Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday evening for the first time since Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a two-day uprising against the Kremlin.
“There has been a firm support of the constitutional order by all the leading parties, virtually the entirety of Russian society,” Putin insisted, adding that all of those parties were “united in the face of the responsibility to defend the homeland.”
Without mentioning Prigozhin by name, he added that “the organizers of this rebellion have betrayed those people who were dragged into this” uprising.
Despite an insistence by President Biden that neither the U.S. nor its allies had any hand in Prigozhin’s rebellion, Putin asserted that “this kind of suicide is precisely what the neo-Nazis in Kyiv in the West wanted.”
“At the same time we know that the overwhelming majority of the Wagner company are also patriots of Russia,” Putin added. “They have proven their courage in defending the Donbas and yet were encouraged to fight against their compatriots, and by turning back they aborted further bloodshed.”
In his social media messages amid and after the uprising, Prigozhin never mentioned Putin by name, either, saving his ire for Russia’s military commanders.
The uprising began on Friday, when Prigozhin marched his columns of mercenaries into the Russian city of Rostov near Ukraine’s front lines.
It ended Saturday after a deal was reportedly struck by Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko that Prigozhin’s mercenaries would receive immunity, and that charges brought against Prigozhin himself would be dropped, after he turned his columns away from their subsequent march toward Moscow.
Putin promised in his address that anyone who’d been caught up in the insurgency who would “make contact with the Ministry of Defense or go back to their homes” would have that Lukashenko-brokered deal upheld.
However, Russian state media had reported earlier Monday that Prigozhin, who has reportedly left Russia for neighboring Belarus, may still face criminal charges anyway.
It was unclear as of Monday exactly what Prigozhin location was.
Putin in his Monday night address also expressed gratitude to Lukashenko “for his role in all of this to achieve a peaceful resolution….It has saved the country as a whole.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who according to the State Department had spent the weekend convening with allies in the G-7, Turkey, Poland and Ukraine, said on Sunday that the two-day crisis “raises profound questions, it shows real cracks” in Putin’s authority.
“Prigozhin himself, in this entire incident, has raised profound questions about the very premises of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the first place, saying that Ukraine or NATO did not pose a threat to Russia, which is part of Putin’s narrative,” Blinken added as he made the talk show rounds on Sunday morning.