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Wagner: World leaders react to Russian insurrection

While most are reporting a close monitoring of the armed mutiny in Russia, others have voiced support for and against the country in turmoil
Members of Wagner Group sit atop of a tank in a street in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, on 24 June 24 (AFP)

World powers are monitoring rapidly evolving events in Russian where mercenary fighters with the Wagner Group began an armed mutiny overnight, posing a potentially serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s long rule.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was among the first leaders to hold a phone call with Putin after the Russian leader's speech on Saturday when he warned that those taking up arms against the military would be punished for "treason". 

During the call, President Erdogan urged Putin to act with common sense. The Turkish presidency said the two discussed recent developments in Russia and Erdogan told Putin that Turkey was ready to do its part to help bring about a peaceful resolution.

"It was stressed during the call that no one should take it upon themselves to take action in the face of the situation in Russia," Erdogan's office added.

Israel on Saturday urged its citizens to reconsider their stay in Russia or their travel plans there. There are an estimated 60-70,000 Israelis presently in Russia and around 500,000 Jews who are eligible for immigration to Israel.

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Meanwhile, the UAE has called for de-escalation and self-restraint in Russia. 

For its part, Bahrain's foreign ministry said it was following developments and stressed the importance of maintaining stability under "President Vladimir Putin's leadership".

Voicing further support for Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in a call with his Russian counterpart, said he was confident Russia, "a neighbour and a friend", would get through current events in the country. 

'Keeping a close eye'

In a statement on Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he had spoken with G7 foreign ministers and the EU high representative for foreign affairs.

"The United States will stay in close coordination with Allies and partners as the situation continues to develop," Blinken said. 

Germany confirmed its participation in the meeting with the G7 foreign ministers, adding that the German government's crisis team was also meeting.

Meanwhile, the British Defence Ministry said the Wagner Group's rebellion "represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times". 

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"Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia's security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how this crisis plays out," the ministry said in a regular intelligence update. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, during an interview with the BBC, said the UK government is "keeping a close eye on the situation as it is evolving on the ground". 

"We are in touch with our allies and in fact, I will be speaking to some of them later today. But the most important thing I would say is for all parties to be responsible and to protect civilians," Sunak said. 

Nato Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in an email that Nato is "monitoring the situation". 

Polish President Andrzej Duda said that he had spoken with his prime minister and the ministry of defence, as well as with allies. "The course of events beyond our eastern border is monitored on an ongoing basis," Duda said, 

Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas similarly reported the country's close following of developments in Russia, while assuring citizens "that there is no direct threat" to neighbouring Estonia.

"Border security has been strengthened. I also urge our people not to travel to any part of Russia," Kallas said. 

'Victory and justice for Ukraine'

Other powers took the opportunity to double down on support for Ukraine against Russia's offensive. 

The Elysee Palace in France, for example, said President Emmanuel Macron is following the situation in Russia closely, but that, "we stay focused on the support to Ukraine". 

'We are not distracted. We see clearly in the chaos. The goal, as ever, is victory and justice for Ukraine'

-Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuanian Foreign Minister

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's office said Prime Minister Meloni is closely following recent events, "which show that its assault on Ukraine is causing instability within Russia". 

"For 100 years Lithuanians have lived on the edge of Moscow's brutal banditocracy, knowing it's only a matter of time before the next chaotic implosion," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

"We are not distracted. We see clearly in the chaos. The goal, as ever, is victory and justice for Ukraine. The time is now."

For his part, Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky, who has been leading the fight against Russia's February 2022 invasion of the country, warned that "anyone who chooses the path of evil destroys themselves".

"For a long time, Russia used propaganda to mask its weakness and the stupidity of its government. And now there is so much chaos that no lie can hide it," he said of Saturday's rebellion. 

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