Yevgeny Prigozhin ‘drove a coach and horses through President Putin’s case for war’, Foreign Secretary claims

James Cleverly told MPs the Wagner mercenary mutiny was an “unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority”.

The Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin “drove a coach and horses through President Putin’s case for war”, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said.

Russia was thrown into crisis on Saturday after Wagner forces left Ukraine and began a “march for justice” towards Moscow.

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It followed a brutal feud between Mr Prigozhin and Russia’s military brass which only ended after a deal was brokered by Belaruasian president Alexander Lukashenko.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly quoted  Yevgeny Prigozhin and his suggestions the war in Ukraine was under false pretences.Foreign Secretary James Cleverly quoted  Yevgeny Prigozhin and his suggestions the war in Ukraine was under false pretences.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly quoted Yevgeny Prigozhin and his suggestions the war in Ukraine was under false pretences.

Mr Prigozhin had demanded the ousting of defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who he has frequently clashed with during the invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin accused Mr Prigozhin of being behind a “treason” before dropping charges after his former ally agreed to stand his troops down and move to Belarus.

Making a statement on events, the Foreign Secretary claimed the mutiny was an “unprecedented challenge to Putin’s authority”.

He told the Commons: “The Russian government’s lies have been exposed by one of President Putin’s own henchman.

“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 (Yevgeny) 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.

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

Mr Cleverly also claimed the comments from Mr Prigozhin showed there was “no legitimacy” for the war and it was driven “by the egos of Mr Putin and the cohorts around him.

He said: “He drove a coach and horses through President Putin’s case for war.”

“Cracks are emerging in Russian support for the war.

“Now that Russia’s leadership cannot justify this war, even to each other, the only rightful course is for Putin to withdraw his troops and end this bloodshed now.”

The statement saw a rare question from the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who called for a plan in case Russia implodes.

She said: “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. Does he agree?”

Mr Cleverly replied: “I have said regularly that Ukraine’s transformation on the battlefield proves how serious they are about the reform programme that will see them ultimately become a member of Nato. That action should mean that however long that Nato membership would otherwise have taken, it should of course now be truncated.

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“She is absolutely right that we should recognise that some of the talk about cutting a deal, Ukraine sacrificing some of its sovereign land in the pursuit of what would only be an artificial and perhaps even just temporary peace, is completely inappropriate.

“Putin will not stop until he has been ejected from Ukraine by the Ukrainian people, and to that end we will continue to support them until they have achieved that end.”

The Commons also heard from the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who told MPs that Ukraine continues to make “gradual but steady tactical progress”, with major offensive operations in the south and east of the country.

He said: “As part of their summer campaign to reclaim illegally-occupied territory, Ukraine has already recaptured approximately 300 square kilometres – that’s more territory than Russia seized in its whole winter offensive.

“Russia has had some small gains but Ukrainian forces have prevented a breakthrough.

“In Donetsk oblast, Ukraine has gained impetus in its assaults around Bakhmut; in multiple brigade operations Ukrainian forces have made progress on both the north and southern flanks of the town.

“Russia does not appear to have the uncommitted ground forces needed to counter the multiple threats it is now facing from Ukraine, which extend over 200km from Bakhmut to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.”

Earlier Downing Street said it is “too early” to know what fallout there could be from the rebellion.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s too early to say exactly the impact of the weekend’s events will have in Russia.

“It is purely an internal matter for them and, first and foremost, we want them to behave responsibly and to protect civilians.”

He said he would not speculate further during “what is relatively an early stage”.

Asked if the UK is opposed to regime change in Moscow, he said: “Issues of regime in Russia are for Russia to resolve first and foremost.”

Mr Sunak shared a call over the weekend with the US’s Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz.



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