Russian President Vladimir Putin Gives First Remarks Since Mercenary Group’s Failed Rebellion

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News networks continued to focus on the instability in Russia, as Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time since a failed rebellion led by Wagner Group mercenary chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

In short remarks, Putin said that the rebellion’s leaders “miscalculated” and were determined to divide the country and for “Russian soldiers to kill each other, for soldiers and civilians alike to die, so that Russia ultimately loses.”

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On Saturday, the paramilitary rebellion reportedly took control of the city of Rostov-on-Don and Prigozhin said that the insurrection was on its way to Moscow. But then he abruptly announced that they were turning back, with the Kremlin’s spokesman later telling reporters that Prigozhin would go to Belarus and a criminal case against him would be dropped. Prigozhin said in a Telegram post on Monday that the intent was not to overthrow the government but to protest the handling of the Ukraine invasion.

Putin said in his five minute speech, “I would like to stress that we immediately made all the decisions to neutralize the threat, and to protect the constitutional order and the lives and security of our citizens. The armed rebellion would have been put down in any case. The rebellion’s organizers, despite losing common sense, could not help but understand this.”

U.S. networks scrambled to cover the unfolding situation amid concerns over Russia’s restrictions on press freedom and threats to journalists reporting in the country, particularly since the arrest of The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich in March. That has created confusion and uncertainty over sources of information coming from state media and social media platforms.

CNN’s Matthew Chance had been in Kyiv when the rebellion started and then went back to Moscow to report on the situation there. NBC News Keir Simmons also has been in the city, and MSNBC is planning a primetime special on Monday, Russia in Crisis, with Ali Velshi from Kyiv. But networks and other news organizations have had a more limited presence in the country since the passage last year of a new censorship law.

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, wrote on Twitter that Putin was delivering a mixed message.

“Putin’s message tonight to the Wagner mercenaries was EXACTLY what Prigozhin was trying to say a few days ago to the Russian conventional soldiers. ‘You guys are good. Your commanders are bad.'”

McFaul added, “When Putin doubled down tonight on labeling Wagner commanders as traitors, did he mean Progozhin as well? How could he not? Yet, he also said Wagner soldiers could go to Belarus with their commander?”

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