February 26, 2024

Putin Invited Leader Wagner Prigozhin ‘for Tea’ Recently, UK Spy Chief Says

  • Vladimir Putin had tea with rebel leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the UK’s spy chief said.
  • Richard Moore said the Russian leader’s actions after the coup were “mysterious.”
  • The June uprising was the most serious threat to Putin’s power in decades.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is “floating around” and recently went to tea with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the chief executive of the UK’s MI6 spy agency.

Speaking at an event in Prague in the Czech Republic, MI6 chief Sir Richard Moore discussed events in Russia since the failed uprising of June 23, when mercenary fighters went to Moscow in an uprising by the Wagner Group.

In a furious video message that day, Putin branded the rebels “traitors” and promised to punish them. However, after reaching an agreement with the leader of Wagner Prigozhin to end the rebellion, Putin’s actions were mysterious.

“If you look at Putin’s behavior that day, Prigozhin started as a traitor at breakfast, he was pardoned at supper and two days later he was invited to tea. There are some things to find even the head of MI6 is a little difficult to try to interpret,” said Sir Richard.

Asked whether he believed Prigozhin was still alive, Sir Richard said “as far as we can tell Prigozhin is floating around,” it was reported Sky News.

Sky News also reported that Sir Richard said that Putin invited Prigozhin for tea “in the last few days,” although it is not clear if he was referring to the meeting that took place several days after the coup.

Prigozhin was initially believed to have gone into exile in Belarus after the uprising, then reportedly re-entered St Petersburg to collect a stash of weapons seized from his luxury home.

In the past Putin has dealt brutally with those he considers traitors or critics, but in the days after the uprising he was too lenient with the Wagner rebels, inviting them to sign treaties with Russian military.

Analysts have speculated that Putin is wary of alienating hard-line nationalists, who support Prigozhin’s criticism of the Kremlin’s failure in the war in Ukraine, and is therefore reluctant to punish him.

Sir Richard in the Russian invitation speech against Putin’s regime to share its secrets with the United Kingdom, and said the rebellion “exposed the inevitable decline of the unstable autocracy that Putin leads.”

Sir Richard, who was officially codenamed “C”, compared the situation in Ukraine to the Prague Spring in 1968.

“While witnessing the venality, infighting and callous incompetence of their leaders … many Russians are wrestling with the same dilemmas as their predecessors in 1968,” he said.

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