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Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin should 'be careful around open windows' after failed coup, warns former CIA boss
26 June 2023, 12:36 | Updated: 26 June 2023, 12:39
The Wagner Group chief who launched a failed attempt to topple Vladimir Putin over the weekend should "be careful around open windows", a former CIA director has warned.
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Yevgeny Prigozhin retreated to Belarus after calling off the coup on Saturday night, with Putin ordering that he should be allowed to get there safely.
Although he is not currently facing any criminal charges for the extraordinary threat to Putin's regime, the private army chief's life could still be in danger, according to former CIA director General David Petraeus.
"Prigozhin kept his life, but lost his Wagner Group," Gen Petraeus said.
"And he should be very careful around open windows in his new surroundings in Belarus, where he's going."
Despite the coup's failure, British diplomats are preparing for the fall of Putin.
"This could be Chapter One of something new", a government source told The Times.
They added: "We have to watch, wait and see what comes next."
Prigozhin suddenly reversed Wagner's march on Moscow after a deal with the Kremlin orchestrated by Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko.
It's thought between 5,000 and 8,000 Wagner troops were moving towards the capital when they received the order to stand down.
The private army's vehicles were spotted on motorways close to Moscow shortly before the coup came to a swift end.
Prigozhin had promised "Soon there will be a new president" after Putin appeared on state television to brand the Wagner rebels traitors.
It's been suggested that the loved ones of Wagner soldiers had been threatened by Putin's allies in the run-up to the reversal.
The Kremlin has promised Wagner soldiers who did not take part in the hours-long effort that they can join the Russian defence forces.
Experts have quashed suggestions that the coup was staged in order to strengthen Putin's authority.
Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysts said: "The Kremlin now faces a deeply unstable equilibrium. The Lukashenko-negotiated deal is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution, and Prigozhin's rebellion exposed severe weaknesses in the Kremlin and Russian MoD.
"Suggestions that Prigozhin's rebellion, the Kremlin's response, and Lukashenko's mediation were all staged by the Kremlin are absurd.
"The rebellion exposed the weakness of the Russian security forces and demonstrated Putin's inability to use his forces in a timely manner to repel an internal threat and further eroded his monopoly on force."
Prigozhin claimed a Wagner camp near Bakhmut in Ukraine had been attacked by the Russian military after months of criticising the leadership.
He then marched his mercenaries over the border, apparently facing no resistance from young conscripts before rolling into Rostov in the south of Russia.
Wagner forces held the city along with Voronezh, just 300 miles from Moscow.
He said it was a "march for justice" and that he had 25,000 men willing to die.
Putin's spokesman was forced to deny suggestions that the Russian president fled Moscow in the chaos.
Putin's plane was seen making a journey from the capital toward St Petersburg, data from tracker FlightRadar showed.
It then disappeared from the radar around 100 miles from Putin's official residence.
Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency TASS: "Putin is working at the Kremlin."
Prigozhin had vowed at the start of the coup: "We’re 25,000 strong, and we’re going to get to the bottom of the lawlessness in this country.
"25,000 are waiting as a tactical reserve, while the strategic reserve is the entire army and the entire country.
"Everyone who wants to, join us. We need to put an end to this disgrace."
Expert: 'The power of President Putin is now more limited than before'