Washington — President Biden said Monday that the U.S. and its allies made clear to Moscow that they were not involved in the Wagner mercenary group’s brief uprising in Russia over the weekend, calling it “part of a struggle within the Russian system.” 

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin led an armed rebellion targeting Russia’s military leaders, accusing them of botching the war in Ukraine, and also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin. Wagner fighters appeared to seize control of the Russian military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, which oversees fighting in Ukraine, and were advancing toward Moscow until they were ordered back to their field camps when a truce brokered by Belarus was announced between Putin and Prigozhin. 

Mr. Biden said he spoke with U.S. allies over the weekend to coordinate a response to the rebellion and asked his national security team to prepare for a “range of scenarios.” 

“They agreed with me that we had to make sure we gave Putin no excuse — let me emphasize, we gave Putin no excuse — to blame this on the West, to blame this on NATO,” Mr. Biden said. “We made clear that we were not involved. We had nothing to do with it. This was part of a struggle within the Russian system.” 
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that the message was delivered to the Russians through various diplomatic channels. 

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“We also made clear to all our allies and partners that the United States was not involved and would not get involved in these events, and that we view them as internal Russian matters,” Kirby said at the White House press briefing. “We delivered that same message to the Russians themselves through appropriate diplomatic channels.” 

The details of the deal between Putin and Prigozhin to end the rebellion were vague. As part of the truce, Prigozhin had agreed to move to Belarus to avoid prosecution. But Russian authorities said Monday the criminal charges hadn’t yet been dropped. 

In a statement Monday, Prigozhin, whose whereabouts are unclear, said the mutiny was not aimed at overthrowing the Russian government, but was meant to prevent the loss of the Wagner Group’s autonomy to the Russian military. 

The mutiny was one of the fiercest challenges to Putin’s leadership. Mr. Biden said the U.S. is still assessing the fallout and the implications for Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. 

“It’s still too early to reach a definitive conclusion about where this is going,” Mr. Biden said. “The ultimate outcome of all this remains to be seen.” 

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Mr. Biden said the U.S. and its allies will continue to support Ukraine “no matter what happened in Russia.” 

The president spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday to reaffirm U.S. support for the country and the events in Russia. 

“What we’re going to stay focused on is making sure that Ukraine can continue to succeed on the battlefield and not speculate about what this might or might not do on the political spectrum inside Russia,” Kirby said, later adding that the U.S. is “not taking sides in this internal matter” between Putin and Prigozhin. 

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