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Russian Warlord Prigozhin's Troops Withdraw, Raising Regime Stability Concerns

In a significant development marking the biggest crisis of Vladimir Putin's presidency, Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin and his troops have withdrawn from southern Russia after reaching a deal with Moscow to end their armed uprising.

Russian Warlord Prigozhin's Troops Withdraw, Raising Regime Stability Concerns

"Putin and the state have been dealt a severe blow which will have significant repercussions for the regime," remarked Tatiana Stanovaya, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre.

Prigozhin's press office informed Russian broadcaster RTVI that the warlord sends greetings to everyone and will answer questions when he has good mobile phone reception. Video footage released by Russian state news agency RIA showed crowds cheering Prigozhin as he left the city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday evening.

The mutiny led by Prigozhin and Putin's extraordinary response, in which he likened the threat to the revolution of 1917, have raised serious doubts about the stability of Putin's regime. "Yesterday's events exposed the weakness of Putin's regime," commented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a phone call with US President Joe Biden. Zelenskyy further emphasized, "The longer Russian aggression continues, the greater degradation it causes in Russia itself."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the cracks in Putin's authority, stating, "This raises profound questions... We do know that Putin has a lot more to answer for in the weeks and months ahead." Blinken also referred to the crisis as an unfolding story and expressed that "We haven't seen the last act."

China's foreign ministry showed its support for Russia in maintaining national stability following a meeting between foreign minister Qin Gang and Russia's deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko in Beijing.

However, senior officials in Moscow attempted to downplay the seriousness of the weekend's events. Andrey Kartapolov, chair of the State Duma defense committee, distinguished the Wagner fighters who occupied Rostov from those marching on Moscow, claiming that the occupying forces did not cause harm or damage. He stated, "They didn't hurt anyone, they didn't break anything. No one has the slightest claims against them."

Authorities in southern Russia confirmed the withdrawal of Wagner's troops from the region. Alexander Gusev, governor of Voronezh province, assured that the movement of Wagner units through the Voronezh region was proceeding normally and without incident. "The movement of... Wagner units through Voronezh region is about to end. It is proceeding normally and without incident," said Gusev.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Kremlin struggled to respond effectively to Wagner's advances due to surprise and heavy losses in Ukraine. The institute suggested that Wagner could have reached the outskirts of Moscow if Prigozhin had ordered them to do so. It further concluded that the events would likely substantially damage Putin's government and the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

As the withdrawal unfolded, Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of its general staff, Valery Gerasimov, remained silent. Prigozhin had previously criticized them for withholding ammunition from his fighters in Ukraine.

Wagner, the largest of several private militias fighting in Ukraine, had recruited thousands of convicts from Russian jails. The Kremlin announced that it would not prosecute those who participated in the rebellion, while offering contracts with Russia's Ministry of Defense to those who did not take part.

Secretary of State Blinken reassured that the United States was prepared for every contingency but stressed the importance of monitoring Russia's nuclear posture, which had not shown any change. He stated, "We haven't seen any change in Russia's nuclear posture. There hasn't been any change in ours. But it's something we are going to watch very, very carefully." Blinken also revealed that state department officials had engaged with the Russians over the weekend but did not disclose whether Biden or CIA chief Bill Burns had sought direct contact with their Russian counterparts.

During a phone call between President Zelenskyy and President Biden ahead of an upcoming NATO summit, the leaders discussed expanding defense cooperation, particularly in relation to long-range weapons. The United States reaffirmed its unwavering support for Ukraine, including continued security, economic, and humanitarian aid.

The withdrawal of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his troops, following the deal with Moscow, has raised doubts about the stability of Putin's regime. The crisis has exposed vulnerabilities within Putin's authority and is expected to have significant repercussions for the Russian government and its ongoing efforts in Ukraine.



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