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Russia Confronts Divisions Following Putin’s Speech on Mercenary Deal

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RIGA, Latvia — As Russian President Vladimir Putin extolled the nation’s “unity and patriotism” and attempted to project a military consolidated behind him after a failed mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, Russians on Tuesday continued to confront jarring questions about divisions in the security forces and how the president allowed the country to reach a risk of civil war.

The Kremlin on Tuesday went into overdrive to try to project unity and reassert Putin’s strength while moving to diminish Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the former Putin ally who led the rebellion. But the official explanations for why Prigozhin was allowed to escape without punishment looked unusually thin, highlighting new doubts about Putin’s strength and competence in a crisis.

Putin on Tuesday met with a group of military and security officers, whom he praised for preventing a civil war, following a late-night meeting on Monday with leaders of all the major security agencies.

“You have protected the constitutional system, life, security and freedom of our citizens, protected our fatherland from shocks and practically stopped a civil war,” Putin told officers of the Defense Ministry, the National Guard, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Protection Service assembled on Cathedral Square in the Kremlin.

“People who were drawn into the rebellion saw that the army and the people were not with them,” he said.

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