Antony Blinken says uprising by Prigozhin’s troops shows ‘cracks’ in Putin’s regime

21 Min Read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the rebellion by the Wagner mercenaries has exposed “real cracks” in Vladimir Putin’s authority.

He told CBS News talk show Face the Nation that the uprising by the private army and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was “a direct challenge to Putin’s authority”, saying it “raises profound questions, it shows real cracks”.

He has told ABC’s This Week: “If you put this in context 16 months ago, Putin was on the doorstep of Kyiv in Ukraine, looking to take the city in a matter of days, erase the country from the map.

“Now, he’s had to defend Moscow, Russia’s capital, against a mercenary of his own making”.

He said he didn’t want to speculate on the “cracks emerging” would lead.

Military experts have said the Russian President’s regime has suffered ‘substantial damage’ as a result of the rebellion.

The events showcased the “degradation” of Russia’s military reserves, the erosion of Mr Putin’s monopoly on his security services and the lack of experience of those conscripts defending Russian borders, the Institute for the Study of War said.

While Dr Patricia Lewis, director of the International Security programme at the Chatham House think tank, said Mr Putin has been “weakened” by the events in the country.

The head of the Russian military company Wagner is set to move to neighbouring Belarus as part of a deal to end his rebellion.

After Yevgeny Prigozhin called off his mutiny on Saturday, Wagner fighters have left he southern city of Rostov-on-Don where their mutiny began. Mr Prigozhin and his troops will not be prosecuted, the Kremlin says.

The announcement on Saturday evening followed a statement from the office of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko saying that he had negotiated a deal with Mr Prigozhin after previously discussing the issue with Mr Putin.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group in Russia “shows no one is in control” and there is “chaos”.

Situation in rebellion city Rostov-on-Don ‘calm’

07:26 , Matt Watts

The situation around the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don was calm and street traffic resumed, RIA state news agency said on Sunday after Yevgeny Prigozhin and his mercenaries left the city.

In a video on the agency’s Telegram messaging app, which it said was taken in the city of Rostov-on-Don, a man was sweeping a street and cars were moving along another street.

Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Late on Saturday, Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, was seen leaving the district military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don after halting a rebellion against Russia’s military establishment.

Traffic restrictions still in place in Moscow

07:31 , Matt Watts

Russia’s Federal Road Agency urged residents of the Moscow region on Sunday to refrain from travelling along the M-4 “Don” major expressway until 10 am local time.

The agency had said earlier in the day on the Telegram messaging app, in a post now deleted, that traffic restrictions on the highway in the Moscow and Tula regions remained.

Heavily armed Russian mercenaries who had advanced most of the way to Moscow on Saturday then halted their approach, de-escalating a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power, in a move their leader said would avoid bloodshed

Wagner Group mercenaries will join the official Russian military – reports

07:35 , Matt Watts

Some Wagner Group mercenaries will join the official Russian military after their leader called off their march on Moscow and agreed to relocate to Belarus, Sky News reported.

Yevgeny Prigozhin stood down his troops, who were heading towards the Russian capital, saying he wished to avoid spilling Russian blood.

His mercenaries were reportedly just 120 miles from Moscow after Prigozhin had vowed to “destroy anyone who stands in our way”.As part of the agreement, the full details of which are yet to be revealed, it was reportedly decided that Prigozhin will leave Russia for Belarus and some of his Wagner fighters will be subsumed into the Russian military.

US ‘had intelligence that suggested Prigozhin was planning military action’

07:43 , Sami Quadri

US congressional leaders were reportedly briefed on a build-up of Wagner forces days before the rebellion took place.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said his mercenary unit’s camps in Ukraine had been attacked by rival forces from the Russian military on Friday, leading to them taking over the strategic city of Rostov-on-Don and marching towards Moscow before a deal was agreed for them to withdraw.

But CNN and the New York Times are reporting that US intelligence briefings on Wagner building troops near the Russian border were taking place earlier in the week.

Pictured: Wagner troops pulling out of Rostov-on-Don overnight

07:46 , Sami Quadri







Putin left ‘weakened’ by rebellion

08:20 , Sami Quadri

A deal was struck to bring an end to an uprising by the Wagner group of mercenaries which included promising its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin safety, experts believe.

Dr Patricia Lewis, director of the International Security programme at the Chatham House think tank, told the PA news agency she also believes the Kremlin agreed that defence minister Sergei Shoigu would be sacked as part of the agreement.

She added that Vladimir Putin has been “weakened” by the events in the country.

She went on: “No longer can they call it (the Ukraine war) a special military operation and say it is about the protection of Russians in Ukraine.

“Those who understand it differently will have a bit of an opening.”

Civilian killed in Ukraine in latest Russian shelling

09:16 , Matt Watts

A civilian man died after Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson, local governor said on Sunday.

Ukraine recaptured the city of Kherson and parts of the Kherson region in November after months of Russian occupation, but Russian forces regularly shell the city and surrounding areas from the opposite side of Dnipro River.

“One of the shells exploded right in the middle of the room,” Oleksandr Prokudin said on the Telegram messaging app.

He said another woman was trapped under the rubble but alive.

Ukrainian authorities also reported that Russians shelled the south of Dnipropetrovsk region during the night, injuring one person and damaging three private houses.

Travel returns to normal after Wagner mercenaries leave city

10:08 , Matt Watts

All transport restrictions in Russia’s Rostov region have been lifted, including those on highways, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday, citing local officials.

“Bus and railway stations are working in normal mode. Tickets are on sale, all destinations are on schedule,” Sergey Tyurin, deputy minister of regional policy and mass communications for the Rostov region was quoted as saying.

Prigozhin ‘yet to arrive in Belarus’

10:12 , Matt Watts

There are still no reports of mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin arriving in Belarus after he reached a deal with the Kremlin to go into exile and end his rebellion, the Associated Press reports.

The news agency said many other questions remained unanswered on Sunday morning, including whether Prigozhin would be joined in exile by any of his Wagner Group’s troops and what role, if any, he might have there.

Prigozhin, who sent out a series of audio and video updates during his revolt, has gone silent since the Kremlin announced that the deal had been brokered for him to end his march toward Moscow and leave Russia, it said.

Russian minister flies to Beijing for talks following rebellion

10:37 , Matt Watts

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko flew to Beijing for talks with China on “international” issues, amid a major challenge by Russian mercenaries to President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

Rudenko on Sunday exchanged views with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang in a meeting in the Chinese capital on Sunday on Sino-Russian relations as well as “international and regional issues of common concern”, China’s foreign ministry said in a one-line statement on its website.

It was unclear when Rudenko arrived in Beijing, or whether his visit to China, a key ally of Russia, was in response to the apparent rebellion by heavily armed mercenaries on Friday.

China has yet to publicly comment on the rebellion that Putin said threatened Russia’s very existence. Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden said they were closely monitoring the situation

Vladimir Putin has ‘lost authority’ in Russia

11:05 , Matt Watts

An uprising by the Wagner mercenary group suggests Vladimir Putin has “lost authority” in Russia, a former MI6 officer has said.

Christopher Steele told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “What’s changed I think is that Vladimir Putin has lost authority and legitimacy within Russia and has been challenged in a way, yes he’s managed to worm his way out of it for the present.

“To see events unfold in Russia yesterday and the speed with which the situation seemed to spiral out of control must be very concerning for Putin and the people around him.”

Western leaders ‘resistant to idea of Putin stepping down’

11:21 , Sami Quadri

Western leaders remain resistant to the idea of Vladimir Putin stepping down, Alexander Litvinenko’s widow Marina has suggested.

She told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “They accept Ukrainian people in a different country they have support, but they still want to keep Putin, and at least to have some kind of controlling of Russia.

“(After what happened on Saturday) we can see, Putin doesn’t control nothing. If you want to save Russia from collapsing you need to take Putin out from this place.”

She urged Western leaders to not communicate with Mr Putin as the leader of Russia.

Wagner rebellion turmoil an ‘internal matter’ for Russia

12:00 , Sami Quadri

The aftermath of the Wagner rebellion in Russia is an “internal matter” which will not affect the UK’s ongoing support for Ukraine, a Cabinet minister has said.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Glen made the comments as the fallout from the mercenary group’s march on Moscow continues.

Mr Glen told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that the UK will not be intervening in Russia’s internal affairs.

He added: “It is obviously a very unstable situation in Russia, but it is fundamentally an internal matter.

“And we’ve obviously urged, alongside our allies … that obviously civilian interests are considered.

“This isn’t a matter that we will be intervening in, but obviously we observe and monitor the situation on an ongoing basis very carefully.

“Nothing has changed with respect to the British Government’s position on supporting Ukraine.”

Ukrainian forces ‘undertake major offensive operations’

12:14 , Sami Quadri

Wagner forces leave Lipetsk region

12:19 , Sami Quadri

Wagner fighters have now left the Lipetsk region in central Russia, local officials say.

Wagner mercenaries stopped their march on the capital about 200km away from the city after the Belarusian president helped broker a deal to end their mutiny.

Putin to take part in Russia security council meeting next week

13:05 , Sami Quadri

President Vladimir Putin will take part in a meeting of Russia’s Security Council next week, state television reported on Sunday.

The report by Rossiya 1 television station’s Vesti current affairs programme did not say whether the meeting would take place on Friday as normal or be brought forward.

Ukraine adviser says Wagner rebellion ‘most ridiculous attempt at mutiny’

14:04 , Matt Watts

An adviser to the Ukrainian defence minister described the Wagner rebellion in Russia as “the most ridiculous attempt at mutiny” ever.

“This only makes Russia weaker and makes us stronger,” Yuriy Sak told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.

“What happened yesterday in Russia, it will probably go down in history as the most ridiculous attempt at mutiny that was ever attempted.

“It will have no bearing on our plans. We are on a mission to liberate our land and I just hope that our allies watching this ridiculous mutiny yesterday, they understand that the only way to end the war in Ukraine is to ensure that Ukraine defeats Russia militarily.

“There can be no hope for some kind of internal transformation in Russia. It’s only going to happen on the battlefield.”

Post-Vladimir Putin Russia ‘will be deeply dangerous and unpredictable’

14:07 , Matt Watts

The UK must prepare for a “deeply dangerous and unpredictable” post-Vladimir Putin Russia, a security expert has warned after the Russian president’s authority was weakened by an attempted rebellion.

Edward Lucas, a senior adviser at the Centre for European Policy Analysis, told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “We’ve made very little preparation in this country and done very little thinking about post-Putin Russia.

“There will be all sorts of dilemmas and difficulties we face and we need to start thinking right now about how we deal with them.

“And that’s everything from do we worry about Russia falling into the arms of China? Is there going to be disintegration? Will it go full on fascist? Will we have a long period of confusion and chaos? Will they use their nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to try and get things?

“And these are all the questions that we ought to be dealing with and I’m just not seeing it in most western capitals.

“We face perhaps a decade or more of dealing with a deeply dangerous and unpredictable Russia without even the sort of superficial certainty we have of having Putin in power.”

Putin ‘confident’ on Ukraine invasion

14:09 , Matt Watts

Russian state television on Sunday showed Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing confidence in plans for Ukraine in an interview that appeared to have been recorded before Saturday’s aborted revolt by the Wagner group of mercenaries.

“We feel confident, and, of course, we are in a position to implement all the plans and tasks ahead of us,” Putin said. “This also applies to the country’s defence, it applies to the special military operation, it applies to the economy as a whole and its individual areas.”

The comments in an interview with Kremlin correspondent Pavel Zarubin were broadcast by Rossiya state television. Zarubin said the interview was done after a meeting with military graduates, in an apparent reference to an event held on Wednesday.

The full interview was due to be broadcast later on Sunday.

The short report did not mention Saturday’s revolt, in which Wagner mercenaries took a southern city before heading toward Moscow. In a televised address before the drama was defused and the group stopped their advance, Putin said the rebellion put Russia’s very existence under threat.

In its daily briefing on Sunday the Defence Ministry also did not mention anything about the actions of Wagner and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Asked in the interview how much time he dedicates to what Russia calls its special military operation, Putin said: “Of course, this is paramount, every day starts and ends with this.”

UK at risk of ‘woefully underestimating’ Russia

14:37 , Sami Quadri

The UK is at risk of “woefully underestimating” Russia and its armed forces, the former chief of the defence staff has warned.

Lord Richards told Times Radio: “It seems to me that we have been at risk of woefully underestimating Russia and her armed forces, you know, despite the obvious chaos at the top levels of Russian defence, and the arguments between Wagner and the General Staff, and so on.

“The fact is, it doesn’t appear as if Ukraine has been able to exploit it to achieve what it wants to do and needs to do, which is … a big penetration of the Russian lines.

“And I suspect that whilst it might yet still happen, that we are in, despite the weakened state, arguably of (Vladimir) Putin, we’re in for a long haul here. And that actually is the worst of all worlds for the West.

“What we should have achieved or sought to achieve is a much more rapid and decisive victory, full blooded engagement last year, we failed to do this.”

Blinken says Russia turmoil could take months to play out

14:42 , Sami Quadri

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the turmoil caused by the unprecedented challenge to the authority of President Vladimir Putin by Wagner fighters may not be over yet and could take weeks or months to play out.

China supports Russia in maintaining national stability

15:22 , Sami Quadri

China supports Russia in maintaining its national stability, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement following the rebellion against Vladimir Putin by Wagner mercenaries.

Live coverage ends

21:12 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage today.

The news team is back on Monday.

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