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CEE leaders react to Russian revolt

| 2023-06-26 2 min read

CEE leaders react to Russian revolt

Reading Time: 2 minutes

An apparent attempted coup d’etat led by the head of a mercenary group in Russia over the weekend set off emergency responses across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) on Sunday, 26 June.

Mercenary fighters of the Wagner private army, run by former Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, pressed on across the country with almost no resistance and were already most of the way to the capital Moscow on Saturday afternoon.

Wagner troops captured the southern Russian city of Rostov overnight, with Russia’s military firing on them from the air but seemingly incapable of slowing their lightning advance.

Baltics react fast

Estonia and Latvia both said they had stepped up their border security in response, while the latter country suspended entry to the country from Russia and visa applications.

Latvian Foreign Minister and president-elect Edgars Rinkevics tweeted: “Latvia is closely following the developing situation in Russia and exchanging information with allies Border security has been strengthened, visa or border entry from Russians leaving Russia due to current events won’t be considered (a) direct threat to Latvia at this time.”

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said “I also urge our people not to travel to any part of Russia,” she said, but added that there was “no direct threat” to Estonia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted: “For 100 years Lithuanians have lived on the edge of Moscow’s brutal banditocracy, knowing it’s only a matter of time before the next chaotic implosion. We are not distracted,” Landsbergis added.

Polish gov’t publishes long call list

Polish President Andrzej Duda held consultations on Saturday morning with the country’s prime minister and defence ministry. Duda also called a meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday night, where he assured that there was no threat to Poland’s security.  “The course of events beyond our eastern border is monitored on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller tweeted a list of 16 European leaders that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had consulted on Saturday. The list included European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. 

Austrians hold emergency meeting

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer stressed the importance of preventing Russia’s nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands prior to the meeting. As a precautionary measure following the unrest, Austrian police will enhance security at locations in Vienna that are associated with various Russian-linked organizations. 

While there is currently no specific threat, Nehammer emphasized that the Austrian government would not permit “an internal Russian conflict to spill over onto Austrian territory.”

Ukraine, Hungary – starkly different reactions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Wagner mutiny showed Russia was weak. “Russia’s weakness is obvious. Full-scale weakness. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later,” he said in a statement.

Hungarian Government Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs tweeted: “for the Hungarian government, the protection of Hungary and the Hungarian people is the most important, therefore, we are monitoring the developments taking place in Russia and Ukraine from this perspective.”