Russia Dismisses Rebellion as ‘Minor’ and Dismantles Prigozhin’s Wagner Empire

The mercenary revolt that shook Russia was merely “a minor trouble,” the overseas minister mentioned on Friday, warning the West to not assume that President Vladimir V. Putin’s grip on energy had weakened, even as the Kremlin continued to maneuver towards the chief of the mutiny.

Speaking at a news conference, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov asserted that Russia would emerge “stronger and more resilient” after the short-lived putsch final Friday and Saturday by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and his Wagner group troops, who’ve performed a significant position in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Lavrov dismissed the revolt, which drove an armored column to inside 125 miles of Moscow earlier than turning again, as insignificant.

“If someone in the West has doubts about this, then that’s their problem,” he mentioned. He added that the Western nations backing Ukraine have been misguided in the event that they hoped that “the facade of the Russian government had cracked.”

The Kremlin has insisted repeatedly that the rebellion had no assist and the nation was united behind Mr. Putin, who has described the episode as an vital take a look at that Russia had emphatically handed. But it’s clear that the federal government continues to be cleansing up its aftermath.

The fates of two key figures stay unclear: Mr. Prigozhin and Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a high army commander seen as being aligned with Prigozhin. Neither has been heard from publicly since final weekend, their whereabouts haven’t been confirmed, and it isn’t clear what diploma of freedom, if any, both man nonetheless enjoys.

The authorities of Belarus, Mr. Putin’s closest worldwide ally, mentioned on Tuesday that Mr. Prigozhin had gone into exile there, however there was no unbiased corroboration of that. Russian authorities have apparently agreed to not prosecute Mr. Prigozhin or his troops, in return for his determination to face down final Saturday and not using a main armed conflict.

U.S. officers say that General Surovikin, commander of Russian air forces and previously commander of the conflict effort in Ukraine, most likely knew prematurely concerning the mutiny, and seems to have been detained. The Russian authorities has refused to remark. Some pro-war Russian bloggers have reported that he was arrested, whereas others have denied it.

Russia’s state media regulator has blocked a information web site managed by Mr. Prigozhin, and on Friday, a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, reported that several others had been blocked as properly. Russian safety providers have reportedly raided the places of work of different Prigozhin holdings.

Mr. Putin, whose authorities had lengthy denied any connection to Wagner — as did Mr. Prigozhin till final yr — admitted this week that Kremlin contracts had supported the non-public military. He mentioned there can be an investigation of these contracts to punish graft and profiteering.

The Kremlin has moved this week to take management of Wagner mercenary forces in different international locations, together with Syria and the Central African Republic, the place they’ve fashioned the brutal spear level of Russian assist for repressive governments, usually whereas securing profitable concessions in pure sources. Russian diplomats have rushed to guarantee their allies of continued Wagner backing.

John F. Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, mentioned on Friday that Wagner, working for the army junta that guidelines Mali, had engineered the departure of a United Nations peacekeeping power in that nation to additional its personal enterprise pursuits. Weeks in the past, the junta requested the peacekeepers to depart “without delay,” and on Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted to withdraw them.

It is unclear what is going to turn out to be of Wagner troops who’ve been combating in Ukraine, an vital a part of the Russian conflict effort that has given Mr. Prigozhin a sturdy following in Russia. They have been ordered to signal contracts by Saturday with the Defense Ministry, placing them beneath the management of the common Russian army, if they’re to stay a part of the conflict.

That order spelled the top of Wagner as an unbiased power in Ukraine, weakened Mr. Prigozhin as a political power, and confirmed that he had misplaced his long-running energy wrestle towards the leaders of Russia’s army institution. He mentioned it additionally prompted his revolt, which he insisted was aimed toward these army leaders, not at Mr. Putin.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus mentioned this week that he can be keen to absorb Wagner fighters who’re unwilling to hitch the Russian army, and provided them an deserted army base. But it’s unknown what number of will settle for the provide.

New satellite tv for pc imagery from Thursday and Friday, analyzed by The New York Times, reveals greater than 250 tents, sufficient to deal with hundreds of troops, have been erected up to now 5 days at an unused base. The Times first reported on Wednesday on speedy development there. The pictures present no signal up to now of a serious troop presence.

The relocation of Wagner fighters to Belarus may create a brand new menace to Ukraine on its northern border, and President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday ordered defenses there strengthened.

Reporting was contributed by Elian Peltier, Valerie Hopkins, Victoria Kim, Christoph Koettl, Riley Mellen, Dmitriy Khavin and Gabriela Sá Pessoa.

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