Vladimir Putin remains hidden Monday, after a phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden.
The two talked Sunday after news that Wagner mercenary group had stood down from their armed rebellion, just hours after Putin’s official plane was tracked leaving Moscow. The Russian leader has not been seen since with some media speculating he had fled the country.
“Yesterday’s events exposed the weakness of Putin’s regime,” Zelenskyy said he told Biden, according to a June 25 statement from Ukraine’s presidential office.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his forces seized Rostov-on-Don, a crucial logistical hub for Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, after accusing Russian military forces of killing a large number of Wagner soldiers at their field camps in Ukraine. The mercenaries then advanced hundreds of miles toward Moscow, but their march was halted after a deal to withdraw was reached. During their advance, in which they were greeted by cheering Russian citizens, they shot down at least four Russian attack helicopters, killing dozens of Russian troops.
Just 120 miles outside of Moscow, a deal was agreed to in which Prigozhin would leave Russia for next-door Belarus and criminal charges against him would be dropped. But, strangely, at the same time, Putin also went off the grid.
Zelenskyy described his conversation with Biden as “positive and inspiring” on Twitter, and thanked the president for the “unflagging support” of Ukraine.
Blinken also told ABC News on Sunday that Wagner’s revolt showed “cracks” in Putin’s power.
Some lawmakers also said Prigozhin’s rebellion has shed light on Putin’s grip on power.
“Recent tensions in Russia are putting Putin’s weaknesses on full display,” wrote Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Energy Committee, via Twitter on June 25. “This is exactly what happens when an authoritarian relies on an unhinged mercenary military to fight a needless and unprovoked war. Support for Putin in Russia and his war are rapidly deteriorating.”