World watches as Putin’s aide turns against former master

Published June 25, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin (R). — Reuters/File
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin (R). — Reuters/File
Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia on June 24. — Reuters
Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia on June 24. — Reuters

PARIS: Global leaders on Saturday watched closely as the Wagner mercenary group stirred a mutiny in Russia, posing the most serious challenge yet to President Vladimir Putin’s long rule in Russia.

Several countries kept an eye on the situation before the group withdrew following an intervention by Belarus.

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation in Russia and Washington and spoke with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the White House said.

“The leaders discussed the situation in Russia. They also affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine,” a readout said.

UK, US, EU ‘concerned’; Belarus says Moscow’s internal rifts ‘gift for West’

Separately, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley has cancelled a trip to Israel and Jordan on Saturday. That trip was postponed “due to the situation in Russia,” a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs told AFP.

Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, also cancelled his trip to Denmark on Saturday.

European Union chief Charles Michel tweeted that the bloc was “closely monitoring the situation in Russia as it unfolds. In touch with European leaders and G7 partners.”

The bloc’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said the EU was in “permanent contact with our ambassador in Moscow and continuing our internal consultations with member states”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged “all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians.”

‘Gift to West’

Belarus reaffirmed its alliance with Russia as Wagner’s mercenaries marched towards Moscow.

Belarus Security Council said in a statement that Minsk remained an ally of Russia and that internal disputes were “a gift to the collective West.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Wagner mutiny showed Russia was weak. “Anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys themselves.”

“Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later.”

Iran, Turkiye back Russia

 A view of Moscow, Russia on June 24. — Reuters
A view of Moscow, Russia on June 24. — Reuters

In their statements, Iran and Turkiye voiced support for Russia with the Turkish president holding a telephone conversation with Putin.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in a call with his Russian counterpart, said he was confident Russia would get through current events in the country, Iran’s state media reported.

Amirabdollahian “voiced support for the rule of law in all countries, including Russia — a neighbour and a friend… and said he was confident that Russia would get through this stage,” state media said in its report about the phone call with Sergei Lavrov.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he “underlined the importance of acting with common sense” during the call with Putin.

“In the conversation, it was emphasised that no one should exploit the situation in Russia.”

France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and other European countries also expressed concerns over the “serious situation”.

Qatar’s said the situation will have repercussions for international peace and security, and on food and energy supplies.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2023

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