European leaders convene emergency meetings in response to ‘chaos’ in Russia

The U.S. and Europe are closely watching an unfolding battle between Russian President Vladimir Putin and chief of the private mercenary group Wagner that sparked in earnest early Saturday morning, with leaders describing the outbreak of fighting as “chaos” and intelligence saying the infighting poses the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.

“Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how the crisis plays out,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted on Saturday.

According to TheHill, The ministry’s assessment said forces that are part of the Wagner Group and headed by the group’s leader, businessman and former caterer to Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, have “almost certainly occupied key security sites” in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, including the headquarters which runs Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

“Further Wagner units are moving north through Vorenezh Oblast, almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow. With very limited evidence of fighting between Wagner and Russian security forces, some have likely remained passive, acquiescing to Wagner,” the ministry tweeted.

Foreign ministers of the Group of 7 nations held a call Saturday morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, adding that the U.S. will stay in close coordination with member states, to include Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the European Union.

National Security Spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement to The Hill that “we are monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former CIA analyst, called the events in Russia breathtaking” and described the unfolding fighting as “the clearest public confirmation of the folly of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“Remember: Wagner, a private military force, was brought into Ukraine and put on the frontlines because of the failures of Russia’s regular military.

This would be the equivalent of the U.S. military depending on an armed defense contractor, and that contractor then turning on U.S. leadership and marching to Washington. The weakness of the once-formidable Russian military is stunning,” she said in a statement.

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