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Biden says Putin has ‘absolutely’ been weakened after revolt in Russia


By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden told CNN on Wednesday his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has “absolutely” been weakened by the short-lived mutiny over the weekend.

It was his most definitive comment to date on how the rebellion by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin affected the Russian leader’s stature.

Biden and his team have been cautious in commenting on the events, wary of providing Putin pretext for claiming a western plot to oust him. But on Wednesday, Biden expanded on his views of Putin’s diminished stature.

Asked whether the Russian president had been weakened, Biden said: “Absolutely.”

Later, expanding on the extent of Putin’s weakness, Biden said it was difficult to ascertain.

“It’s hard to tell but he’s clearly losing the war,” Biden told reporters on the White House South Lawn, mistakenly referring to the war in Iraq instead of Ukraine.

“He’s losing the war at home. He’s become a bit of a pariah around the world. And it’s not just NATO, it’s not just the European Union, it’s Japan,” he added.

Asked again if Putin is weaker today than he was last week, Biden said: “I know he is.”

Earlier this week, Biden sought to distance the United States from the weekend rebellion in Russia, insisting in his first public remarks since the episode that the West had nothing to do with the mutiny.

Still, American intelligence agencies were able to determine ahead of time that Prigozhin was preparing to challenge the Russian military, a sign of how closely the US had been monitoring tensions between Moscow and the Wagner boss.

Speaking from the White House, Biden suggested it was too early to say how the situation would unfold going forward.

“It’s still too early to reach a definitive conclusion about where this is going,” he said in the East Room. “The ultimate outcome of all this remains to be seen, but no matter what comes next I will keep making sure that our allies and our partners are closely aligned in how we are reading and responding to the situation.”

Biden has spoken to the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy since the events over the weekend. He also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Prigozhin’s rebellion could be beneficial to Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

“To the extent that Moscow is distracted by its own internal divisions, that may help,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“To the extent that the Wagner forces themselves are no longer on the front lines, that could help, because they have been effective. They just literally throw people into a meat grinder of Putin’s own making, but that’s had some effect,” Blinken continued.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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