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Josep Borrell on Wagner mutiny: 'The monster is acting against his creator'

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreing policy chief, compared the Wagner Group to a Frankenstein monster who had rebelled against his creator, President Vladimir Putin.
Josep Borrell, the EU's foreing policy chief, compared the Wagner Group to a Frankenstein monster who had rebelled against his creator, President Vladimir Putin. Copyright European Union, 2023.
Copyright European Union, 2023.
By Jorge Liboreiro
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Foreign affairs ministers of the European Union gather in Luxembourg on Monday as they digest the aftermath of the attempted military coup in Russia.

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While the meeting was supposed to focus on military assistance to Ukraine, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, sanctions against Iran and relations with Latin America, the stunning events that took place over the weekend have upended the agenda.

Ministers are still trying to make sense of the 36-hour-long dramatic saga that saw Yevgeny Prigozhin and his mercenary troops of the Wagner Group rebel against Russia's leadership, posing the greatest threat to Vladimir Putin's grip on power since his arrival in the Kremlin more than 20 years ago.

"The war against Ukraine launched by Putin, and the monster that Putin created with Wagner (...) is biting him now. The monster is acting against his creator," said Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, upon arrival at the meeting.

"The political system is showing its fragilities and the military power is cracking. So this is an important consequence of the war in Ukraine."

Borrell avoided speculating about Prigozhin's whereabouts or the possible impact of the failed coup on the war's evolution.

"Certainly, it's not a good thing to see a nuclear power like Russia going into a phase of political instability," Borrell told reporters.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany's foreign affairs minister, remained cautious in her assessment, describing the short-lived rebellion as a "domestic power struggle" in which the EU is not going to interfere.

"With this brutal war of aggression, Russia is destroying, Putin is destroying his own country," Baerbock said.

Her French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, was equally careful and said the international community was yet to see the "full consequences" of the insurgency.

"Nevertheless, these events do raise a lot of questions, and perhaps more questions than answers," Colonna said. "At the moment, it is clear that (the events) have underlined the fact that there have been internal tensions and that there are even cracks, fractures and flaws in the system."

Meanwhile, Lithuania's Gabrielius Landsbergis urged Western allies to reinforce Europe's eastern flank in reaction to the growing "unpredictability" inside Russia.

"We're seeing how fast things can transpire," Landsbergis said. "It took half a day for a military detachment to move 200 kilometres away from Moscow. So imagine how fast can they do that crossing Belarus and appearing on Lithuania's border."

Landsbergis raised questions about the deal reportedly brokered by Aleksander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, which led Prigozhin to abruptly call off the mutiny and pull back his troops. The details of the deal have not been made public but it is believed that Prigozhin is supposed to live in exile somewhere in Belarus while Wagner soldiers will be pardoned and given the chance to be incorporated into the Russian Armed Forces.

According to the Lithuanian minister, Lukashenko, who has held uninterrupted power since 1994, stepped into the fray out of self-interest to preserve his own political career. 

Lukashenko is "so much dependent on the Kremlin, and if Kremlin is not supporting him any longer, that means that he might end his career prematurely," Landsbergis said.

The deal is heavily shrouded in mystery, making it impossible to determine Wagner's future as a mercenary organisation or Prigozhin's authority. For the time being, the Kremlin has not announced any changes to Russia's military leadership, one of Prigozhin's key demands.

"We don't need to think about changing the regime in Russia, and we don't need to plan it. Russians are completely capable to do that on their own," Landsbergis said.

"Russians will solve Russia."

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