An attempted armed mutiny in Russia reveals significant vulnerabilities in the authority of President Vladimir Putin, according to America’s top diplomat, Antony Blinken.
Challenging Putin’s Leadership: The Rebellion by Wagner Fighters
Antony Blinken, in an interview with US media, emphasized that the rebellion on Saturday by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner fighters directly challenged President Putin’s power, effectively forcing him into an amnesty agreement.
The agreement successfully halted the march of the Wagner mercenaries towards Moscow, as they had previously seized control of two major Russian cities.
President Putin initially accused the group of treason, but all charges were subsequently dropped. Under the terms of the agreement, Wagner fighters are required to return to their field bases, while Prigozhin relocates to Belarus, Russia’s western neighbor. Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, played a crucial role in the negotiations.
The current whereabouts of Prigozhin, a former loyalist to Putin, remain unknown. The last public sighting of him was when he left Rostov-on-Don, one of the two southern cities where his fighters had taken control of military facilities.
Prigozhin’s press service, as reported by Russia’s RTVI news website on Sunday afternoon, stated that he would address the media’s questions “when he has normal communication means,” without providing further details.
Putin’s Absence and Blinken’s Remarks
President Putin has not been seen in public since his televised address on Saturday morning, condemning the mutiny. Antony Blinken, speaking to CBS, the BBC’s US news partner, stated that the 24-hour rebellion in Russia raises significant questions and exposes real cracks in Putin’s authority.
Blinken, who made appearances on various US talk shows, mentioned that it is too early to predict the impact the mutiny could have on the Kremlin or Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which was launched in February 2022.
In reflecting on the situation, Blinken reminded viewers of the context: “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.”
The US diplomat avoided speculating on the potential consequences for Russia and President Putin personally.
Russia has not publicly responded to Blinken’s remarks.
Implications and Putin’s Weakening Image
According to Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Russia editor in Moscow, President Putin appears to have suffered a blow to his authority in light of the events on Saturday.
Rosenberg points out that the Wagner group effortlessly seized control of military facilities in a major Russian city and made advances northward towards Moscow.
Moreover, despite Prigozhin’s attempt to overthrow the military leadership of Russia, he remains a free man.
The aftermath of the armed mutiny raises concerns about the stability of Putin’s rule and the potential impact on the country’s future. The development is seen as a significant moment that highlights underlying vulnerabilities within the current leadership.