Prigozhin arrives in Belarus
The mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin arrived in Belarus yesterday, according to Belarusian state media, ending days of speculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked a dramatic challenge to the rule of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
New details emerged about the negotiations that ended the daylong rebellion, as Aleksandr Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, described his phone conversations with Putin and Prigozhin on Saturday. After Putin raised the possibility of killing Prigozhin, Lukashenko said he had urged against a rushed response, saying that “a bad peace is better than any war.”
In public appearances, Putin praised his security forces, portraying the rebellion as a heroic episode for the Russian state and thanking the military for having “essentially stopped a civil war,” state media reported. He also vaguely warned of consequences for officials who helped Prigozhin enrich himself at Russia’s expense.
Who is Prigozhin? He is the mercurial freelance warlord who made a last-ditch attempt to win by force in one of the most extraordinary Russian power struggles in recent memory.
Revelations: The former top Russian commander in Ukraine had advance knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership, according to U.S. officials who said they were trying to learn if he helped plan the actions last weekend.
In other news from the war:
The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Prigozhin and members of his Wagner group over the armed rebellion. It is still unclear how much Wagner equipment would be relinquished or how many of its fighters — whose numbers Prigozhin recently put at 25,000 — would agree to be placed under the Russian Army’s command.
Ukraine appears to be seizing more river islands around the southern city of Kherson in a possible expansion of its counteroffensive, according to residents and Russian military bloggers.
Concerns may linger among Russia’s friends
Leaders who have allied themselves with Russia are unlikely to abandon Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, but they may attempt to hedge their bets against further instability after an attempted mutiny over the weekend, according to diplomats and analysts.
China publicly reaffirmed its alliance on Monday, calling Russia a “friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination.” But that public support has been preceded by private frustration that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has put China in a tough position, and Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has arranged a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
The same mix of public support and private doubt is evident in the Middle East. Gulf States have overlooked Russia’s war on Ukraine because they increasingly viewed Putin as an alternative source of security in the region. But tensions linger between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which is selling oil at reduced rates, even as Saudi Arabia tries to prop up prices.
Analysis: “I think you could start to see more of that hedging and signaling,” said John Culver, a former U.S. intelligence analyst on China.
E.U. border agency mulls exit from Greece
The E.U.’s border agency could suspend operations in Greece over chronic rights abuses against migrants, its human rights chief said, potentially pulling out dozens of border guards, vessels and aircraft. As an alternative, the agency may increase its presence and involvement in order to prevent further misdoing.
The assessment, which was also made in an internal E.U. report, came days after a devastating migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean that was not covered in the E.U. report because it was so recent. The shipwreck has raised questions about the conduct of the Greek authorities, including whether they did enough to help the boat while it was in distress.
The report adds even more pressure on Greece over its migrant policies. The author of the report, Jonas Grimheden, cited the agency’s internal rules and several cases illustrating what he called the Greek authorities’ wrongful treatment of asylum seekers and migrants that may have violated E.U. and international law.
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