On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his gratitude to his country’s government and people for standing united to safeguard “our homeland’s future” in the midst of an armed revolt.
These public comments marked Putin’s first after the brief rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head honcho of the Wagner mercenary group, which culminated with Prigozhin’s soldiers making a hasty exit over the weekend. This revolt posed an unprecedented challenge to Putin’s 20-year hold on power and could influence his leadership and his engagement in the Ukrainian conflict in the long haul.
A resolute and grave-looking Putin stressed that immediate action was taken to “neutralize the threat” and “avoid a lot of bloodshed.”
“This took time, including to give those who made a mistake a chance to think again, to understand that their actions are resolutely rejected by society,” he noted.
Putin mentioned that an armed revolt would have been crushed anyway, something the Wagner mercenaries should have been aware of. He said their “unlawful actions” were meant to fragment and debilitate the nation—a clear betrayal of their homeland and their folks.
“It was precisely this outcome —fratricide— that Russia’s enemies wanted: both the neo-Nazis in Kyiv, and their Western patrons, and all sorts of national traitors,” Putin declared. “They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other, to kill military personnel and civilians, so that in the end Russia would lose, and our society would split, choke in bloody civil strife.”
Putin rounded off his public speech with a series of appreciations.
“I thank all our military personnel, law enforcement officers, special services who stood in the way of the rebels, remained faithful to their duty,” Putin stated. He praised Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his help in peacefully resolving the mutiny. He even extended his gratitude to the Wagner Group’s soldiers and leaders for halting their attack before blood could be spilled.
After delivering his speech, Putin had a meeting with his law enforcement and security chiefs. In a segment of the meeting broadcasted on Russian state TV, Putin appeared serious as he addressed his top-ranking officials.
“I have gathered you in order to thank you for the work done during these few days, and in order to discuss the situation that has developed at this point in time, as well as to talk about the tasks that we face as a result of the analysis of the events that have occurred in the country,” he elaborated.
On Sunday morning, under a deal negotiated with the Kremlin, Prigozhin was supposed to depart for Belarus. The agreement entailed a pardon for the Wagner troops and the dropping of criminal charges against Prigozhin.
However, a U.S. official mentioned that as of Monday, Prigozhin was still in Russia and was still in control of Wagner, while his soldiers had retreated to their bases in Ukraine.
The U.S. had anticipated the revolt to be “very bloody, very violent, but it was not,” as the U.S. official informed CBS News.
During the uprising, Prigozhin likely had around 10,000 troops on his side, with a significantly smaller number in the units marching towards Moscow. It seemed unlikely that Prigozhin and his soldiers could have penetrated the defenses set up by Putin’s National Guard, the U.S. official noted.
Report provided by David Martin