MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Monday that the country had faced “a challenge to its stability” and must remain united behind President Vladimir Putin following Saturday’s abortive mutiny by heavily armed mercenary fighters.
Under a deal late on Saturday that defused the crisis and averted possible bloodshed, the Kremlin said the Wagner Group mercenaries would return to base, while their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin would move to Belarus. All criminal charges against him and his fighters would be dropped, the Kremlin said.
In what appeared to be the first public comments by a senior Russian official since then, Mishustin appealed at a televised government meeting for national unity in the face of what he said were efforts by the West to undermine Russia.
“The main thing in these conditions is to ensure the sovereignty and independence of our country, the security and well-being of citizens,” said Mishustin, a technocrat who was appointed prime minister in 2020.
“For this, the consolidation of the whole of society is especially important; we need to act together, as one team, and maintain the unity of all forces, rallying around the president,” he said.
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Mishustin, a former head of Russia’s federal tax service, also took a swipe at the West.
“As the president noted, virtually the entire military, economic, information machine of the West is directed against us,” he said.
Putin said on Saturday that the rebellion by the Wagner mercenary force had threatened Russia’s very existence under threat and vowed to crush it.
However, he has not publicly commented since then on the dramatic events or on the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that defused the crisis.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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