CIA Director William Burns reached out to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, to assure him that the US was not involved in the failed Wagner Group rebellion, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The phone call between Burns and Naryshkin took place shortly after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko brokered a deal allowing Wagner Group leader Evgeny Prigozhin to leave for Belarus in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
During the call, Burns conveyed the message that the US was not involved in the rebellion, stating that it was an internal matter for Russia. This assurance mirrors US President Joe Biden’s earlier statement that his administration had made it clear they were not involved and that the events were part of a struggle within the Russian system.
The phone call between Burns and Naryshkin is seen as the highest-level contact between the two governments since the attempted mutiny. The rebellion began when Prigozhin accused the Russian military of launching a missile strike on one of the Wagner Group’s field camps. The Russian Defense Ministry denied the allegation, but Prigozhin vowed to march to Moscow to demand justice.
Wagner troops occupied parts of the city of Rostov-on-Don, but their journey to Moscow was halted when Lukashenko announced the deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned Prigozhin’s actions as a betrayal and touted the agreement as the best option to avoid a civil war. Under the deal, Wagner troops will be integrated into the regular Russian military, and the private military company will hand over its heavy weaponry.
Before the deal was announced, Western politicians and media outlets celebrated what they saw as a threat to Putin’s rule. However, reports emerged suggesting that Western intelligence agencies knew about the planned revolt in advance. National Guard of Russia commander Viktor Zolotov claimed that the revolt was inspired by Western special services who knew about it weeks ahead of time. He suggested that Western agents may have been directly involved in the operation.
While Zolotov’s claims have not been endorsed by the Kremlin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia has always emerged stronger from such challenges and described the mutiny as nothing more than trouble.
The assurance from Burns to Naryshkin and Biden’s earlier statement reflect the US’s position of non-involvement in the failed rebellion. The phone call between the two intelligence chiefs signifies a significant contact between the US and Russian governments following the events of the mutiny. As Russia deals with the aftermath of the rebellion and works towards integrating Wagner troops into the regular military, tensions between the US and Russia remain high, with both sides reiterating their respective positions.