Putin reassures Asian allies of Russia’s stability after mutiny

MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin reassured Asian leaders of Russia’s stability and unity on Tuesday in his first appearance at an international forum since the country was rocked by a brief armed mutiny last month.

“The Russian people are consolidated as never before,” Putin told a virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a group that also includes China and India.

“Russian political circles and the whole of society clearly demonstrated their unity and elevated sense of responsibility for the fate of the Fatherland when they responded as a united front against an attempted armed mutiny.”

Putin’s emphasis on Russia’s unity at a meeting with key allies appeared to show how keen he is to remove any doubts about his own authority on the world stage after the short-lived mutiny led by Wagner mercenary founder Yevgeny Prigozhin late last month.

Wagner fighters took control of a southern city and advanced towards Moscow on June 24, confronting Putin with the gravest challenge to his hold on power since taking over as Russia’s paramount leader on the last day of 1999.

The mutiny was defused in a deal brokered by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Putin has since thanked his army and security services for averting chaos and civil war.

In his speech, Putin thanked members of the SCO who he said had expressed their support for his efforts “to protect the constitutional order, the lives and security of citizens”.

He told them that Russia would stand up against Western pressure, sanctions and “provocations” imposed over what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

He said Moscow planned to boost ties with the SCO and supported the transition to settlements in local currencies in foreign trade.

Russia views countries such as China, India and Iran – the newest member of the SCO – as key partners in confronting the United States and resisting what it portrays as U.S. attempts to dictate the world order.

Putin told the group there was a growing risk of a new global economic and financial crisis fuelled by developed countries’ debts and worsening food and environmental security.

“And all these problems, each of which is complex and diverse in its own way, in their totality lead to a noticeable increase in the potential for conflict,” he said.

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Andrew Osborn and Raju Gopalakrishnan)