As Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, launched his “march for justice” towards Moscow, late on Friday June 23, the Russian President Vladimir Putin was not seen for several hours. When he finally appeared, it was to give a totally predictable six-minute address calling the rebels traitors, accusing them of providing support to Russia’s enemies, comparing their actions to the 1917 revolution, and vowing to make them pay.
Although the content of Putin’s broadcast had been predictable his demeanor would not have reassured the Russian public, many commentators said he looked visibly tired, unsure and shaken.
As the rest of the world looked on incredulously it seems that, immediately after giving his speech and in spite of claims to the contrary by his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, he had jumped on his presidential plane and headed off to take cover in one of his many bunkers - his first reaction seeming to want to be alone, to hide, and to leave others to sort out the mess.
Many of the international responses were as equally banal as Putin’s speech had been, merely saying they were monitoring the situation and were in discussion with and exchanging information with allies. Others, however, reflected on the potentially historic and, for the Kremlin, catastrophic events of the previous 24 hours.
Once Prigozhin pulled the plug on this latest misadventure, politicians and commentators seemed united in summing up the proceedings as, paraphrasing Churchill’s words either “the beginning of the end” or “the end of the beginning” of Putin’s regime.
Here is a round-up of some of the responses around the world both during and in the aftermath of the revolution that never was.
THE UKRAINIAN RESPONSE
President Volodymyr Zelensky (during)
"Anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys themselves.
"For a long time, Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it.
"Russia's weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain and problems it will have for itself later."
President Volodymyr Zelensky (after)
“The longer Russian aggression lasts, the more degradation it causes in Russia itself. One of the manifestations of this degradation is that Russian aggression is gradually returning to its home harbor. In our conversations with the leaders, we have exchanged our assessments of what is happening in Russia. We see the situation in the same way and know how to respond.”
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister (during)
“Those who said Russia was too strong to lose: look now.
“Time to abandon false neutrality and fear of escalation; give Ukraine all the weapons it needs; forget about friendship or business with Russia. Time to put an end to the evil everyone despised but was too afraid to tear down.”
Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President (during)
“All dictatorships eventually fall under the weight of internal contradictions and insatiable appetites.”
Oleksii Reznikov, Defense Minister (after)
[US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin] and I “talked about recent events in Russia. We agree that the Russian authorities are weak and that withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine is the best choice for the Kremlin. Russia would be better served to address its own issues.”
THE UNITED KINGDOM
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (during)
“Well, we have been monitoring for a while now the potentially de-stabling impacts of Russia's illegal war in Ukraine. We are keeping a close eye on the situation as it is evolving on the ground as we speak. We are in touch with our allies and in fact I will be speaking to some of them later today. But the most important thing I would say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians.”
British Ministry of Defence (during)
“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia's security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.”
John Glen, Chief Secretary to the Treasury (after)
“British support for Ukraine remains unaffected and the UK will not be interfering in Russian internal affairs. It is obviously a very unstable situation in Russia, but it is fundamentally an internal matter.”
Unnamed Senior Government Source (after)
“From the very beginning of the invasion, one of the most obvious scenarios was that the war could lead to political unrest back home in Russia. We are monitoring the situation closely and must prepare for a whole range of different scenarios. We have to wait, watch and see what comes next. This could be chapter one of something new.”
Whitehouse Spokesperson (during)
“President Biden spoke today with president Emmanuel Macron of France, chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, and prime minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom. The leaders discussed the situation in Russia. They also affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine.”
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State (after)
“The Wagner uprising is a direct challenge to Putin’s authority that shows real cracks in Russia’s military direction.
“It presents a real distraction for Putin and for Russian authorities, that they have to look at, sort of mind their rear, even as they’re trying to deal with the counteroffensive in Ukraine. I think that creates even greater openings for the Ukrainians to do well on the groun.,
“In terms of what happens in Russia, it’s an internal matter for the Russians to figure out. Of course, when we’re dealing with a major power, especially a major power that has nuclear weapons, that’s something that’s of concern, something we’re very focused on.
“We haven’t seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture. There has not been any change in ours, but it’s something that we’re going to watch very, very carefully.”
Mike Turner, Intelligence Committee Chairman (after)
“Putin's future actions in Ukraine could be inhibited by Prigozhin's assertion that the rationale for invading Ukraine was based on lies.
"Taking down the very premise [of the invasion] makes it much more difficult for Putin to continue to turn to the Russian people and say, we should continue to send people to die."
Philip Breedlove Former Head European Command (after)
"One of the outcomes, I believe, of the last 36 hours, maybe 48 hours, is that the institutions that we have long seen as being very secure in Russia are slowly unraveling. The whole institution of the military now, the appearance of what the Russian military is, is much diminished."
Charles Michel, European Council President (during)
“We are in permanent contact with our ambassador in Moscow and continuing our internal consultations with our member states, [and] we are also [in] contact with our partners.
“What we are witnessing is an internal Russian issue but our support for Ukraine is unwavering.”
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General (after)
“The events over the weekend are an internal Russian matter, and yet another demonstration of the big strategic mistake that President Putin made with his illegal annexation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine.
“As Russia continues its assault, it is even more important to continue our support to Ukraine.”
President, Emmanuel Macron (after)
“ … the revolt lead by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group against the country’s leadership shows the divisions that exist within the Russian camp, and the fragility of both its military and its auxiliary forces.
“The situation is still developing and I am following the events hour by hour. All of this should make us very vigilant, and fully justifies the support that we are giving to the Ukrainians in their resistance.”
Spokesperson for President Erdoğan (during)
“[The Presidents’] conversation emphasized that no one should exploit the situation in Russia. President Erdoğan stated that we, as Turkey, are ready to do our part to resolve what is going on in peaceful and calm manner as soon as possible.”
Edgars Rinkēvičs, Foreign Minister (during)
“Latvia is closely following the developing situation in Russia and exchanging information with allies.
“Border security has been strengthened, visa or border entry from Russians leaving Russia due to current events won’t be considered. Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other types of visas [to Russian citizens].”
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Foreign Minister (during)
“For 100 years Lithuanians have lived on the edge of Moscow's brutal ‘banditocracy’, knowing it's only a matter of time before the next chaotic implosion. We are not distracted. We see clearly in the chaos. The goal, as ever, is victory and justice for Ukraine.
“The time is now.”
President Gitanas Nausėda (after)
“If Prigozhin or part of the Wagner group ends up in Belarus with unclear plans and unclear intentions, it will only mean that we need to further strengthen the security of our eastern borders.
“[We will] need to examine the political and security aspects of Belarus - I am not only talking about Lithuania here, but without a doubt the whole of NATO.
“Our general security plan for [next months’ NATO] meeting will not change following the recent developments in Russia, even though ‘the king is naked’.”
Jan Lipavsky, Foreign Minister (during)
“We are closely following the situation in the Russian Federation. With regard to the ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and the possible threat of erosion of the security situation in the country, especially for citizens of EU and NATO countries, our strong warning against travel to the Russian Federation is still in place.”
Nasser Kanaani, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson (during)
“Iran supports the rule of law in the Russian Federation and considers the latest developments there to be an internal Russian matter.”
Security Council Spokesman (during, following reports that President Lukashenko had left the country)
“Minsk remains an ally of Russia and believes that this internal dispute is ‘a gift to the collective West’.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman (during)
“Belarus restates its support for Russia and its battle for the future of the Slavic world through the war in Ukraine.
“We cannot remain aloof from the events happening in the south of Russia.”
(State-controlled) Global Times (during)
“[The West] hyping up the ‘mutiny’ by Prigozhin and creating an illusion that Russia has many internal contradictions and ‘the building is collapsing’ is merely the latest attack by Western media and another attempt to undermine Russian social unity.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson (after)
“As a friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner in the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity.”.
Maria Zakharova, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman (during)
“I call on all Russians to rally round our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in the face of this armed mutiny.
“We warn Western countries against using the Wagner mercenary group’s mutiny to achieve their Russophobic goals.”
General Sergey Surovikin, Deputy Commander in Ukraine (during, with a rifle in his hand):
“I call on all Wagner soldiers to obey their Commander-in-Chief, return to their bases and lay down their weapons.”
Freedom of Russia Legion (during)
“On the battlefield, Prigozhin and I are enemies, but now he is telling the truth: about how cowardly generals send hundreds of thousands of Russians to their deaths as cannon fodder.
“His words show that no one will put up with corruption, dictatorship, hypocrisy.
“We hope that the war of evil against evil will weaken the repressive machine and we will liberate Russia with our brothers.
“Officers and soldiers of the Russian army unleash your weapons on the Kremlin.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Leader of Chechen Forces (during)
“Prigozhin's treacherous march is a knife in the back.
[My] fighters have already left for the zones of tension. I call upon fighters not to fall for provocations. War is not the time to voice personal grievances.
“This is military rebellion. There is no excuse for such actions. I fully support every word of Vladimir Putin.
“This rebellion must be crushed, and if this requires harsh measures, then we are ready.”
Sergey Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow (during)
“I ask you to refrain from traveling around the city as much as possible. The situation is difficult and city services are on high alert.
“I am declaring that citizens must not go to work on Monday in order to minimise risks. It
will be a non-working day for all those except employees of the military-industrial complex and city services.”
Russian State TV, Rossiya 24 (during)
Russia’s rolling news channel almost entirely ignored Saturday’s events and instead aired a documentary about Silvio Berlusconi – perhaps it says more about the situation than its politicians can.
Andrey Kartapolov, Head of Defense Committee, (after)
“Our government will adopt a bill to regulate the activities of private military companies.
I believe that the Wagner fighters that were in Rostov-on-Don didn’t do anything reprehensible, since they were just following the orders of their commanders. They didn’t offend anyone or break anything, and no one has any complaints about them — neither the residents of Rostov, the soldiers in the Southern Military District, or law enforcement agencies.
“What’s the reason to ban [Wagner Group]? Wagner is the most effective military unit in Russia and dissolving it would be a gift to NATO and Ukraine. All questions should be addressed to the head of Wagner.
Joseph [Stalin] said that children don’t answer for their parents. The one who initiated the rebellion should be the one responsible.”
Nina Khrushcheva, Professor of International Affairs - granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev (after)
“He [Putin] has been weakened since February 24 2022 when he announced the occupation of Ukraine ... the war is not going well and it’s clear to everybody that it’s not going well ... It is [the] calm before the storm and Putin’s position is getting weaker and weaker. And that’s why he will continue to fight because that’s the only thing, it seems to me, that keeps him in power.
“I grew up [under] Leonid Brezhnev. It seemed like it was just absolutely going to collapse any minute, and then it took about 18 years to collapse. So yes, it is the beginning of the end [for the Putin regime], but I’m not going to predict it’s collapsing tomorrow. Although of course, this is Russia. This is Byzantine. Everything can happen.”
Ministry of Digital Development (after)
“Saturday was a very emotional and tense day, we recommend giving employees of IT and telecom companies and media the [Monday] day off.”
“Many employees of the [digital development] ministry spent the weekend at their workplace, so we also made this decision for our employees.”
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