Interesting comments from Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaking a bit earlier today on MSNBC:
“Well first of all, Andrea, I appreciate you recognizing that unlike some folks in American politics, I do understand that if you receive classified information, it needs to stay secret, otherwise literally peoples’ lives could be in jeopardy. But the truth is, what Prigozhin was saying, if you follow this, it’s been hiding in plain sight, literally for weeks, as he’s condemned the Russian conduct in the war in Ukraine, condemned the leadership. The message he laid out Saturday morning as his forces were advancing, I hope the Russian people heard, where he basically said it was all a sham, Putin’s pretexts for going into Ukaine, there was never any threat from the Ukrainians, I hope that message got out.
I think it’s remarkable, though, that with a relatively small number of troops, he was able to take over Rostov…the command center for the whole war in Ukraine. And the fact that he was then able to get within 120 miles of Moscow, even though Putin had gone on the air and called him virtually a traitor on Saturday morning. We have a lot of unanswered questions, but…the volatility in terms of what the future of Putin and that regime is, is still I think up in the air. I do think we know this, that the Putin of 5 years ago, the Putin that was more engaged as opposed to the Putin of today who is so isolated, who doesn’t want to hear any bad news. I can’t imagine the Wagner Group leader making as much progres if he’d tried this a number of years back.
…Well, saying that and that five hours later cutting a deal with this same Prigozhin. Again, remember, neither one of these guys are good guys. We all know how awful and evil in so many ways Putin has been. But Prigozhin, you know, he is head of this mercenary group that has done so many atrocities in Ukraine, in Syria, in countries in Africa. Remember, Prigozhin was the owner of the Internet Research Agency who interfered in our elections in 2016, and he is subject to American indictment. So this is a very bizarre circumstance. But the leadup in terms of Prigozhin’s comments, this has been happening for literally weeks in some cases months, calling out the leadership of the Russian war effort.
I understand, literally, as I was coming on air that he is, says he’s in Minsk. And get this, that he he is in a one of the only hotels in Minsk that doesn’t have any windows. And I say that because, again, this has been in public reporting, that there have been a number of Russian entity, individuals who have run afoul of Putin over the last year and a half, who have mysteriously fallen out of fifth sixth seventh floor windows. So if he is in Minsk in a hotel with no windows, that would show at least what his mindset is in terms of how his relationships are with Putin at this point…
…[Belarus dictator Lukashenko] stayed in power with support from Putin. So the fact that he somehow magically brokered this deal when the Wagner forces were literally about 120 miles outside of Moscow…This sounds like it was a giant mess that everybody’s trying to reframe and rewrite the history of what was literally happening real-time and watched by the whole world, literally within the last 48 hours…
…Well, Shoigu, who is the [Russian] Defense head, had been trying to force these mercenary forces, the Wagner forces, to sign a contract and fall under his normal chain of command. Prigozhin and his forces said no and said no…I cannot believe even if Prigozhin is off in Belarus at this point, that all of these Wagner forces, who have borne the brunt many times of some of the most bloody fighting in Ukraine, are suddenly going to simply turn around and salute a set of at least military leaders that have demonstrated pretty much ineptness on the field.”