US: The Wagner mutiny in Russia reveals significant authority gaps under Putin

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Pictured: June 24, 2023

President Vladimir Putin's authority has "real cracks," according to America's top diplomat Antony Blinken, who recently commented on an attempted armed mutiny in Russia.

According to him, Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner fighters' uprising on Saturday represented a "direct challenge" to Vladimir Putin that compelled him to grant amnesty.

Wagner's march on Moscow was stopped by the agreement. Mercenaries had earlier taken control of two significant Russian cities.

All charges against the group were later dropped after Mr. Putin accused them of treason.

Wagner group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin shakes hands with a well-wisher as he leaves the city of Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia. Photo: 24 June 2023
Yevgeny Prigozhin was beaming as he departed Rostov amid applause from his supporters.

The agreement mandates that Wagner fighters return to their field bases and that Prigozhin relocate to Belarus, a country bordering Russia to the west and whose leader Alexander Lukashenko participated in the talks.

Former Putin supporter Prigozhin's whereabouts are currently unknown. One of the two southern cities where his fighters had seized military installations was Rostov-on-Don, where he was last spotted leaving in public.

As reported on Sunday afternoon by the Russian news website RTVI, Prigozhin's press office stated that he would respond to media inquiries "when he has normal communication means.". No additional information was offered.

Since his nationwide TV address on Saturday morning to denounce the mutiny, President Putin has not been spotted in the public.

The 24-hour uprising in Russia "raises profound questions, it shows real cracks," Mr. Blinken said in an interview with CBS, the BBC's US news partner, on Sunday.

It is "too early" to speculate on the potential effects of the mutiny on the Kremlin or on Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine that is set to begin in February 2022, according to Mr. Blinken, who also made appearances on a number of other US talk shows.

According to Mr. Blinken, "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 and erase the country from the map.".

Now he has to protect Moscow, the capital of Russia, from a mercenary he created. " .

The US diplomat continued by saying he didn't want to "speculate" on where all of this might lead Russia or President Putin in particular.

On Mr. Blinken's comments, Russia has not made any public statements.

President Putin does not come out of Saturday's events looking particularly strong, according to Steve Rosenberg, the BBC's Russia editor in Moscow.

According to him, the Wagner group was able to take control of military facilities in a significant Russian city with apparent ease before moving toward Moscow.

Despite trying to overthrow Russia's military leadership, Prigozhin is now a free man.

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