Vladimir Putin has warned “any blackmail is doomed to failure” – days after an attempted rebellion led by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Russian president – speaking to the nation from the Kremlin on Monday night – made the comments as he vowed that those who had advocated for the weekend’s “criminal activity” would be brought to justice.
He said the rebellion had been “aimed at weakening the country” and described it as “a colossal threat”.
But Putin also thanked the Russian public for its “support, patriotism and solidarity” and said there had been a coming together that had “saved” the country.
“Virtually the entirety of Russian society, all of them, have been united in the face of the responsibility to defend the homeland,” Putin claimed.
He further expressed gratitude to Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko for helping to bring the crisis to a “peaceful resolution”.
The Russian leader said that most Wagner mercenaries were “patriots” and claimed they had been encouraged by organisers of the plot “to fight against their compatriots”.
He added: “By turning back [from their march on Moscow], they avoided further bloodshed. We have to think about the people who actually decided to take this step, which would have had tragic and devastating consequences for Russia as a whole.
“I would like to thank those commanders and soldiers of the Wagner private company who took the right decision to stop and go back, and prevent bloodshed.”
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‘Revenge for failure’
He further claimed that “neo-Nazis in Kyiv and the West” had wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other and divide its society.
During the short, five-minute address, Putin claimed Ukraine had been involved in the weekend’s events and called the revolt “revenge for their failure at the front – but they slipped up, they made a mistake”.
He also said Lukashenko in Belarus had “extended his hand and offered to find solutions for the further operation of Wagner in a legitimate jurisdiction”.
But Prigozhin did not offer any details about where he was, or what his future plans are.
It comes after the Kremlin said it had made a deal for the Wagner leader to move to Belarus and receive amnesty, along with his troops.
Meanwhile, a top White House official has denied that the US had any involvement in Saturday’s rebellion – and said it had “good, direct communication with the Russians over the weekend”.
US President Joe Biden also said earlier that it was important leaders gave Putin “no excuse” to blame the mutiny on the West or NATO.
“We made it clear we were not involved,” the president said. “We had nothing to do with it.
“This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.”