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Putin tells rebel Russian fighters to pledge allegiance or leave for Belarus

The attempted mutiny, which a Russian military leader at one point called a “coup d’état,” represented the biggest destabilizing threat Putin has faced since the start of the war. But it is too early to tell whether the events spell doom for the largest leadership structure Putin has assembled in more than two decades, as experts predict different results about whether his power will collapse or expand further.

“The armed rebellion would have been suppressed anyway,” Putin said, arguing that internal conflicts were dividing a country facing a serious external threat.

But the rapid mobilization of the Wagner Group over the weekend blows a hole in Putin’s words of strength that any attempted mutiny would not yield results. On Friday, Prigozhin, who has clashed with Russian leaders on multiple fronts during the country’s invasion of Ukraine, ordered thousands of his mercenary troops to march toward the capture of Moscow. They quickly secured several strategic bases south of Moscow, including the city of Rostov-on-Don, but stalled due to the deal Belarus brokered.

Throughout his remarks on Monday, Putin emphasized the strength of the Russian military and the country’s patriotic people, painting the Wagner Group conflict as a betrayal. In a show of unity after his solo remarks, Russian media showed the president alongside prominent military leaders analyzing the situation.

He attributed the cause of the rebellion to Prigozhin and said that Wagner’s mercenaries could sign a contract with the Russian army, return to their families or go to Belarus.

“Soldiers of the Wagner group are also patriots, loyal to the state, they have proven it in combat,” Putin said. “They were used blindly, forced to face their comrades with whom they fought shoulder to shoulder.”

Putin also paid tribute to Russian air force pilots who he confirmed had been killed in the insurgency. Wagner’s forces previously claimed to have shot down several planes in their attempt to secure the territory.

In a Telegram message earlier Monday, Prigozhin insisted that his actions over the weekend they were not an effort to oust Putin as Russia’s leader.

“Our decision to go back was driven by two factors,” Prigozhin said. “One, that we didn’t want Russian blood to flow. The second factor was that we went to demonstrate our protest and not to overthrow the country’s government.”

Prigozhin said on Monday that the deal would help the Wagner Group continue its operations, which reach not only into Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, but also into several African countries. His exact whereabouts were unknown until Monday afternoon.

The Biden administration has repeatedly claimed that The US had nothing to do with the Russian crisiscalling it an internal conflict.


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