Israel views Wagner rebellion as sign that Putin is losing grip on Russia — report

Internal document leaked from meeting in Netanyahu’s office reveals Jerusalem’s concerns about Russian leader’s growing ‘weakness’ and its impact on Ukraine, Iran

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

As the Wagner Group was staging its 24-hour mutiny against the Kremlin, the Israeli government held a situational assessment on its ramifications, concluding that it indicated a “profound Russian weakness,” according to a report Monday.

The report by Channel 13 news cited an internal document that was issued following a meeting in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Saturday as the Wagner rebellion was unfolding in Russia, though it was finalized after the rebellion was abruptly called off.

The 24-hour insurrection saw the paramilitary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin take control of two Russian cities following a feud between Prigozhin and Russia’s military brass. After the takeovers, the group’s fighters traveled hundreds of miles in an attempt to reach Moscow, before turning around.

The Israeli government has not issued an official reaction to Saturday’s insurrection. When it comes to Russia, experts note that the Israeli policy is to generally keep a low profile, given the sensitive relations between the two countries, primarily related to Moscow’s extensive control in Syria.

The Israeli document reportedly said in its first paragraph that the Wagner rebellion had undermined President Vladimir Putin’s rule, and was a symptom of a “profound Russian weakness” both on the war front and internally.

In the document, Netanyahu reportedly reiterated Israel’s commitment to Ukraine, both in humanitarian aid and in defense support, while giving due consideration to Israel’s sensitive relation with Russia.

The next paragraph said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had been instructed to “evaluate the ramifications of Saturday’s events on Russia’s relations with Iran, and in Syria.”

The last paragraph, according to the report, discussed the possibility of a “large wave of immigration from Russia” in case of a largescale flare-up inside Russia, and the need to “prepare for it while guaranteeing the proper functioning of Jewish and Israeli institutions in Russia.”

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