Head of US military cancels trip to Israel amid Russia crisis

General Mark Milley puts off Middle East plans, shortly before Wagner Group announces it is halting its advance on Moscow

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The top military officer in the United States canceled a trip to the Middle East on Saturday as the crisis in Russia intensified, a spokesman said.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been due to travel to Israel and Jordan. That trip was postponed “due to the situation in Russia,” a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs told AFP.

Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, also canceled a trip Saturday, instead accompanying the president to Camp David. Sullivan had been scheduled to attend a conference on Ukraine in Denmark.

Milley had been due to leave for the Middle East on Saturday.

Shortly after Milley’s trip was canceled, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his troops to halt their advance and return to their bases. It was not immediately clear whether this would affect the decision.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin faced the biggest threat to his rule yet when rebel mercenaries advanced toward the Russian capital after seizing a key military base.

But by evening, Prigozhin said he had ordered his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow and retreat to their field camps in Ukraine to avoid shedding Russian blood.

Moscow had braced for the arrival of a private army led by the rebellious mercenary commander by erecting checkpoints with armored vehicles and troops on its southern edge. Red Square was shut down, and the mayor urged motorists to stay off some roads.

Prigozhin said that while his men were just 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Moscow, he decided to turn them back to avoid “shedding Russian blood.”

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