According to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, Russian President, Vladimir Putin may still seek revenge against Wagner Boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin for leading a revolt in his country.
Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary troops staged a mutiny in Russia a month ago. He led his troops out of Ukraine to Rostov-on-Don, a key city south of Moscow.
Burns stated that Putin is likely to be trying to buy time as he works out how best to deal with the leader of the Wagner group. “What we are seeing is a very complicated dance,” he averred.
The Wagner mercenary group still has value for Russia’s leadership in places like Africa, Libya and Syria and so it was likely that Putin would try and separate the group from its leader. The CIA chief added that Putin may wait to exact revenge.
“Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold. In my experience, Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback so I would be surprised if Prigozhin escapes further retribution.”William Burns, CIA Director.
Earlier this month, U.S President Joe Biden suggested that there was a risk of the Wagner boss being poisoned.
“If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate. I’d keep my eye on my menu,” Biden said.
The CIA director iterated Biden’s sentiments, saying, “If I were Prigozhin, I wouldn’t fire my food taster.”
When asked about a recent video apparently showing the Wagner boss in Belarus, Burns remarked, Prigozhin has moved around but had been in the Belarus capital of Minsk recently as well as Russia.
Also, Burns confirmed that the CIA had advanced knowledge of the mutiny.
A senior Russian army general, Sergei Surovikin, who was reported to have known about the Wagner mutiny in advance, also does not currently have “freedom of movement”, the CIA chief added.
The Most Direct Assault Putin Has Seen
Additionally, CIA head, William Burns disclosed that the Wagner revolt exposed significant weaknesses in the system of power Putin has built.
The mutiny was the most direct assault Putin has seen in his 23 years in power, including by directly challenging the Kremlin’s justification for the war in Ukraine, with Prigozhin saying it had been built on lies, Burns stressed.
He added that what was most remarkable was that Russia’s leader felt compelled to do a deal with a man who used to be his caterer, the CIA chief said.
Prigozhin is often referred to as “Putin’s chef” as he first came to prominence after providing catering services to Putin and the military before founding the Wagner group.
Moreover, Burns asserted that Putin has projected an image of himself as the arbiter of order in Russia, and so the 36 hours of the mutiny will have left many in the country with the question of “whether the emperor had no clothes or at least why is it taking him so long to get dressed.”
This would have resurrected deeper questions in the Russian elite about Putin’s judgement, which have been there since his decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
If Ukraine makes further advances on the battlefield then that could lead more Russians to pay attention to Prigozhin’s critique of the war, he said.
It should not come as surprise that Ukraine’s counter-offensive was proving a “hard slog”, the CIA head said, given that offence was harder than defence and the Russians had months to prepare.
“It is going to take time and it is not going to be easy to make progress. I am however an optimist,” Burns said.