July 20, 2024

‘Breathtaking’: Lawmakers react to escalating security situation in Russia


Members of Wagner group sit atop of a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2src23. Senators and House members noted on Saturday the implications of the rebellion on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. | AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers on Saturday spoke out in unison on the historic significance of escalating conflict in Russia after warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin declared war on his own country’s military leadership and threatened to march on Moscow.

Senators and House members noted in particular the implications of Prigozhin’s efforts on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine while some voiced concern about the potential brutality of a Prigozhin-led insurrection.

“Our national security agencies are closely following the extraordinary internal conflict among Russian forces currently underway,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter. “No matter how this turns it is certain to have a significant and potentially historic impact.”

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D–Mich.), called the development “breathtaking” and “the clearest public confirmation of the folly of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Slotkin suggested the internal threat from Prigozhin was a clear indicator of Putin’s military vulnerability, comparing the conflict in Russia to the “U.S. military depending on an armed defense contractor” who then turned on U.S. leadership and marched on Washington, D.C.

“This escalating conflict between the Wagner Group and the Russian military would not be occurring if Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine was going well,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D–Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter. “Clearly it is not.”

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Ukraine to take advantage of the short-term benefits of Prigozhin-led upheaval.

“This will almost certainly benefit the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the near term and [Ukraine] should move fast to capitalize,” Crow wrote on Saturday.

Prigozhin — a former Putin loyalist who has led the private Wagner Group’s effort in the Russian war against Ukraine — threatened to march on Moscow after seizing crucial territories in Southern Russia, including the strategically positioned city of Rostov-on-Don.

Wagner, the organization Prigozhin helms, is a coalition of militant mercenaries that have worked with the Russian military during the country’s 16-month invasion of Ukraine.

Prigozhin’s decision to break from Russian military leadership comes after frequent clashes with Russian military leaders. He has taken to social media to criticize Russia’s lack of preparedness for the war, arguing that the war in Ukraine has been led by Wagner forces.

Lawmakers noted Prigozhin’s reputation for brutality and the Wagner Group’s deep involvement in the war against Ukraine.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D–Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter that Prigozhin was “as bad as, arguably worse than, Putin.”

“Let’s be absolutely clear about who Prigozhin is and what he wants,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, wrote on Twitter. “This guy is a murderous thug. And he doesn’t want an iskra in Russia, he wants a military change of command so he can lead a more efficient slaughtering of innocent Ukrainians.”

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By Lucy Hodgman