(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Monday, in his first public comments addressing the short-lived rebellion that unfolded this weekend against Russian military leaders and threatening the rule of President Vladimir Putin, insisted that the U.S.and its NATO allies were in no way involved.
Biden said he directed his national security team to prepare for “a range of scenarios” as soon as the chaotic scene developed in Russia Friday, and convened with key allies over a virtual video call.
“They agreed with me that we had to make sure we gave Putin no excuse, let me emphasize, gave Putin no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO,” Biden said.
“We made clear that we were not involved,” the president continued. “We had nothing to do with it. This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.”
Biden said the “ultimate outcome of all this remains to be seen but no matter what comes next, I will keep making sure that our allies and our partners are closely aligned in how we are reading and responding to the situation.”
“It’s important we stay completely coordinated,” he said.
NEW: Pres. Biden addresses Wagner Group uprising against Vladimir Putin.
“We gave Putin no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO. We made clear that we were not involved…This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.” https://t.co/Uv9QNDRjfQ pic.twitter.com/UwI5Svu9ua
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 26, 2023
Notably, he did not characterize what had happened, referring to it as “the situation.”
“We’re gonna keep assessing the fallout of this weekend’s events and the implications for Russia and Ukraine, but it’s still too early to reach a definitive conclusion about where this is going,” Biden said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday the failed mutiny showed “serious cracks” in Putin’s power.
“Where they go, if anywhere, when they get there, very hard to say,” Blinken added. “I don’t want to speculate but I don’t think we’ve seen the final act.”
Biden said he spoke “at length” with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with another call between the two leaders expected later Monday or earlier Tuesday to “make sure we continue to remain on the same page.”
“I told him that no matter what happened in Russia, let me say it again, no matter what happened in Russia, we the United States will continue to support Ukraine’s defense and its sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” Biden said. “He and I agreed to follow up and stay in constant contact.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told ABC News he believes the brief mutiny marks “the beginning of the end” of the war in Ukraine.
“Russia has accumulated a lot of internal problems, but they are not ready to accept defeat because it would put an end to two decades of its domination in global processes,” Podolyak said.
The armed rebellion was spearheaded by the paramilitary Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who on Friday accused Russian forces of deliberately shelling his troops.
By Saturday morning, Prigozhin announced his mercenaries had seized the Southern Military District and military facilities in the key border city Rostov-on-Don and were marching toward Moscow. But by Saturday night, the march was suddenly called off.
The Kremlin said Sunday that Prigozhin would not be prosecuted and would move to Belarus as part of a deal brokered to end the Wagner Group’s advances. The deal includes allowing Wagner group soldiers to be folded into the Russian military.
Prigozhin, in his first remarks since the mutiny, released a video Monday in which he claimed he had “no goal of overthrowing” the government and that he stopped the march to prevent bloodshed.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.