Russian President Vladimir Putin told 2,500 military personnel on Tuesday they averted a “civil war” in Russia during his second televised address since armed Wagner mercenaries marched toward Moscow Saturday, threatening his 24-year rule and causing Western nations and China to question his strength.
What Happened: While attempting to portray unity between his administration and Russian troops, Putin applauded the actions of his military, stating that “in a difficult situation [they] acted clearly and coherently,” according to Bloomberg. “You in fact prevented a civil war,” Putin told the troops.
Putin’s address came on the same day that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin arrived in Belarus, part of a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in return for the oligarch agreeing to call off his planned insurrection, which Prigozhin said Monday was a protest against Putin’s military leadership as opposed to a coup.
Russia’s Federal Security Service also announced it has dropped its criminal investigation into Prigozhin and the mercenaries who captured the southern city of Rostov-on-Don during the armed mutiny, a move widely seen as uncharacteristic of Putin, who is known to persecute dissenters.
Putin, who up until this week has denied the Wagner group was financed by the state, admitted to paying the mercenaries $1 billion between May 2022 and May 2023 and told military service members at the Kremlin that Prigozhin, formerly known as “Putin’s chef,” was paid an additional $1 billion for supplying food to the military, according to The Washington Post.
The Wagner group is reportedly being disbanded and has begun transferring its weaponry to the Russian army, while its members are being asked to sign official contracts with the country’s military, a move that Prigozhin rejected prior to the weekend rebellion.
Produced in association with Benzinga