Former president Donald Trump referred to the armed rebellion in Russia as a “big mess” on Saturday as insurgent leader Yevgeny Prigozhin turned his Wagner paramilitary forces away from Moscow.
“A big mess in Russia, but be careful what you wish for. Next in may be far worse!” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social account.
In a separate post, he appeared to invoke news of the latest threats in Russia to baselessly accuse President Joe Biden and his son Hunter of “illegally” collecting money from China and asserting that his rival will “do about Russia whatever President Xi” wants.
He went on to claim that the latest assault provides an “unthinkable opportunity” for China to seize “large portions” of Russia.
Mr Trump’s rivals in the 2024 Republican presidential race also weighed in on the Wagner crisis which unfolded rapidly on Saturday. By the end of the day, Prigozhin had ordered his forces to halt their march towards Moscow in what Russian officials called an attempted coup.
“This is one more piece of evidence that Russia is likely a paper tiger,” GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy alleged in an interview with Fox News.
“The idea that Russia has the capabilities that go for Poland or other parts of Western Europe looks increasingly farcical.”
Mr Ramaswamy said China remains a “top threat” and the US should remain focused on “deterring Chinese aggression”.
He added that if elected president he would urge Russia to end its war in Ukraine on the condition that Russian President Vladmir Putin distance himself from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Former Texas congressman Will Hurd, another long-shot candidate for the GOP nomination, called on the US to help Ukraine implement a no-fly zone to protect the country in the event of an outbreak of civil war in Russia.
“In complicated times when our adversaries are trying to displace us as a superpower, it’s common sense to defend the global order that has benefited us and to help our allies,” he tweeted.
“Ukraine is not a territorial dispute and Vladimir Putin is a war criminal,” he added. “It shouldn’t be hard to admit this. Even the villainous [Yevgeny] Prigozhin knows this.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, another long-shot candidate for the 2024 nomination, called on “peace-loving people around the world” to pray for the “freedom-loving people of Russia.”
“The next few days will be crucial,” he wrote on Twitter. “Please pray for God to protect the innocent.”
Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris along with cabinet officials and top national security officials were briefed on the crisis throughout the day, according to the White House.
The president also spoke with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French president Emmanuel Macron, and German chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss the situation and “affirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine,” according to a White House readout of the call.
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