In the most detailed public account yet given by a U.S. official, the CIA director offered a scathing assessment Thursday of the damage done to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia by the insurgency by Wagner’s mercenary group, saying the insurgency has revived questions about his judgment and detachment from events.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual national security conference, William J. Burns, the director of the CIA, said that for much of the 36 hours of the uprising last month, Russian security services, the military and policymakers “appeared to be adrift.”

“For many Russians watching this, used to this image of Putin as the arbiter of order, the question was ‘Does the emperor have no clothes?'” Mr Burns said, adding, “Or at least ‘Why is it taking him so long to get dressed?'”

Mr Burns’ remarks about the Kremlin’s paralysis during the uprising by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and his mercenary group built on comments a day earlier by his British counterpart, Richard Moore, the head of MI6, who said the uprising showed cracks in Mr Putin’s rule.

Mr Burns said that while Mr Prigozhin had taken some of the steps in the insurgency “as he went along”, his criticism of the Russian military leadership, which he had made in a series of increasingly militant statements over months, was “hiding in plain sight”.

Mr. Prigozhin also sharply criticized the Kremlin’s argument for the war against Ukraine. Mr Burns said the Telegram channel where Mr Prigozhin posted a video challenging Russia’s main argument for invading Ukraine was watched by a third of the Russian population.

“That video was the most scathing indictment of Putin’s justification for war, of the conduct of the war, of the corruption at the core of the Putin regime, that I have heard from a Russian or a non-Russian,” Mr Burns said.

Mr. Burns confirmed that the United States had some notice that the rebellion might take place. He predicted that Mr. Putin would try to separate the Wagner forces from Mr. Prigozhin in order to preserve the combat prowess of the mercenary group, which was important to Russia’s war effort.

Since the uprising, and the deal that ended it, Mr. Prigozhin has been in Minsk, Belarus, but has also spent time in Russia, Mr. Burns said.

He said he would be surprised if Mr. Prigozhin ultimately “escapes further retribution.”

“What we’re seeing is a very complicated dance between Prigozhin and Putin,” Mr Burns said. “I think Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold, so he will try to resolve the situation as best he can.”

Mr Burns, a former US ambassador to Russia who served in Moscow as the Russian president consolidated power nearly two decades ago, added that the Russian leader was “the ultimate apostle of payback”.

And, Mr. Burns suggested, it is not just Mr. Prigozhin who faces consequences.

American officials have said privately that a senior Russian general, Sergei V. Surovikin, had advance knowledge of Mr. Prigozhin’s plans and may have supported the rebellion.

Asked whether General Surovikin was free or under arrest, Mr. Burns said, “I don’t think he enjoys much freedom right now.”

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