Joe Biden has been briefed on the chaotic situation in Russia with US officials describing it as “serious”.
The president was being kept informed as Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was accused by Moscow of launching an armed rebellion.
A White House National Security Council spokesman said: “We are monitoring the situation and will be consulting with allies and partners on these developments.”
A US official told CNN this crisis was “real” but the Pentagon and White House were waiting to see how it developed.
Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, said it was in a “different league” to Prigozhin’s previous complaints against the Russian military hierarchy.
He said: “This might look like a well known Putin tactic where he turns people against each other in his own government, but this is in a different league.
“Most worrisome for the Kremlin is this promise: ‘We’re all going to march’. These 25,000 guys – to Moscow. That sounds very much like a putsch, like a coup.
“That’s certainly why the FSB is involved, and there’s probably a direct link to Putin there.
“He would have been the one who said to the FSB, you’ve got to go in and do something. There’s got to be a lot of worry in the Kremlin tonight.”
A ‘massive blow’ to Russia’s military effort
Former congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served on the House foreign affairs committee, said officials at the Pentagon and White House would be starting to “think through every worst case scenario”.
He told CNN: “Putin out of the picture generally would be great for the world. But you think about the instability for Russia that would inevitably come from that, even if this whole supposed coup fails.
“There will be instability for Russia, which has nuclear weapons. There’s concern about proliferation if the Russian republic falls apart into even more pieces.”
He added: “This is a massive blow to the Russian republic, a massive blow to their military effort [in Ukraine].”
Kyiv was also closely tracking developments.
Its armed forces posted on Twitter: “We are watching.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, one of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top advisers, said “tumultuous times are coming” for Russia.
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