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Putin Trying to ‘Buy Time’ With Wagner Mutiny Response: CIA Director

CIA Director William Burns said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to “buy time” as he decides how to respond to Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s recent mutiny amid the war in Ukraine.

Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that the short-lived rebellion by the private mercenary group late last month was “the most direct assault on the Russian state” in Putin’s 23 years in power and “exposed some of the significant weaknesses in the system” built by the Russian president.

“Those weaknesses have been exposed by Prigozhin’s mutiny, but I think even more deeply than that, they’ve been exposed by Putin’s misjudgment since he launched this invasion as well,” the CIA director said.

“If and when the Ukrainians make further advances on the battlefield, I think what that’s going to do is cause more and more Russians in the elite and outside the elite to pay attention to Prigozhin’s critique of the war as well,” he added. “And so, that’s where Putin is trying to buy time, as he considers what to do with Wagner and what to do with Prigozhin himself.”

Burns also suggested that Putin is currently “trying to settle things” in Russia but will ultimately try to separate Prigozhin from what he values in the Wagner Group.

Prigozhin — who had for months criticized over the Russia’s military leadership’s handling of the war — marched his mercenary troops toward Moscow last month,. However, he halted the advance after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reached a deal to allow him and his troops to leave Russia safely and move into Belarus.

“What we saw was Russian security services, Russian military, Russian decisionmakers which were adrift, or appeared to be adrift for those 36 hours,” Burns also said Thursday.

“So, for a lot of Russians watching this, used to this image of Putin as the arbiter of order, the question was, ‘Does the emperor have no clothes?’ or at least, ‘Why is it taking him so long for him to get dressed?’” he added.

Source : The Hill