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Secretary of State Antony Blinken says "we haven't seen the last act" in Russia's Wagner rebellion

Blinken on "unfolding story" in Russia
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says "we haven't seen the last act yet" in Russia's Wagner rebellion 08:42

Washington — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the situation between Russia and the Wagner mercenary group isn't done playing out, a day after the two sides said they had reached a truce amid a revolt from the private army. 

"This is an unfolding story, and I think we're in the midst of a moving picture," Blinken told "Face the Nation." "We haven't seen the last act. We're watching it very closely." 

Late last week, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called for an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia's military leaders, whom he accused of botching the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin, who was previously considered a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also criticized Putin. 

As Prigozhin ordered Wagner fighters to march toward Moscow, the private army, which has fought alongside the Russian military in Ukraine, appeared to seize control of the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, which oversees fighting in Ukraine. 

Putin said on Russian state television on Saturday that the uprising was "treason" and those who led the rebellion would "suffer inevitable punishment." 

But Prigozhin said Saturday that his forces were no longer advancing toward Moscow. A Kremlin spokesman said charges against Prigozhin will be dropped and the Wagner chief would move to Belarus. 

Blinken said the rebellion was a "direct challenge" to Putin's authority. 

"This raises profound questions," Blinken said. "It shows real cracks." 

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan told "Face the Nation" that Putin's reliance on Belarus to broker a truce shows "actual weakness." Putin helped the president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, hold onto power in 2020 by suppressing large protests after Lukashenko declared a landslide victory in a contested presidential election. Since then, Lukashenko has been beholden to Putin, which made his involvement in the deal come as a surprise to many. 

"How dependent now is Putin on Lukashenko?" Sullivan said. 

Blinken said the details of the deal between Putin and Prigozhin to end the rebellion are also vague, but that it presents a "real distraction" for the Russian leader as his country faces challenges in its war against Ukraine. 

"We still don't have finality in terms of what was actually agreed between Prigozhin and Putin," Blinken said. "I suspect that we're going to learn more in the days and weeks ahead about what deal they struck." 

Blinken wouldn't say whether the U.S. knows where Prigozhin is now. 

"It's something that we're looking at, and that we're tracking," he said. 

When asked whether the U.S. is prepared for the potential fall of Putin's government and if Russia's nuclear stockpile is secure, Blinken said, "We always prepare for every contingency." 

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