Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Monday that those responsible for the armed revolt that plunged his country into chaos would be «brought to justice.»
Addressing the nation for the first time since the short-lived mercenary rebellion ended over the weekend, Putin was defiant but offered little clarity on the situation.
«Any blackmail is doomed to fail,» he said, claiming his forces could have crushed a revolt that posed the biggest challenge to his rule in more than 20 years and left the Kremlin struggling to restore a sense of stability.
Early Monday, Wagner’s mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin issued a defiant audio message defending his actions.
In his speech, Putin once again described the organizers of the rebellion as traitors. “This was a colossal threat,” the Russian leader said.
But he took the time to praise the fighters who seized a Russian town and marched on Moscow before backing down, suggesting they could either join the Russian army or move safely to Belarus.
“Most of the Wagner company are also patriots of Russia. They have shown their courage by defending Donbas and yet they were encouraged to fight their compatriots,» he said, referring to the region of eastern Ukraine where Wagner has led much of the fighting.
“By turning back they avoided more bloodshed,” he added. “We have to think about the people who actually decided to do this.”
Putin also thanked Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who reportedly brokered the deal to end the crisis.
Early Monday, Wagner’s mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin issued a defiant audio message defending his fighters’ actions.
He did not act to topple Putin’s regime but to protect Wagner from being destroyed by the Russian Defense Ministry, Prigozhin said. in an audio recording of almost 12 minutes on the channel of his press office on Telegram. The events over the weekend were a surprising escalation in a longstanding dispute between Prigozhin and military top brass, whom he has repeatedly accused of depriving Wagner of weapons and supplies.
The future of Prigozhin and his rebels is uncertain.
Putin’s regime appeared weakened, having vowed to pardon those he called traitors just hours earlier and said he would allow Prigozhin to go into exile in Belarus.