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Russian Defence Minister Shoigu appears in public for first time since Wagner mutiny

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with military officials in first official appearance since Wagner mutiny June 26, 2023
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with military officials in first official appearance since Wagner mutiny June 26, 2023 Copyright AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service
Copyright AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service
By Euronews with AP
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Sergei Shoigu was filmed in a military helicopter and attending a meeting with military officials in a video aimed at projecting a sense of order after a weekend of chaos.

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Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has made his first public appearance since a  short-lived rebellion against the Russian army by the Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Priogozhin on Saturday. 

Shoigu was filmed inspecting troops in Ukraine, flying in a helicopter and attending a meeting with officers at a military headquarters in Ukraine, in a video aimed at projecting a sense of order after a weekend of chaos.

He's the first of three powerful Russian leaders, whose diverging interests led to the Wagner Group occupying a Russian city and marching on the capital, to be seen since the revolt ended Saturday. 

"... the war against Ukraine is cracking Russian power..."
Josep Borrell
EU Foreign Policy Chief

The video released by the Russian Defence Ministry was widely shown on Russian media, including state-controlled television. It was unclear when it was filmed.

The rebellion ended on Saturday when Prigozhin ordered his troops back. 

The Kremlin said it had made a deal that the mercenary chief will move to Belarus and receive an amnesty. Wagner troops will also set up a post in Belarus. The mutiny marked the biggest challenge to Putin's reign in more than 20 years of rule.

Reaction from the West

As the West continues to assess the fallout, the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell says the Russian government has been weakened.

"I think that it's more important than ever to continue supporting Ukraine because what has happened during this weekend shows that the war against Ukraine is cracking Russian power and affecting its political system," Borrell said on arrival at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg.

NATO is also monitoring developments closely in Russia. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he remains cautious.

 "The events over the weekend are an internal Russian matter and yet another demonstration of the big strategic mistake that President Putin made with his illegal annexation of Crimea and the war against Ukraine," he said 

What now for Russia?

Before starting the revolt, Prigozhin had blasted Shoigu and army chief Vitaly Gerasimov with expletive-ridden insults for months, attacking them for failing to provide his troops with enough ammunition during the battle for Bakhmut, the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.

Putin stood back from the rift, and Shoigu and Gerasimov remained silent, possibly reflecting uncertainty about Putin’s support. Observers said by failing to end the feud Putin had encouraged Prigozhin to dramatically up the stakes.

Russian media and commentators speculate that Putin could replace Shoigu with Alexei Dyumin, the governor of the Tula region who had previously served as a Putin bodyguard and then a deputy defence minister.

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