Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the world is seeing “cracks emerge” in Vladimir Putin’s Russia as mercenary forces attempted a rebellion over the weekend amid the country’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
After calling for an armed uprising aimed at removing Russia’s defense minister, Wagner Group troops and their far-right leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, appeared to take control of the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don that oversee fighting in Ukraine.
The troops then began advancing toward Moscow on Saturday before halting, thanks to a deal by the Kremlin to send Prigozhin to neighboring pro-Russia Belarus. The Kremlin said charges of attempted armed rebellion will be dropped, and Prigozhin ordered his fighters back to their camps.
Despite the revolt being short-lived, Blinken and analysts say the move by Putin’s onetime protege could have long-term consequences for the invasion in Ukraine and the Russian president’s decades-long reign.
“I suspect that this is a moving picture and we haven’t seen the last act yet. But we can say this,” the secretary of state told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “First of all, what we have seen is extraordinary. And I think you have seen cracks emerge that weren’t there before: first in having Prigozhin raise front and center — questioning the very premises of the Russian aggression against Ukraine to begin with — the argument that somehow Ukraine or NATO posed a threat to Russia, and a direct challenge to Putin himself.”
Wagner fighters have been extremely important in the Ukraine war, capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut that has experienced some of the war’s bloodiest, longest battles. Prigozhin, an ex-convict, has a long history with the Russian president — earning the nickname “Putin’s chef” for obtaining lucrative Kremlin catering contracts.
Prigozhin claimed his rebellion began due to Russian forces attacking Wagner camps in Ukraine — something Moscow has denied. But the U.S. had intelligence that suggested the mercenary leader had been building up his forces near the Russian border for some time, according to The Associated Press and CNN.
Moscow prepared for Wagner fighters’ arrival over the weekend by placing checkpoints on the city’s southern border, allegedly pulling thousands of Chechen soldiers from fighting in Ukraine. By Sunday, the troops had withdrawn from the capital.
“Think about it this way: 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, erase the country from the map,” Blinken said. “Now, they have to be focused on defending Moscow, Russia’s capital, against mercenaries of Putin’s own making. So this raises lots of profound questions that will be answered, I think, in the days and weeks ahead.”
(This story has not been checked by JK Mega and is auto-generated from other sources)