Former US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said that the truce brokered between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Wagner Group was “evidence” of Putin’s “weakness”.
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin agreed to a deal this weekend to be exiled to Belarus after an apparent coup in which he led an armed convoy to Moscow. The Russian mercenary organization has been fighting on behalf of the Kremlin in the country’s ongoing war in Ukraine, but it marched on Moscow over the weekend to demand the removal of Russian commanders, who Prigozhin says are mishandling the war. .
CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan questioned Sullivan on “Face the Nation” on Sunday about how Belarus appeared to be a power broker in the deal, considering the country is considered “a vassal state of Russia .”
“Like why would Yevgeny Prigozhin move to Belarus? Why do they suddenly appear as power brokers?” Brennan asked.
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“[Belarus President Aleksandr] Lukashenko is in power today as president because of Vladimir Putin,” Sullivan said. “Vladimir Putin came to his rescue in August 2020. Lukashenko is the one who trusts Putin. But now think about it. This, as you know, Belarus is part of a state of the Russian union, they are united.
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“How much Putin now trusts Lukashenko … this is evidence of weakness that it reveals what happened in the last three or four days, the weakness of Vladimir Putin.
“The one person he says is a traitor who stabbed him and his country in the back…he made a deal?” Sullivan continued. “A deal he had to make to avoid bloodshed and mayhem. What strong leader makes that?”
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Prigozhin founded the mercenary group in 2014 and has been considered a close confidant of Putin in recent years. Sullivan called the Wagner Group a “corrupt organization” during his appearance on CBS News and cited Prigozhin’s time in prison for robbery, fraud and related charges.
“Prigozhin himself spent most of the 1980s in prison because he was a career criminal,” Sullivan said.
“Wagner operates in African states and elsewhere, not because there are patriots implementing policy for the Russian government, they are there to gain access to … gold mines, oil resources and others more,” he added.
“This is a money-making, corrupt organization that the United States rightfully treats as a transnational criminal organization.”
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In all, Wagner’s rebellion lasted less than 36 hours, and Prigozhin reportedly headed to Belarus to live in exile.