Biden, Zelenskyy Discuss Wagner Mercenary Uprising in Russia

President Joe Biden (R) walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 20, 2023. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told President Joe Biden about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s weakness, in a phone call on June 25 following the Wagner mercenary group’s military rebellion.

“Yesterday’s events exposed the weakness of Putin’s regime,” Zelenskyy said he told Biden, according to a June 25 statement from Ukraine’s presidential office.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his forces seized Rostov-on-Don, a crucial logistical hub for Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, after accusing Russian military forces of killing a large number of Wagner soldiers at their field camps in Ukraine. The mercenaries then advanced hundreds of miles toward Moscow, but their march was halted after a deal to withdraw was reached.

Under the deal, Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia for Belarus and criminal charges against him would be dropped. However, prior to the deal, Putin vowed that the rebels would face “inevitable punishment.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, speaks in Paraskoviivka, Ukraine, in this still image from an undated video released on March 3, 2023. (Concord Press Service/via Reuters)

Zelenskyy described his conversation with Biden as “positive and inspiring” on Twitter and thanked the president for the “unflagging support” of Ukraine.

“We discussed the course of hostilities and the processes taking place in Russia. The world must put pressure on Russia until international order is restored,” Zelenskyy wrote. “We discussed further expansion of defense cooperation, with an emphasis on long-range weapons.”

Zelenskyy said he thanked Biden for providing Ukraine with Patriot defense systems, as well as the president’s support of the “fighter jet coalition.”

“It is important to further increase [Ukraine’s] capabilities to protect our skies. In this context, I also thanked him for the support of the fighter jet coalition,” Zelenskyy said.

According to a White House readout, Biden and Zelenskyy talked about “recent events” in Russia.

“They discussed Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive, and President Biden reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support, including through continued security, economic, and humanitarian aid,” the White House stated.


Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, also talked with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on June 25.

Reznikov wrote on Twitter that he and his U.S. counterpart “talked about recent events in [Russia].”

“We agree that the [Russian] authorities are weak and that withdrawing [Russian] troops from Ukraine is the best choice for the [Kremlin],” he wrote. “We also discussed the #UAarmy’s counteroffensive and the next steps in strengthening our Defense Forces.

“Things are moving in the right direction. Ukraine will win.”

A readout from the Pentagon states that Reznikov and Austin “pledged to remain in close contact” after discussing “regional security developments and dynamics on the ground in Ukraine.”

“Secretary Austin reiterated unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine and discussed security assistance priorities to meet Ukraine’s needs on the battlefield,” the Pentagon statement reads.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News on June 25 that Wagner’s revolt showed “cracks” in Putin’s power.

Some lawmakers also said Prigozhin’s rebellion has shed light on Putin’s grip on power.

“Recent tensions in Russia are putting Putin’s weaknesses on full display,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking Democratic member of the House Energy Committee, wrote on Twitter on June 25. “This is exactly what happens when an authoritarian relies on an unhinged mercenary military to fight a needless and unprovoked war. Support for Putin in Russia and his war are rapidly deteriorating.”

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote on Twitter on June 24 that Wagner’s revolt “demonstrates the weakness of both Putin and autocratic governments.”

“It also underscores the instability within Russia, which is a concern for the United States’ national security and global stability,” Smith said. “With the situation still evolving, it’s difficult to predict what impact this will have on Putin’s illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

Separately, Zelenskyy also talked to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Polish President Andrzej Duda on June 25.

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