions, it shows real cracks,” the top US diplomat said.

The remarks were the first public statements on the crisis by the United States, which over the past 24 hours had been intensively engaged in consultations with European allies over the revolt.

Blinken, who made the rounds on several Sunday talk shows, said it was too early to speculate on the impact of the rebellion, whether on the Kremlin or the war in Ukraine.

But he considered it to be an “extraordinary” series of events, in which a close ally of Putin – who sent his private mercenaries to Ukraine to undertake some of the most brutal fighting of the war – quickly turned against the Russian leader and threatened the very center. power in the Kremlin.

While 16 months ago Russian forces were at the gates of Kiev, “now, this weekend, they had to defend Moscow, the Russian capital, against mercenaries of Putin’s own making,” Blinken said. on ABC News’ This Week.

He said the Prigozhin drama showed how deeply the invasion of Ukraine was a “failure” for Russia, and how Putin, whose grip on power had appeared absolute in recent years , is “contested from within”.

“Prigozhin…raised deep questions about the very premise of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the first place, saying that Ukraine or NATO posed no threat to Russia, which makes part of Putin’s narrative.”

Putin accused Prigozhin of treason on Saturday and promised a harsh sentence, but then agreed to an amnesty deal in which Chief Wagner would avoid prosecution and leave for neighboring Belarus.

Blinken said Moscow being “distracted” by the revolt could “help Ukrainians on the battlefield” amid Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russian forces.

But “we cannot speculate” on how the Wagnerian crisis will unfold in Russia, he said.

Former Washington ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul said the deal with Prigozhin was “embarrassing” for Putin, noting how crowds of people cheered Wagner’s troops as they took to the streets in some Russian cities.

Such scenes will be “very striking for Putin and Kremlin officials” because “now there is a real opposition candidate who is not in jail,” McFaul told MSNBC.

“And I just can’t imagine that Prigozhin is going to sit on the sidelines.”


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