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

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The mercenary rebel that shook Russia was merely “a minor hassle,” the overseas minister mentioned on Friday, warning the West to not suppose that President Vladimir V. Putin’s grip on energy had weakened, even because the Kremlin continued to maneuver in opposition to the chief of the mutiny.

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

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

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

The fates of two key figures stay unclear: Mr. Prigozhin and Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a prime navy 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 federal government of Belarus, Mr. Putin’s closest worldwide ally, mentioned on Tuesday that Mr. Prigozhin had gone into exile there, however there was no impartial corroboration of that. Russian authorities have apparently agreed to not prosecute Mr. Prigozhin or his troops, in return for his choice to stand down final Saturday and not using a main armed conflict.

U.S. officers say that Normal Surovikin, commander of Russian air forces and previously commander of the warfare 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.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, known as the pinnacle of Russia’s overseas intelligence service after final week’s rebel to guarantee the Kremlin the U.S. had no involvement, in accordance with a U.S. official, one among a number of contacts delivering that message. The C.I.A. declined to touch upon Mr. Burn’s name, which was earlier reported by The Wall Road Journal.

The Biden administration has taken pains to emphasise to Russian officers that it had no hand within the rebellion, and views it as an inside Russian matter. In public feedback, Mr. Lavrov has appeared to just accept these explanations.

Russia’s state media regulator has blocked a information web site managed by Mr. Prigozhin, and on Friday, a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, reported that a number of 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 12 months — admitted this week that Kremlin contracts had supported the non-public military. He mentioned there could 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 nations, together with Syria and the Central African Republic, the place they’ve shaped the brutal spear level of Russian help 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. Nationwide Safety Council, mentioned on Friday that Wagner, working for the navy 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 go away “at once,” and on Friday, the U.N. Safety Council voted to withdraw them.

It’s unclear what is going to change into of Wagner troops who’ve been combating in Ukraine, an essential a part of the Russian warfare effort that has given Mr. Prigozhin a strong following in Russia. They’ve been ordered to signal contracts by Saturday with the Protection Ministry, placing them underneath the management of the common Russian navy, if they’re to stay a part of the warfare.

That order spelled the tip of Wagner as an impartial power in Ukraine, weakened Mr. Prigozhin as a political power, and confirmed that he had misplaced his long-running energy wrestle in opposition to the leaders of Russia’s navy institution. He mentioned it additionally prompted his rebel, which he insisted was geared toward these navy leaders, not at Mr. Putin.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus mentioned this week that he could be prepared to absorb Wagner fighters who’re unwilling to affix the Russian navy, and supplied them an deserted navy base. However it’s unknown what number of will settle for the supply.

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

The relocation of Wagner fighters to Belarus may create a brand new risk 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, Julian E. Barnes, Christoph Koettl, Riley Mellen, Dmitriy Khavin and Gabriela Sá Pessoa.

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