Cleverly warns Putin faces ‘unprecedented challenge’ after Wagner uprising

Vladimir Putin slams ‘treason’ from Wagner mercenary group

Vladimir Putin is facing an “unprecented challenge” to his authority over the failed coup in Russia, James Cleverly has said.

The Foreign Secretary also insisted Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had “publicly destroyed” the Russian President’s case for the Ukraine war.

Mr Cleverly made a statement in the Commons today following dramatic events over the weekend as the mercenary group marched towards Moscow.

The warlord’s forces were just 120 miles away when a last-minute deal was struck with the Kremlin to call off the rebellion, which will see Mr Prigozhin exiled to Belarus.

Mr Cleverly told MPs: “The Government of course considers this an internal Russian affair and of course the leadership of Russia is a matter exclusively for the Russian people.

“But everybody should note that one of Putin’s protegees had publicly destroyed his case for the war in Ukraine.”

The Foreign Secretary cited the Wagner leader’s public statements which suggested the war in Ukraine was started for reasons that differ from the official Kremlin line.

He added: “The Russian government’s lies have been exposed by one of President Putin’s own henchmen.

“Now, the full story of this weekend’s events and the long-term effects will take some time to become clear and it is not helpful to speculate.

“But Prigozhin’s rebellion is an unprecedented challenge to President Putin’s authority and it is clear that cracks are emerging in the Russian support for the war.

“I, of course, hold no candle for Prigozhin or his forces. They have committed atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere.

“But he has said out loud what we have believed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, that this invasion was both unjustified and unprovoked.

“The events of this weekend are an unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority, with an armoured column approaching his own capital city.”

During the debate, former prime minister Liz Truss warned the UK and its allies need to make sure “we have a plan in the case of the implosion of Russia”.

She said: “It’s clear that Putin has been significantly weakened in Russia. We must not use this time to let up in our support for Ukraine.

“So, first of all, we need to make sure the Ukrainian membership of Nato is fast-tracked at the Vilnius Nato summit. Secondly, we need to make sure there is no talk of deals or concessions or lifting of sanctions on Russia in any circumstances until the war criminals are held to account.

“Finally, we and our allies, including the Ukrainians, including the Poles, including the Baltic states, need to make sure that we have a plan in the case of the implosion of Russia.”

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