Russia received China’s ‘support’ over Wagner mutiny: ministry
China's deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu and his Russian counterpart Andrey Rudenko held a meeting in Beijing.
Activists hold a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin near Red Square in Moscow, on June 24, 2023. Photo: AFP
Russia’s foreign ministry said Sunday that Beijing had backed Moscow’s efforts to counter a short-lived armed uprising led by the head of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the leadership of the Russian Federation to stabilise the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24, and reaffirmed its interest in strengthening the unity and further prosperity of Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Foreign ministers meet
The release came after a meeting in Beijing between China’s deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu and Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko.
Wagner mercenaries were headed back to base Sunday as their mutinous leader agreed to go into exile after President Vladimir Putin was forced to accept an amnesty deal.
China’s readout from the meeting however said the two deputy foreign ministers had “exchanged views” on bilateral ties and “international and regional issues of common concern”.
Beijing says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but has been criticised by Western countries for refusing to condemn Moscow and for its close strategic partnership with Russia.
While Prigozhin’s outfit fought at the forefront of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, in recent months it has engaged in a bitter feud with Moscow’s military leadership.
He has repeatedly blamed Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, for his fighters’ deaths.
The Russian defence ministry warned that Ukrainian troops were taking advantage of the infighting to ready an assault near the eastern hotspot of Bakhmut.
A prominent Russian general urged Prigozhin to call off efforts to remove the defence ministry leadership.
“I urge you to stop,” Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russia’s aerospace forces, said in a highly unusual video address.
Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said the Wagner chief’s attempt to force a leadership change in the defence ministry “is unlikely to succeed” given that Surovikin had denounced his call for rebellion.
However, it said Wagner’s apparent capture of Rostov-on-Don “would have significant impacts on Russia’s war effort in Ukraine”.