Putin thanks Russians for showing solidarity

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with service members at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 27, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first national address since Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private military group, launched a brief insurrection on Saturday, thanked Russians for their unity over the incident.

Putin emphasized in the address on Monday evening that prompt measures had been taken from the very beginning to avoid bloodshed. He lauded the courage of military personnel and law enforcement officers and vowed to fulfill his promise to members of the Wagner group that they could go to Belarus, join Russia's military or return to their families.

"Time was needed, among other things, to give those who had made a mistake a chance to come to their senses, to realize that their actions were firmly rejected by society, and that the adventure in which they had been involved had tragic and destructive consequences for Russia and for our state," Reuters quoted Putin as saying.

On Tuesday, the Russian Federal Security Service said it had closed a criminal investigation into the armed rebellion, with no charges against Prigozhin or any of the other participants.

The security agency, explaining its decision in a statement, said that participants in the armed insurrection had "ceased their actions directly aimed at committing the crime".

Putin also expressed gratitude to military personnel, law enforcement and intelligence officers, and the hero pilots who had stood up to stop the mutineers.

"In the confrontation with rebels, our comrades-in-arms, pilots, were killed. They did not flinch and honorably fulfilled their orders and their military duty," Putin said.

"People who were drawn into the rebellion saw that the army and the people were not with them," he said.

Noting that the patriotic feelings of Russians and consolidation of the entire society were crucial in ending the mutiny, Putin said that "this civic solidarity made it clear that any blackmail and attempts to create internal turmoil were bound to fail".

He also thanked Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his mediation role in resolving the attempted mutiny.

Wagner fighters took control on Saturday of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and Russia's southern military headquarters, then drove an armed convoy to within 200 kilometers of Moscow before aborting their march.

Putin said he also appreciated the Wagner fighters "who made the only right choice and refused to start fratricidal bloodshed".

According to state news agency RIA Novosti, Putin later held a meeting with heads of security agencies on Monday night. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president met with top security and military officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden sought on Monday to distance the United States from the attempted rebellion, saying in his first public remarks since the episode that the West had nothing to do with it.

Speaking from the White House, Biden suggested that it was too early to say how the situation would unfold going forward. He also said he might speak again with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to coordinate their response after conferring in a phone call on Sunday.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US did not know the details of the deal between Moscow and Prigozhin that ended the mutiny, and that he did not know Prigozhin's whereabouts. "We're not taking sides in this internal matter," he said.

Also on Monday, Putin signed a decree that extends until the end of this year the Russian government's countermeasures against a price cap on Russian oil and oil products imposed by Western countries.