Days before the Wagner head ordered his forces to march on Moscow, US intelligence agencies had strong suspicions that Yevgeny Prigozhin was plotting a significant action against the Russian government, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing sources.
The administration of US President Joe Biden and military commanders were briefed on the Wagner preparations as early as Wednesday, according to unnamed US officials contacted by the newspaper. Another briefing, purportedly held on Thursday, was reportedly attended by a small number of congressional leaders as further information came in.The administration of US President Joe Biden and military commanders were briefed on the Wagner preparations as early as Wednesday, according to unnamed US officials contacted by the newspaper. Another briefing, purportedly held on Thursday, was reportedly attended by a small number of congressional leaders as further information came in.
Only on Friday night did things get out of hand when Prigozhin claimed that the Russian Defence Ministry had fired a lethal missile against a Wagner camp and pledged to take revenge. In denying the claim, the government charged him with "informational provocation."
In the hours that followed, Wagner forces seized military buildings in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia, and Prigozhin declared that his troops were starting a "march for justice" with the goal of reaching Moscow.
In a deal mediated by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Wagner leader promised to stop his approach and remove his forces in exchange for "security guarantees" on Saturday.
NYT sources claim that before the revolt, Washington officials were reluctant to inform Vladimir Putin of a potential threat because they were concerned that Moscow may accuse them of planning a coup. In addition, the paper claims that the US "had little interest" in supporting Putin amid the turmoil in the Ukraine and Russia's standoff with the West.
In spite of this, US officials allegedly expressed fear over a potential battle between Prigozhin and Moscow because they were concerned that Russia's slide into anarchy may pose a significant nuclear risk.
The NYT account was corroborated by CNN, which asserted on Saturday that US authorities had known Prigozhin was intending to challenge the Russian military "for quite some time," but did not know what his final goal was.
CNN sources claim that Western officials were aware of Prigozhin's plans, including his efforts to gather guns and ammunition. It was difficult to determine whether the Wagner chief was sincere in his threats to the Russian military because "it all happened very quickly," according to the individual who spoke to the newspaper.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned the West that any attempts to utilise the disturbance "to achieve their Russophobic goals" would be useless on Saturday, when the Wagner rebellion was still going strong. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev added that Moscow would never for a coup in a big nuclear state to occur because it may have disastrous effects.