Wagner Mercenary Uprising in Russia Shows ‘Cracks’ in Putin’s Power: Blinken

Wagner Mercenary Uprising in Russia Shows ‘Cracks’ in Putin’s Power: Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses the opening session on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference at InterContinental London O2 in London on June 21, 2023. (Henry Nicholls/WPA Pool via Getty Images)

As members of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group headed back to their bases and withdrew from the Russian city of Rostov on Sunday, one U.S. official said that it shows “cracks” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power amid a drawn out invasion of Ukraine that appears to be taking its toll on Russia.

In an interview Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News that “16 months ago, Russian forces were on the doorstep of Kyiv, Ukraine, thinking they were going to take the city in a matter of days,” adding that “now they have to be focused on defending Moscow, Russia’s capital, against mercenaries” that were initially backed by Putin.

“We see cracks emerging,” he said. “Where they go, if anywhere, when they get there, very hard to say. I don’t want to speculate on it.”

Blinken added that he doesn’t believe officials have “seen the final act” after the Wagner mercenary group started moving toward Moscow during an armed revolt. Last week, the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said that he would head to Moscow in a “march for justice” in support of what he said were neglected Russian forces in Ukraine.

“So much that is beneath the surface has now surfaced again in terms of questioning the premise for the war, in terms of questioning the conduct of the war, in terms of questioning what good this has actually done for Russia,” Blinken told ABC News’ “This Week.”

Putin has not made public comments since the deal was struck to de-escalate the crisis. State television released excerpts on Sunday of an interview in which Putin said he was giving top priority to the conflict in Ukraine and was in constant contact with the Defense Ministry.

However the interview appeared to have been recorded before the mutiny and he made no reference to Saturday’s events. State television also said Putin would attend a meeting of Russia’s Security Council this coming week, without elaborating.

NTD Photo
Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group are seen atop of a tank while being deployed near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023. (Stringer/Reuters)

Prigozhin, 62, was seen leaving the district military headquarters in Rostov, hundreds of miles south of Moscow, overnight in a sport utility vehicle, reported Reuters. His whereabouts on Sunday were not immediately clear.

According to the report, members of the Wagner group were seen heading back to their bases on Saturday night and Sunday. Videos shared on social media from Rostov overnight purportedly showed the mercenaries withdrawing in a convoy of armored vehicles, tanks, and coaches to the sound of cheers, chants of “Wagner,” and celebratory gunfire from residents.

Reuters said it was able to verify the location of the video but not the date that it was filmed. “Take care of yourselves,” one woman told them.

After capturing Rostov—the main rear logistical hub for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—the mercenaries had raced hundreds of miles north, transporting tanks and armored trucks and smashing through barricades set up to stop them. That came before a deal to withdraw was reached.

NTD Photo
In this grab taken from video and released by Prigozhin Press Service, on June 23, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the outspoken millionaire head of the private military contractor Wagner, speaks during his interview at an unspecified location. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

A U.S.-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, argued that Prigozhin’s rebellion has “exposed severe weaknesses” in the Kremlin and Russian Defense Ministry. “Wagner likely could have reached the outskirts of Moscow if Prigozhin chose to order them to do so,” it said.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero on Sunday that the Russian government created the conditions for Saturday’s insurrection by allowing Prigozhin to build up such a formidable private army.

“The myth of the unity of Putin’s Russia is over. This internal escalation divides the Russian military deployment. It’s the inevitable outcome when you support and finance a legion of mercenaries,” Tajani said. “One thing is certain: the Russian front is weaker than yesterday. I hope that peace will now be closer.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.