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White House Says U.S. Won’t Take Sides In Russia’s Wagner Uprising

  The United States is not picking favorites in the Wagner Group’s uprising in   Russia , a top White House official said on Monday. John Ki...

 The United States is not picking favorites in the Wagner Group’s uprising in Russia, a top White House official said on Monday.

John Kirby, the coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, briefed reporters after President Joe Biden said his administration had “nothing to do” with the revolt.

“We’re not taking sides in this internal matter,” Kirby insisted.

Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral, deflected a question about whether Biden is disappointed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is still in power, saying Biden remains focused on supporting Ukraine in its fight to ward off a Russian invasion.

When a reporter noted that Biden himself said during a March 2022 speech in Warsaw that Putin “cannot remain in power,” Kirby said “regime change is not our policy.”

At the center of the uprising are the Wagner mercenaries, who appear to be in a standoff with Russia’s military leadership and their handling of the war in Ukraine.

Wagner troops began a march toward Moscow up until the Kremlin announced a deal on Saturday in which Russia would drop a criminal case against group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and would allow him to travel to Belarus. By Monday, Putin delivered an address in which he said the organizers of the rebellion would be “brought to justice.”

During the White House press briefing on Monday, Kirby said he did not know of Prigozhin’s whereabouts and declined to get into hypotheticals when asked if Putin was the preferred Russian head of state or an alternative leader picked by the Wagner group.

“We believe it’s up to the Russian people to determine who their leadership is, and we would prefer to see Russia not invade their neighboring countries,” Kirby said, again alluding to the war in Ukraine.

The Biden administration made it clear to allies as well as the Russian government through diplomatic channels 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.

“I’ll emphasize, as the president did just a little bit ago, that it’s too early to speculate on the impact these events might have or to reach any definitive conclusions except one,” Kirby said, “and that is that no matter what happens next, we’re going to stay closely coordinated with those allies and partners, and we’re going to continue to stand with Ukraine.”

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