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Putin may still seek revenge on Wagner boss – CIA chief

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to buy time while he works out how to deal with Yevgeny Prighozin, says the director of the CIA.

Mr Prigozhin is the head of the Wagner mercenary group who led a mutiny in Russia a month ago.

That mutiny exposed significant weaknesses in the system of power Putin has built, CIA head William Burns said.

He told the Aspen Security Forum that Russia’s leader may still seek retribution against Mr Prigozhin.

“What we are seeing is a very complicated dance,” the CIA chief said on Thursday.

Mr Prigozhin has moved around but had been in the Belarus capital of Minsk recently as well as Russia, he said when asked about a recent video apparently showing the Wagner boss in Belarus.

Mr Putin is likely to be trying to buy time as he works out how best to deal with the leader of the Wagner group, Mr Burns added.

That mercenary group still has value for Russia’s leadership in places like Africa, Libya and Syria and so it was likely that Mr Putin would try and separate the group from its leader.

And the CIA chief said that Mr Putin may wait to exact revenge.

“Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold,” Mr Burns said. “In my experience, Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback so I would be surprised if Prigozhin escapes further retribution.”

Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden suggested there was a risk the Wagner boss could be poisoned.

“If I were he I’d be careful what I ate. I’d keep my eye on my menu,” the president quipped.

The CIA director echoed that line saying: “If I were Prigozhin, I wouldn’t fire my food taster.”

The intelligence agency did indeed have advance knowledge of the mutiny, Mr Burns said, confirming previous reports.

A senior Russian army general, Sergei Surovikin, who was reported to have known about the Wagner mutiny in advance, also does not currently have “freedom of movement”, the CIA chief added. (BBC)

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