Russia shows return to order after Wagner revolt

2023-06-27 08:17:03China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has appeared on state media inspecting Russian troops in Ukraine, making his first public appearance following an armed rebellion by the Wagner private military group.

Shoigu visited a Russian command bunker and flew in a helicopter to inspect troops battling a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Tass, the Russian state news agency, reported on Monday. The minister reportedly listened to reports from Colonel General Yevgeny Nikiforov, the troops' commander, about the current situation on the front lines.

The exact time and location of the visit were not disclosed by the Russian Defence Ministry or state media.

Footage shared by the ministry showed Shoigu in uniform on board a helicopter. It then showed him entering a military command post where he could be seen chairing a meeting and inspecting maps.

The ministry said in a statement that Shoigu had visited a "forward command post" in Ukraine, where he noted the Russian army's "great efficiency in the detection and destruction" of Ukrainian weapons systems and soldiers.

The visit came after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a brief insurrection on Saturday that ended abruptly after a deal was struck for him to leave for Belarus. Wagner fighters returned to their bases on Sunday after Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to drop treason charges against Prigozhin.

Prigozhin said in an audio statement released on Monday that the march on Moscow was a demonstration of their protest and not intended to overturn power in the country. He added that his column had turned back "to avoid bloodshed".

In Moscow, a China Daily reporter observed Red Square blocked off on Sunday. Metal partitions were seen blocking access to the city center and a few security officers were present.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin proclaimed on Monday that the situation in the capital was "stable", saying that all security restrictions imposed in Moscow had been lifted. He also thanked Muscovites for their "calm and understanding", adding that high school graduations will be held on July 1 after many events were canceled on Saturday.

As events unfolded over the weekend, Moscow authorities declared Monday a nonwork day for residents, with the exception of some essential workers.

Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is working on a law to regulate Wagner amid speculation about the mercenary group's future, according to Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Duma's Defense Committee.

"The fate of Wagner is not determined, but it is not necessary to ban it, since this is a combat-ready unit, and there are questions for its leadership, and not for the fighters," Kartapolov told the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti on Sunday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that an agreement had been reached on the return of the Wagner fighters to their locations. He added that those who wish to do so and who did not take part in the march "will subsequently sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense".

Investors are also questioning whether the turmoil in Moscow will disrupt global energy supplies, with early gains in oil prices evaporating on Monday.

US West Texas Intermediate crude briefly climbed 1.3 percent during Asian trading hours, but it later gave up those gains. Brent crude, the international bench mark, inched up 0.1 percent, trimming earlier advances.

Although the immediate risk of bloodshed appears to have dissipated, much remains uncertain. United States President Joe Biden spoke by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, discussing Washington's support for Kyiv as the latter continues its counteroffensive against Russia.

It was not yet clear what the fissures opened by the 24-hour rebellion will mean for the conflict in Ukraine.


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