29th Sep 2023

EU on Wagner: Putin 'bitten by own monster'

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin last year (Photo:
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The Wagner uprising has undermined Russian leader Vladimir Putin at home and abroad, EU foreign ministers said on Monday (26 June).

"The monster that Putin created, with Wagner, the monster is biting him now, the monster is acting against its creator," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said at their meeting in Luxembourg.

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  • EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in Luxembourg on Monday (Photo:

"The [Russian] political system is showing frailties and military power is cracking," he said.

The uprising gave Ukraine "momentum" on the battlefield and harmed Russian soldiers' morale, Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

It also dimmed Putin's appeal as an ally in the international arena, Danish foreign minister Lars Løkke Ramussen said.

"It's my interpretation Putin is weakened to some extent at least and hopefully that could also have an impact on the rest of the world's willingness to discuss a post-war situation in Ukraine," he said.

EU ministers spoke going into a regular meeting but in the wake of the shock events over the weekend, when Russia's Wagner mercenary force suddenly rebelled and marched to within 200km of Moscow.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin then called off the revolt and left Russia for Belarus in a deal reportedly brokered by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.

"We all have reasons to be worried about Wagner as such, but I'm not in a position now to do a deep analysis as it's only a few hours since this news came about," the Swedish foreign minster, Tobias Billström, said in Luxembourg.

"It's quite clear the war isn't going the way Putin wanted it to go," he added.

"This situation in Russia gives us more opportunities to support Ukraine and find a victorious way," Estonian foreign minister Margus Tsahkna said.

When asked by press in Luxembourg if he was confident Prigozhin would survive, Lithuania's Landsbergis said: "No. Not confident".

"Where Prighozin's army will find itself is very important now ... if it's incorporated into Russian military systems that means probably the end of one chapter. If it finds itself in Belarus, this would be a new consequence of the activities that began on 24 February [Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year]," he added.

The Lithuanian minister said the speed and unpredictability of the weekend's events — which took Russia to the brink of a military coup in 24 hours — showed that Nato should send more soldiers to reinforce its Baltic flank.

"The Vilnius summit gives us a chance to achieve that," he said, referring to a Nato summit in the Lithuanian capital in July.

The EU ministers also adopted an 11th round of Russia sanctions on Monday and put aside a further €3.5bn for military aid to Ukraine.

They discussed using frozen Russian assets to pay for post-war Ukraine reconstruction, with Ireland and the Netherlands as well as Russia-bordering EU states voicing sympathy for the idea.

"If there's a way that's legally sound then we'll support [it]," Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said.

Ministers took pains to stress that the West had played no part in the Wagner drama.

"It's a Russian internal event and we are solely observing what is happening," Finnish foreign minister Elina Valtonen said.

But some couldn't help voicing schadenfreude at the Putin-Prighozin clash.

"We were joking this was the first time we were cheering both sides [to beat each other in the confrontation]," Landsbergis said.


What we learned so far from a short-lived mutiny in Russia

It actually did not take a great number of Wagner fighters to deal the greatest blow to Putin's authority so far. Prigozhin claimed that he had 25,000 fighters, but in reality the number was unlikely more than 10,000.

EU’s €500m gender violence plan falls short, say auditors

The 'Spotlight Initiative' was launched in 2017 with a budget of €500 million to end all forms of violence or harmful practices against women and girls in partner countries, but so far it has had "little impact", say EU auditors.

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