Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Russian security services were investigating whether or not Western or Ukrainian intelligence agencies played a role in Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s two-day mutiny.
When asked by RT if Russia had evidence of Western involvement, Lavrov said, “I work in a government ministry that is not engaged in gathering evidence of unlawful acts being committed, but we do have such agencies and, I assure you, they are already looking into it.”
The Russian diplomat said Western intelligence likely wanted the mutiny to succeed and pointed to US media reports that said US intelligence knew Prigozhin was planning armed action against the Russian military establishment but did not make the information public.
“In particular, CNN, if I remember correctly, reported that the US intelligence services knew for several days that a mutiny was in the works, but decided not to disclose that information to anyone, apparently in the hope that the mutiny would succeed,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov pointed to another CNN report that said US officials expected Prigozhin to face more resistance and for the insurrection to be more violent. “We assessed it was going to be a great deal more violent and bloody,” an unnamed US official told CNN.
Lavrov also told RT that the US signaled to Russia that it was not involved in Prigozhin’s uprising, a message that was delivered by US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy. Later on Monday, President Biden denied that the US played any role in the crisis and said that Washington had made that clear to Moscow.
“By the way, when US Ambassador Tracy spoke with Russian officials yesterday, she sent some signals. These signals are probably not secret; they were primarily that the US had nothing to do with this, that the US is very hopeful that nuclear weapons will be okay, that American diplomats will not be harmed,” Lavrov said.
Biden also denied that the US’s NATO allies were involved in the uprising. “They agree with me that we had to make sure we gave Putin no excuse … to blame this on the West, to blame this on NATO,” Biden said. “We made clear that we were not involved, that we had nothing to do with it. This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.”
There’s been no sign that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tried to contact Lavrov about the crisis. Instead, Blinken has been telling the media that the US expects more instability in Russia. “I think we’re in the midst of a moving picture. We haven’t seen the last act,” Blinken told CBS News on Sunday.
Discussing Ukraine’s response to the mutiny, Lavrov said Kyiv hoped the government in Moscow would have been brought down. “All of them lamented their failure to take advantage of this situation to bring down the regime,” he said.
In May, The Washington Post reported that Prigozhin was in contact with Ukrainian military intelligence and even offered them Russian troop positions in exchange for a Ukrainian withdrawal from Bakhmut. The report was based on US intelligence assessments that leaked on Discord, but the full documents were not published, and Prigozhin denied the accusations.