EU urges caution as mercenary revolt raises doubts about Russian president’s grip on power

Jun 26, 2023, 5:00 AM

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union ministers urged caution Monday after a failed revolt by mercenaries in Russia raised questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power and whether the mercenaries might install themselves just over the border in Belarus.

At talks in Luxembourg, some EU foreign ministers likened the short-lived uprising led by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to Putin unleashing a Frankenstein’s monster or ghost of his own creation. Several also noted that many questions remain, including Prigozhin’s precise whereabouts and whether he’s taking troops with him.

Many seemed to agree that a key response to the crisis in Russia was to help Ukraine draw any possible advantage from the situation.

“We are analyzing this carefully,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters. “There are also risks involved, which we are still unable to assess at the moment. For us Europeans, the only thing that matters is to support Ukraine.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, said that the monster that Putin created with Wagner is “acting against his creator.” He added that ”the political system is showing fragilities, and the military power is cracking.”

“It’s now the moment to support Ukraine, more than ever,” Borrell said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters that Putin “can’t get rid of the ghosts he summoned, and they’re going to haunt him now.” He cited the revolt as proof that “there are cracks in the power structure” in Russia.

Addressing the ministers by video-link, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged them to take advantage of the latest developments.

“Russia is getting weaker every day. It is critically important now to provide Ukraine with all the weapons it needs,” he said, including artillery and missiles, but also tougher sanctions.

Prigozhin was granted exile in Belarus, just 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius. It remains unclear what charges he might face, if any. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered the deal, gave few details.

Russian leaders, whether civilian or military, have not commented on the situation.

Wary of the insecurity that this might mean for his country, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said he wants to see “very specific plans” from his allies to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, including Estonia, Latvia and Poland.

“We’re seeing how fast things can transpire. It took half a day for a military detachment to move 200 kilometers (125 miles) away from Moscow. So imagine, how fast can they do that crossing Belarus and appearing on Lithuania’s border,” he said.

Still, Landsbergis insisted that the West should not be distracted by events in Russia, even if the revolt has revealed “a grey zone” of unpredictability inside the country. “All we have to do is keep focused on Ukraine,” he said.

Wagner troops have played a crucial role in the Ukraine war, capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut, an area where the bloodiest and longest battles have taken place. But Prigozhin has increasingly criticized the military brass, accusing it of incompetence and of starving his troops of munitions.

During the meeting, the ministers endorsed a 3.5-billion-euro ($3.8-billion) top up of a special fund that helps to reimburse any of the 27 EU countries that provide weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. Officials estimate that the EU has provided Ukraine a total of about 75 billion euros ($82 billion) worth of weapons, ammunition, economic and other assistance since Russia invaded in February 2022.


Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.


Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.,


Melissa Shepard, left, directing attorney of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, explains the Biden adm...

Associated Press

Behind Biden’s asylum halt: Migrants must say if they fear deportation, not wait to be asked

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Posters inside a complex of giant, white tents tell migrants in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi they should tell an officer if they fear being deported and “your claim will be heard.” On a side wall where migrants are seated in a processing area, a video conveys the same message on […]

6 hours ago

FILE - People walk past the Fiserv Forum ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Thursday...

Associated Press

With GOP convention over, Milwaukee weighs the benefits of hosting political rivals

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Downtown Milwaukee turned red last week as thousands of Republican National Convention delegates and other party stalwarts gathered in Wisconsin’s largest Democratic stronghold to formally rally behind Donald Trump as their candidate for president in the pivotal swing state. Outside the security zone where the convention took place, residents grumbled, ignored or […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Salt Lake City wildfire prompts mandatory evacuations as more than 100 firefighters fight blaze

Salt Lake City officials have ordered residents to evacuate some areas ahead of a wildfire as more than 100 firefighters work to contain the blaze. Helicopters and airplanes were dropping buckets over the flames Saturday as ground crews tried to contain the fire on Ensign Peak. The first fire crew was dispatched around 4:30 p.m. […]

7 hours ago

Democratic Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi speaks at the North Carolina Democratic Unity Dinner fundra...

Associated Press

Pelosi delivers speech to NC Democrats with notable absence — Biden’s future as nominee

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a state expected to help decide the presidency, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi did little to quell speculation on President Joe Biden’s path forward as the Democratic nominee to a room full of North Carolina Democrats on Saturday. Pelosi addressed more than 900 people at the North Carolina Democratic Party […]

9 hours ago

The Butler Farm Show, site of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former Preside...

Associated Press

Gunman in Trump rally attack flew drone over rally site in advance of event, official says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gunman in the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump is believed to have flown a drone around the Pennsylvania rally site ahead of time in an apparent attempt to scope out the site before the event, a law enforcement official said Saturday. The drone has been recovered by the FBI, […]

14 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump during the final ...

Associated Press

Trump campaign releases letter on his injury, treatment after last week’s assassination attempt

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign released an update on the former president’s health Saturday, one week after he survived an attempted assassination at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania. The memo, from Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, who served as Trump’s White House physician, offers new details on the nature of the GOP nominee’s injuries […]

14 hours ago

EU urges caution as mercenary revolt raises doubts about Russian president’s grip on power