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Erin Burnett Outfront
Putin Speaks Out After Armed Insurrection; Where is Prigozhin?; Biden: U.S. "Had Nothing To Do With" Russian Mutiny. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 26, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Ukraine, damage control. Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to project an image of strength as he faces the biggest threat ever to his authority. Is Putin still in danger of losing power? His former prime minister says yes, and he will be OUTFRONT next.
Plus, where is Yevgeny Prigozhin? No confirmation that the Wagner chief ever made it outside Russia. As the FSB keeps its criminal investigation on Prigozhin wide open. Two Moscow reporters who have covered him extensively with be reporting this hour.
I'm going to talk to the mayor of Kyiv who warns Ukraine is not prepared if Putin attacks the biggest nuclear plant in all of Europe. Let's go OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: And good evening, and welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I am Erin Burnett live from Ukraine tonight.
Tonight, Putin on defense. The Russian president speaking out three days after the armed rebellion led by his former ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.
And make no mistake: a threat to Putin's authority tonight is very well. Putin right now is attempting to spin the story tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): An armed rebellion would've been suppressed in any case. The organizers of the rebellion, despite the loss of adequacy, could not fail to understand this. They understood everything, including that they resorted to criminal acts to divide and weaken the country, which is now confronting a colossal external threat, unprecedented pressure from the outside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He says the armed rebellion would have been suppressed in any event. Let's just be clear here on the facts, there was no evidence of Russian troops intercepting or challenging Prigozhin in any way, shape, or form. No evidence of any suppression, imminent or anything. Putin did not call Prigozhin out by name in his speech. But he did say
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN (through translator): It was precisely this outcome, fratricide that Russia's enemies wanted. Both the neo-Nazis in Kyiv and their Western patrons and all sorts of national traitors. They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That speech was only five minutes. And again, I want to emphasize that it took Putin three days to give this five-minute speech. A speech that when you listen to it, broke no new ground, even though the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier stated that Putin statement would, quote, without exaggeration, determine the fate of Russia.
Well, that's what we got. Now, it's unclear if the speech was live or taped. Putin spoke from a wood-paneled room. I want to emphasize this is different than normal. It's not the usual opulence, not the golden bask backdrop that we so often see behind him.
He was angry. But his delivery was nothing next to what we saw, in an extraordinary 11-minute taped statement by Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group also breaking his silence for the first time since the insurrection, and doubling down, saying that he has the support of the people of Russia.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER CHIEF (through translator): When on June 23rd and 24th, we walked past Russian cities, civilians met us with the flags of Russia and with the flags and emblems of Wagner PMC. They were all happy when we came and when we passed by. Many of them still write us words of support, and some are disappointed that we stopped. Because in the march of Justice, in addition to our struggle for existence, they saw support for the fight against bureaucracy and other blights that exist in our country today.
(EN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Prigozhin's words, his passion, show no sign of backing down. And at this hour, this is an incredible thing. At this hour, it is totally unclear where Prigozhin is.
Did he go to Belarus where Putin says he has to go in exile? Is he here in Ukraine? Is he still in Russia somewhere?
No one knows, and the uncertainty has rocked the region and the world, and it is raising the stakes for the war here in Ukraine tonight as well. According to British intelligence, in just the past three weeks,
Ukraine has recaptured more territory than Russia seized in its entire winter offensive. Now, I just spoke to our Ukrainian soldier who used a drone soldier along the front lines and he told me the Russian soldiers were panicking a bit. That's the word he used to describe it on Saturday. But that he says that they now have returned as of today to more normal operations. Now, here Kyiv, missile attacks have been happening every few days.
And we obtained this exclusive of a strike that happened over the weekend here. It's a 25-story building, hit by a Russian missile in the middle of the night. We can see the large holes on the sides of the building. Five people were killed, people sleeping and the strike.
And I spoke to Vlad. He's a dental hygienist who lives in the building just a few floors below. He said he and his wife were sleeping, and then they heard a deafening sound.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADSYLAV PROKOPOVYCH, KYIV BUILDING RESIDENT: It was actually unexpected. We thought it could not be an atomic, mom anything, we were not understanding what was happening. I was not ready really. It was very unexpected that it can happen in our building. I can never believe it can be our building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT to begin our coverage. He is in Moscow.
And Nick Paton Walsh joins me here in Kyiv, but let's begin in Moscow with you Matthew.
What is the very latest there? Amidst all of this deep uncertainty?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, over the course of the past few hours, we have seen a couple of people, have you've just been mentioning, Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin sort of emerged from the weekend and to make their first statements. Putin's been, notably absent since that Wagner mutiny threaten his grip on power at the weekend.
But now he's appeared on Russian state television, basically saying he did everything he could to prevent bloodshed. He also restated an offer to the Wagner mercenaries that took part in the rebellion, why they joined the military or to move to Belarus.
CHANCE (voice-over): For the first time, since the Russian rebellion ended, Vladimir Putin has addressed his nation. A short speech condemning rebel leaders as traitors, playing into the hands of Russia's enemies.
PUTIN (through translator): They wanted Russians soldiers to kill each other, to kill military personnel and civilian, so that in the end, Russia would lose and a society would split, choke in bloody civil strife.
CHANCE: He did not mention Yevgeny Prigozhin by name, but the Wagner mercenary leader is also speaking out to the first time since agreeing to call off the armed rebellion, that shook the Kremlin to its core -- denying his aim was to topple President Putin.
PRIGOZHIN (through translator): The purpose of the march was to prevent the destruction of Wagner and the persecution of those who made a huge number of mistakes in the course of the special military operation, due to their unprofessional actions. Society demanded this, and all the soldiers who saw us supported us.
CHANCE: But on Russian state television, damage control has been in full swing, after a weekend of mayhem.
Prigozhin's armed rebellion has failed, the presenter says, Russians stood in a united front for President Putin, she declares.
But if you doubt how weekend events of the past few days have left Russia's leader -- he is now attempting to claw back some authority by saying his actions had saved Russian lives.
PUTIN (through translator): By my direct its instructions, steps were taken to avoid a lot of bloodshed. This took time, including to give those who made a mistake a chance to think again.
CHANCE: What will become of Yevgeny Prigozhin now? Whether he will be prosecuted or not, remains unclear. Though he did appear to confirm for the first time, that he may indeed take a Kremlin offered to head to Belarus, and resume Wagner's operations from there.
But that may no longer be on the table, for a once loyal Putin ally who appears to have made a dangerous enemy, in the Kremlin.
CHANCE (on camera): Yeah, dangerous indeed.
Well, tonight, Erin, officials in Belarus, they are refusing to confirm to CNN reports that Yevgeny Prigozhin is already there. It has been confirmed that the president, or the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko will give a news conference tomorrow, to answer questions.
But Belarusian opposition figures that I have spoken to tonight say that it would be foolish for Prigozhin to feel he is safe and protected in a country where Vladimir Putin wields so much influence.
Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, live from Moscow.
And Nick Paton Walsh is here with me now in Kyiv. Of course the heart of this is why this whole thing is happening, it's
all attempted rebellion. And still tonight, we do not know where progression is, he gives that impassioned 11 minute rant, but we don't know where he is.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Because of that, and because of the fact that anytime each, is if he can pick up his phone and deliver a lengthy rant, which at the heart of it is still another criticism of how badly managed Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been. He is still a threat to Vladimir Putin.
And you have to remember, I mean, 20 years covering Vladimir Putin, he always gets rid of people who are an opponent of him pretty fast, and pretty brutally. And this, after this weekend, Prigozhin is somehow out there.
And you have to get the impression, it's hard to imagine Putin does not have the ability to arrest him. Perhaps he might be concerned what happens if he does. That is fascinating.
BURNETT: That is fascinating, because if you would think that if he could have, he would've. He did not.
All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much here in Kyiv.
And I want to go now to Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister of Russia. He served as Putin's first prime minister, was later dismissed by Putin over policy disagreements, then he became the leader of the opposition. He is here with me tonight, for his first American television interview, since the armed rebellion in Russia.
I really appreciate your time, Prime Minister. Thank you very much.
Let me just start by asking you. As you are watching, as Nick Paton Walsh and I were just discussing, you are watching Yevgeny Prigozhin march up the M4 towards Moscow, were you shocked?
MIKHAIL KASYANOV, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA: Yeah, I was very much surprised, because it was very difficult, and impossible to imagine that, could take place in the fully controlled Russia, by Putin. Putin spent 23 years to destroy, population stability, and the basis and only him would provide the stability. The Prigozhin just destroyed this image of stability, this force for stability, the fact that this very -- challenging time for Putin, and today, he looked very nervous. .
BURNETT: So, why do you think Putin did not take Prigozhin into custody? Kill him? Do -- I mean, as far as we know, none of those things happen, Prigozhin is about putting out 11-minute long lengthy grants as videos. Why did Putin do nothing? Was he too weak to?
KASYANOV: Yes, that is very important question. And there is no exact answer on that. In the beginning, in the morning, he made his short speech in saying that his traitor, and would be prosecuted. And just FSB open the criminal case against him. In fact, everybody thought that FSB would undertake their efforts as
state institution and implement this instruction. But that appears to not be the case at all, and during the whole day of these mutiny, just no single state institution was involved unsettling the problem, settling the conflict. It was done on a private basis.
Not minister of defense, no minister of interior, no FSB chief. No one was involved in this. Only just on the private basis, that was a dispute of private people, Putin and his friend with arms in the hand, with the huge army. Just they had a dispute.
Prigozhin wanted to achieve three things. He didn't want to change Putin power in Russia, he wanted first to get the legal status, so that the parliament would adopt a piece of legislation, and so that his Wagner would be a legal organization in Russia. Right now, in accordance with the current legislation, Wagner is not legal organization, illegal organization.
Secondly, he wanted to get ammunition from militaries, and so he wanted to have money. That was -- he started to press Putin to get this.
BURNETT: So, when we see the speech, obviously, we saw progression speech, and, you know, he's angry, and he's ranting and he's animated.
You see Putin's words are words of great anger. He's not in his normal opulent background that we so often see him. He failed. He's in a room which is plain wood behind him and flags.
Did -- what did you make of his demeanor? You know him, you have worked with him. Do you see anything when you look at his face, his delivery, his eyes?
KASYANOV: Yes, he looked -- he looked very pathetic, pathetic I notice as I said. And, in fact, he, of course, realized that he had been seen by the public as weak, and so that he wanted to improve the situation. But it appeared to be he increased this feeling.
And right now, just people around him, people so-called Russian elites, working with any government positions, started to see Putin, not as a moderator, not a protector of their interests anymore, rather as a weak leader who is not their leader anymore. That's what I'm saying, just the process, the process of weakness of the whole Putin system started to appear.
But the dangerous thing is that's -- with such a leader, the system built up by Putin, it's totally authoritarian, could be a dangerous, dangerous state. Right now because of his, he is, I would say feeling at the moment.
He is very nervous, at what I see tonight, on his speech. There is a demonstration of weakness.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Mikhail, thank you very much. We very much appreciate your time tonight.
KASYANOV: Thank you.
BURNETT: Mikhail Kasyanov, as I said, the former prime minister for Putin in Russia.
And next, where exactly is Yevgeny Prigozhin tonight? Two award- winning reporters, who have covered him and Putin extensively from Moscow are OUTFRONT tonight, with their latest details.
Plus, new videos of Russian fighters in disarray, and surrounding as Ukraine's counteroffensive is rolling on. We're going to take you to the front lines, and Ukraine now claiming that Russia has drafted and approved a plan to blow up the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
BURNETT: We're back with a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Ukraine tonight.
Vladimir Putin accusing the United States and allies of wanting to see Russians kill each other during the insurrection. This is a seismic event, a seminal event in this war, one that humiliated Putin in the world stage and is posing the greatest threat ever to his grip on power.
And President Biden saying tonight it is too early to know what happens next in Russia. He was adamant, though, that the United States had nothing to do with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We made clear that we were not involved. We had nothing to do with it. This was part of a struggle within Russian system.
(END VIDEOI CLIP)
BURNETT: Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT at the White House.
And, Jeremy, what are you learning tonight about how closely the White House is watching what's happening and Russia, and how innocence surprised they were as well, how damaging do they think this is to Putin?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I can tell you that they are watching this extremely closely, and there's a sense when you talk to officials inside the White House of the final act of this story may not have yet played out.
And that is part of why the White House has been so, so cautious in describing the events that took place over the weekend. And what may happen in the future. Now, in terms of their assessment of how they think this impacted
Vladimir Putin, you heard the secretary of state Tony Blinken yesterday saying that this insurrection revealed cracks in Putin's hold on power, but as today, what the impact would be on Putin going forward, the national security council spokesman John Kirby wouldn't even say whether or not this have left Putin weakened.
And again, this speaks to this cautious strategy by the White House in part because of those -- the fast-moving nature of these events and the uncertainty going forward, but, also because this is a continuation of the White House trying not to weigh in here, trying to avoid the appearance of putting its finger on the scale, or trying to take advantage of the instability inside of Russia.
The president today said it's too early to know exactly where this is headed, and so U.S. officials are going to continue to monitor this. The president is going to continue be speaking with allies. We're told he's going to speak with Ukrainian president once again sometime in the near future.
And, tomorrow, Erin, we're also expecting the U.S. to announce $500 million of additional security assistance for Ukraine. That is also a key message they want to be sending in this moment -- Erin.
BURNETT: Jeremy, thank you.
And OUTFRONT now, Christian Esch. He is the Eastern European correspondent for - "Der Spiegel", along with Max Seddon, the Moscow bureau chief for "The Financial Times".
And I'm really glad to have both of you with us because you have covered, Cuba's because you have covered Putin, Russia, more than anybody else both of you.
Christian, you're here with me, so let me start with you.
You know, you know Putin has been totally humiliated. You heard his former prime minister saying that he looked, he said pathetic and nervous in that five-minute speech that we saw today.
What did that speech -- what impact did that speech have at home, on the Russian people?
CHRISTIAN ESCH, EASTERN EUROPE CORRESPONDENT, DER SPIEGEL: I find it difficult to imagine that anybody would be satisfied with a speech like that, because after the speech he had given on Saturday, which was quite an emotional and dramatic speech, we would expect him to say something important.
The TV program on Russian channels was interrupted, and then he says basically, nothing apart from -- Prigozhin is bad. The Wagner guys are not bad. They are good. You are free to do whatever you choose -- fight with the army, go back to your families, or go to Belarus.
So I took it as kind of like him personally, gain, telling them that's the deal, we made you don't hear from other, people you hear from me directly.
BURNETT: So, Max, what's interesting, and you point the timeline out here, right? You first today had Prigozhin, an 11-minute long rant on tape, and it was after that that we heard from Putin. What is that timeline say to you?
MAX SEDDON, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, honestly, Putin's speech was such a letdown this evening given the way that the Kremlin hyped it up, and (AUDIO GAP) the broadcast, that my first thought of the end was that's it? you know, why did they even bother doing this?
And I think the reason is, because more than anything else, Prigozhin, you know, when he made a statement this afternoon, he was thinking, all the, headlines largest around the world, but also in Russia, it is really remarkable, no one in the 23-plus years of power, has been able to dictate the news agenda to Putin like this. Alexey Navalny (AUDIO GAP) not when Russia was fighting Islamic insurgency 20 -- 25 years ago.
And it really speaks to how Putin is really on the defensive.
Prigozhin has not confirmed that he actually agreed to go to Belarus. We do not know where he is. He certainly in his rant today --
SEDDON: -- he didn't seem very remorseful for what he's done. Putin is very much on the back foot here.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, as you said, on the back foot. I mean, he certainly didn't seem remorseful, right, Christian? I mean, he's saying, oh, all the people love me, they were there cheering for me. I mean, from videos, we saw that they were. I mean, that's not inaccurate.
So, we don't know where Prigozhin is, but we do know that Lukashenko, the president of Belarus played a role in this and that supposedly, Prigozhin's going into exile in Belarus. OK.
Lukashenko is going to give a press conference, I'm going to put the press in quotes. He's going to answer some quotes tomorrow. What are we going to find out?
ESCH: Well, I'm looking forward to this press conference. This is one of the -- one of the weirdest moments, I could think of in my career covering this region. I have -- to be honest, I have -- I have no idea.
What I find interesting is, Putin for 20 years has told us about sovereignty as the holiest value in his view of Russia. So, nobody from the exterior can meddle in the internal political process.
Now, the same guy has allowed Lukashenko, asked even Lukashenko to help dealing with a completely internal problem. A problem that is entirely of Putin's own making. So, this is really interesting.
BURNETT: So, Max, you know, Putin from that undisclosed location with the bland background, not the opulent room that were used to, right, with the marble and all the flowers and also that sort of thing. I guess I'm just wondering, what position do you think Putin's in right now?
And, Max, why -- why did nothing happen to Prigozhin? I know something may still happen to Prigozhin. I understand all the comments people are making about stay way from windows, and Novichok and all of that sort of thing. But as of now, Prigozhin is just wandering around.
SEDDON: Well, this is really, really what's incredible, and it's not just you asking that question. Even a lot of senior people on the pro- war side in Russia, openly asking why we saw Putin basically bow to deal with Prigozhin and the harshest way possible, and two days later, now this is going on and we did not hear a word out of Putin for 48 hours.
There was one pro-war MP on Russian TV last night who was a former lieutenant general in the army, and he was talking about how he used to command a lot of Wagner's early covered operations, and he was racing and question I think, if you are putting supporter, it's quite logical as Putin always says, the one thing that can't forgive us treason, and he said -- this lawmaker, why haven't they've been shot in the head?
That's the only way out of the situation, given the terms that Putin has said, and the challenge that Prigozhin has made.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. Max, Christian, I appreciate both of you.
And next, the trench warfare. We have new video of Ukraine's counteroffensive, which is going on amidst all of this, targeting Russians hold up on the trenches in the front line. So, what will an increasingly desperate, and humiliated Putin do next in this war in Ukraine?
And chilling news from Ukraine. The spy chief here in Kyiv claims that Putin has drafted, and approved a plan to blow up the largest nuclear power plants in Europe.
BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live in Ukraine tonight.
The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, slamming military leaders and Russia, yet again, saying his remarks to Moscow revealed, quote, many serious security problems in the country.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) PRIGOZHIN (through translator): We blocked all military units and airfields along the way. In 24 hours, we walk the distance equal to the distance from where the special military operation started to Kyiv where Uzhgorod. If the likes of us had been there on February 24th, 2022, the special military operation would have just lasted a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, it's an incredibly direct slam, right? If they did it like I did it, they would have taken Ukraine in a day.
Well, Russian military leaders are now facing continued direct attack from Prigozhin, after this whole fiasco. So, they are releasing video of defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, making a rare visit to Ukraine.
I want to be clear, they put this video today, but it is unclear when it was actually filmed.
The top Russian general, Valery Gerasimov, who oversees the war, has not been seen in public since Prigozhin troops entered Russia, and advance towards Moscow.
Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT.
WALSH (voice-over): Unprecedented chaos in Moscow has yet to ease Ukraine's bitter fight in the trenches, close combat round Bakhmut, two weeks into the continued grind of the counteroffensive open operations, filmed over the weekend just as Wagner troops rolled towards Moscow.
Here, the red, white and blue of Russians are -- and surrendering. The hope is more will follow as word spreads of a failed rebellion, and morale and discipline falter. It was near here Ukraine proclaimed Monday progress on the front lines, with room for hope elsewhere. To the south, on another Donetsk front near the heavily contested Marinka, it appears some loyal Chechen fighters were pulled to Moscow for its defense at the weekend, here they are stretching along an apparent highway near the capital.
Bakhmut and Marinka, opportunities for Ukraine in the east, but also for the west near Kherson, the Antonivsky Bridge, the scene of intense clashes captured by this Russian drone, as Ukrainian forces claim to cross over to the Russian-controlled eastern bank, opening another front, perhaps.
It is too early to tell whether, or if Russia is crumbling. Ukraine's progress has been incremental still.
This familiar scene when their fighters declared they had captured another small village in the south, Ribnopil (ph) on Monday.
None of this yet, the strategic sea change in Russia collapse, the weekend's madness that Zelenskyy visiting troops in the east Monday as well, will help follows. He faces anxious choices, even with all the Kremlin's intimate ugliness so exposed. Move now, or wait for more in Moscow to unravel. He must be, sure to make sure no mistakes of his own, or interrupt the torrent of them in Moscow.
WALSH (on camera): Now, I mean, Erin, the whole point of Ukraine's counteroffensive has been to keep pushing Russia on multiple fronts. They essentially have to make choices between their priorities, where they put reserves, where they defend, but they're willing to let go of I think what we'll see in the months ahead, or weeks ahead -- is a bid to try to make sure Moscow is pushed into those difficult decisions at a time where it's complete chaos, and its military command clearly by caring amongst themselves, trying to shift blame, and Vladimir Putin the weakest he's been first entire time in power.
BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you again.
And also tonight, drafted and approved, those are the exact words used by the head of Ukraine's military intelligence. Right here in Kyiv, he is saying that Putin has concrete plans in place to attack the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, drafted and approved plans.
The power plant, of course, is the largest nuclear plant at all of Europe. As Ukraine is gaining grounds, Putin is facing this existential crisis to his own power, there are more fierce tonight that he could take action on the plant.
Ben Wedeman is OUTFRONT from eastern Ukraine.
BEN WEDEMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Russia has drafted and approved plans to blow up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. That, according to the head of Ukrainian intelligence spy chief Kyrylo Budanov claimed in an interview with "The New Statesman", that Russia had in mined the cooling ponds at the plant, essential for preventing a nuclear meltdown.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the biggest nuclear power plants in all of Europe, and is now occupied by Russian forces. The plant is in shutdown mode, the only way to keep the fuel cool in the reactor, is by constantly pumping water through its.
Budanov also claimed that Russia had deployed explosive filled trucks outside of four of the plants six reactors. Keep in mind, Ukrainian officials frequently warn of impending disaster at the plant. Now, last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which maintains monitors at the sites stated that it was aware of these reports that the Russians had mined the plant. But they said that none, or no mines were observed during a recent visit by the head of the agency.
Now shortly before Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin's insurrection, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of possible Russian sabotage at the plant, and said that radiation does not stop at state borders, and who it hits is determined only by the direction of the wind -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Ben.
A real concern tonight, and it's a concern shared by the mayor of Kyiv. I'm going to speak with him after this. Why he says that Putin's government is now no longer stable and nuclear fears.
Plus, Putin's spin. You want to hear what the Russian president's biggest allies on state television are saying tonight because they are now all out talking, as I'm speaking about Putin's response to the armed rebellion that has truly rocked the Kremlin.
BURNETT: Welcome back to the special edition about French.
Tonight, taking cover. New video into OUTFRONT showing children here in Kyiv area taking cover from recent missile barrages which have been coming in every couple of nights around this time. These children you see are asleep in a makeshift bed, or bathtub.
And this is what it's like here in the night across this city. Today, I spoke to Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, who spoke before Prigozhin and Putin made their remarks, and I asked him about Ukrainian intelligence, marching into a possible attack on the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia. Of course, it would be a terrible catastrophe for Ukraine and also for the entire world.
Mayor Klitschko was honest. He says they are not prepared. I asked about that and I also started by asking him what he thinks is happening inside Russia as Putin faces the greatest threat ever to his grip on power.
VITALI KLITSCHKO, MAYOR OF KYIV, UKRAINE: Actually, right now the Russian system show so many streaming under the water, political streaming. And the Russian system is not so stable anymore. And more and more people are asking Putin what's the reason of this war and the country going the wrong way, and we feel that, we listened to that.
And that's why Prigozhin told them that they not accept Putin and his decision. I'm not sure, it's one thing, definitely, Russian people asking the government, asking Putin which reason why the world companies left Russia? Why the Russians not anymore welcome around the world? Why aren't they coming back?
And main question, the reason died my husband, my friend, my brother, in Ukraine? Definitely. Definitely there's this question give to Putin.
BURNETT: Do you think that Putin has been weakened by the coup attempt?
KLITSCHKO: Putin, Putin disappeared. Right now, we don't listen to any commentary from here. What he think about the whole consultation. BURNETT: Do you think Prigozhin is back in Ukraine or does no one
KLITSCHKO: I'm not ready to give you information with Prigozhin. Prigozhin is criminal and definitely he takes responsibility in The Hague (ph), international court.
BURNETT: I have just on the scene of a missile strike that happened this weekend in Kyiv, and was talking to someone who woke up with the smoke and debris in the middle of the night. I know that you have had strikes daily, every few days here in Kyiv. Do you expect the strikes to intensify?
KLITSCHKO: Thank you for defensive weapons. Right now, our defense help us very much. And we shoot down almost every missiles, what the Russians sent to our hometown, Kamikaze drone, missiles, and thank you one more time for that.
But we are expecting anything because the Russians are unpredictable. They explain lies what -- special operation, it's not special operation, it's a war. It's a genocide of Ukrainian people because Putin needs Ukraine (INAUDIBLE) Ukrainians.
BURNETT: President Zelenskyy has said that Putin is prepared for a terrorist attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, of course, the largest power plant in all of Europe. That would be a calamity. It'd be a disaster for Europe. It'd be a disaster for Kyiv.
Are you prepared for the possibility of such an attack?
KLITSCHKO: We hope it's not happens, we hope. But we actually make meetings, what we have to do and give the instruction to the people. But, to be honest, to prepare for nuclear war, we are not.
BURNETT: There's nothing?
KLITSCHKO: We are not. And if explosion will be in Zaporizhzhia, radiation, we actually have strategy with Chernobyl and we remember that. That's why all international pressure have to be in Russian and Putin, never do that.
BURNETT: Sobering there.
Well, I also asked Mayor Klitschko what he thinks would happen if Prigozhin were to rise to power in Russia. He described both Prigozhin and Putin as, quote, criminals, saying that if one criminal takes over power from another, it doesn't change much.
That's certainly the feeling here tonight at Kyiv.
Well, next, from a hot dog vendor to a billionaire boss of the Wagner Group, how did Prigozhin become one of the Russian president's most loyal and brutal lieutenants? He was a caterer, so quickly. And despite the suffering and threat of constant attacks, see how
Russia's deadly invasion has failed to break the spirit of those now suffering every few nights missile strikes here in Kyiv.
BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live here in Ukraine tonight.
The Russian spin machine right now on full blast, doing everything they can to spin the narrative on the potential push, state TV praising Putin for standing with military leaders of Prigozhin.
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ANDREY GURULYOV, STATE DUMA MEMBER AND RET. DEPUTY COMMANDER (through translator): Yeah, I'm sincerely grateful to our president for his exceptional strength and wisdom. There are all these screams that someone is being replaced or removed. I can assure you, no one is getting replaced. The president does not respond to ultimatums.
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BURNETT: Nick Robertson is OUTFRONT with the relationship. It's a long and bizarre relationship between Prigozhin, a former hot dog vendor, and his once ally, Vladimir Putin.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): From Putin chef to billionaire powerful boss, Prigozhin's rise to the top enforcer seems over.
Saturday, Putin indirectly branding Prigozhin a traitor, saying he was leading an armed insurrection. The tipping point in escalating tensions, Prigozhin sending battle hardened Wagner mercenary fighters towards Moscow. From an undisclosed location, ostensibly on his way to exile in Belarus, Prigozhin denied he wanted to overthrow Putin.
PRIGOZHIN (through translator): We marched in demonstration of a protest, not to overturn the power in the country.
ROBERTSON: Prigozhin's point, his beef not with Putin directly but with his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, whom he blames for starting an ill-conceived and badly executed war in Ukraine, and wants to strip Prigozhin of his troops.
PRIGOZHIN (through translator): As a result of intrigues, ill- conceived decisions, it was planned that this unit would cease to exist on July 1st, 2023.
ROBERTSON: Wagner PMC grew in the shadows of Russia's 2014 war in Ukraine, following that, got bigger, supporting Russian troops in Syria, precisely when Prigozhin joined forces with Wagner is a well- kept secret. His connections with Putin helped him get catering contracts for the Russian military and Ukraine.
Prigozhin's real value to Putin rocketed in Africa, secretly winning influence in countries, including Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Libya, making big money on gold, diamond, and other deals on the side. It was Prigozhin's private fiefdom shared with Putin, whom he always wanted to impress.
But Wagner and Prigozhin was still in the shadows. The Ukraine war changed that. Prigozhin went public, had victories, potentially pleased Putin by taking ground in Bakhmut.
But then hubris took hold. He began to bite the hand that once fed him, criticized Putin's defense chief, Sergei Shoigu, claiming he was being shorted on ammo and his fighters were dying. His powers reached a pinnacle on Saturday, adoration before the crowds before Putin pushed him into exile in Belarus.
And if there were any doubt how irreversibly the pair have fallen out, Putin again late Monday labeling him a traitor, a measure of how much Prigozhin is now under Putin's skin, he won't even say his name.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Which really begs the question, why won't Putin have the opportunity Saturday to just have Prigozhin arrested? You look back at Putin's actions 20 years ago, 2002, the theater siege in Moscow. There were hundreds of hostages held by Chechen rebels. Putin authorized the action of the security services.
They gassed everyone in the building, 130 hostages died. Putin claims to want to avoid bloodshed. Twenty years ago, he didn't seem to care about it. This is a weaker Putin, not as strong as he once was.
BURNETT: Bottom line. Thank you very much, Nic.
And next, why Russia's brutality even now 16 months into this war has failed to break something crucial here in Ukraine. We'll show you.
BURNETT: And finally, standing strong. So, earlier, we shared with you what Vlad said, a dental hygienist who lives in an apartment building here in Kyiv, that was struck by Russian missiles over the weekend. As I said, missiles are generally striking here now every two or three nights.
That attack killed five people, killing Vlad's apartment with debris and smoke. So, he now joins millions of Ukrainians who have been victims of this war.
Yet, Vlad told me Putin has not, even now, and will not break Ukraine's fighting spirit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PROKOPOVYCH: He heads a country of aggressive for all my life, and I know that our country will win anyway. So, it doesn't -- it depends what happens with us. We just understand that we must live, continue living, and just stay here in Ukraine, not to go anywhere, other place.
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BURNETT: Not to go anywhere else. Vlad and so many of the people that we have met here on this visit and of course that we've talked to over the past 16 months, they all have that incredible, powerful reservoir of strength.
Thanks so much for joining us. It's time now for "AC360."