Prigozhin stops for selfies on before leaving Rostov following a deal to withdraw his advance on Moscow Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why, for if it prosper, none dare call it treason. - Sir John Harington (1561-1612) There is an exception to every rule. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s behaviour was certainly treasonous, and for a while his treason prospered. But in the end he backed off. The target of his treason is still President, but he has agreed not to press charges against Prigozhin or his men. They are not even under caution. Friday’s shameful criminality soon to be crushed turned into Saturday’s regrettable hot-headedness that might be excused. This great clash between Putin and Prigozhin, on which the future of Russia and so much else depended, ended as an anti-climactic no-score draw, damaging both men.
My understanding is that Prof Freedman is not a scholar of Russia but that’s as interesting and plausible account of the political position in Russia as I’ve read. I doubt that Putin will waste any time moving to kill Prigohzin as soon as he can (though that might prove difficult). He has never struck me as a forgiving man and he doubtless feels the need to discourage future schemers.
I expect Putin would like to surround himself with loyal and well trained troops but where will he find them? It’s a bit late to form out of nothing a modern equivalent of the Pretorian Guard, such as the SS, or a secular Republican Guard. In his rule he has neglected to form a cult of personality around him or even surround himself with Putinistas. His ‘loyal’ followers as a group are selected for the lack of political passion and vision. The silent contract seems to be ‘leave the politics to Putin and he’ll let you grow unspeakably rich’. This produces people who’ll take the first plane out of Moscow rather than die in the ditch for their leader.
As an openly partisan supporter of Ukraine I’m disappointed that the Dogs of Chaos were only unchained for a day or so. But two very nasty men, Putin and Prigohzin are left badly weakened and the political ground in Russia will be uncertain for some time. I can live with that.
“.. there is no point in making an audacious move to catch your opponents by surprise if you have no idea what to do next”. Exactly!
I think we can reasonably expect two outcomes:
1. Prigohzin is toast if he stays on the continent. He might be able to survive in Africa, possibly with a faction of the Wagner group that remains loyal to him... but that's the absolute best he can hope for
2. Putin's regime's days are now numbered. Sure, they were on Feb. 24 2022 as well, but the time line is compressed.
Isn't this just another chapter in the annals of the Law of Delicious Unintended Consequences? At this rate an entire volume will have to be devoted to Putin. Until recently, Prigozhin had only been a vessel of Putin's desires. Someone is needed for election interference overseas? Yevgeny Viktorovich raise his hand, and thus the Internet Research Agency is born. The Kremlin needs cover for foreign influence operations? Prigozhin's Concord Group steps in. They then need a side-order of military thugs? No problem, says Yevgeny Viktorovich, who sets up Wagner commanded by ex-GRU Spesnatz and Hitler fan-boy Colonel Dimitry Utkin (there's a good reason Wagner got it's name; go look it up). It's illegal to be a mercenary in Russia, but, this is a nation where 'nothing is true and everything is possible', so the Kremlin denies that Wagner's mercenaries are mercenaries until the invasion. I bet they now wish they'd enforced that law.
What next for Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan etc etc? Belarus next to topple? Prigozhin may have not demonstrated his strategic skills but he has certainly opened the way for others to follow. It is hard to see how the Russian army can cope with so many threats externally and maintain its position. Is it too much to consider the break up into statelets?
Where are the Russian people through all of this? So far, they seem to be passive. Are they passive or are they the proverbial joker in the pack? Stay tuned.
My perception of this situation, just based on the logic, the circumstances and the way it played out is that contrary to the US media hype now in over-drive, this was mainly a family spat driven by known grievances. I believe Prigozhyn had no intention to overthrow the Putin regime; rather he staged essentially a move akin to a labour strike and a demo to make two points very clear: (1) I'm being hurt by a bunch of clowns in Moscow and I want them removed and replaced, and (2) I have real power, I'm coming to Moscow and I shall park my troops in Red Square until that happens. The problem for him is that Putin was having none of it, so he headed it off by saying so and then invoking Lukashenko to help orchestrate a face-saving de-escalation. First you threaten fire and brimstone, then you offer an exit ramp. I think that was a rational response apprehending more bloodshed and further embarrassment. I expect that henceforth this will trigger a large but silent purge in the upper echelons of the Russian bureaucracy in the manner that "the organs of the State" know so well how to implement. There should be some very frightened people holding their seats and looking over their shoulders right now in Russia. Out of it, Putin will emerge just as well-entrenched as he was before the weekend, but facing a much more difficult path forward to press on with his war in Ukraine. Ukraine, in a macabre sense, probably turns out to be the ultimate benefactor if in fact they have seen the back of the Wagner Group.
and there is always the option of using tactical nuclear weapons to force his wish list.
There are a lot of questions posed here. So Prigozhin's little war, like Putin's bigger war, or any war, never goes according to plan and the results are to come. Prigozhin, though he failed in his march for justice, already we see that he accomplished quite a lot by exposing Putin further and more clearly. Prigozhin also managed to say the Truth about the war. It may be heard.
But Prigozhin was backed into this "betrayal" by Putin himself. A boomerang. He plays a dangerous game with his warlords vying with each other, keeping him in power. Ukraine I hope will take advantage of the reveal of this disarray and keep its push to get Russia completely out. We should be helping more and fearing less in doing so, Mr. Biden. It's's been a game of chicken for years with Putin 's aggressions adding up, the brutality, the nuclear saber rattling.... We, the West, allies, need to help Ukrainians prevail in their country for us, for the world we want,
There were some reports of attacks on the Wagner column heading to Moscow but it appears that may have been more than paid back by downed Russian helicopters. The column appear to have been reasonably well armed with anti-air systems. Apart from that, there appears to have been very little attempt to halt the column. Nominally, the defence of Moscow appears to have been in the hands of the Rosgvardia and conscripts. The former appear to have done little to nothing and the latter may not have faired too well, even against Wagner's limited strength. Then there was the little matter of the headquarters of the entire Russian forces in Ukraine being at risk of a full take over but Prigozhin claimed he did not want to impede the HQ's role in running the war. This raises the prospect of a large area of western Russia being extremely vulnerable to attack, all the way from Rostov near the Sea of Azov to Moscow. The column may have reached Lipetsk just north on the M4 from Voronezh which latter city, some reports say, Wagner took under control. Just to the south-west of Voronezh is Belgorod Oblast in which, as Professor Freedman mentions, anti Putin forces have carried out recent attacks from Ukraine. The Ukrainian forces have to conduct their counteroffensive in the most effective manner they can devise but if this area of Russia is as poorly defended as recent events suggest, might that open up more opportunities for them, perhaps with special forces? The other point I note is that on June 25th the "Angry Patriots Club" held a pre-planned rally in Moscow with the lead speaker being leading ultra-nationalist Igor Girkin. What makes these patriots so angry? The Russian MOD, the Kremlin and, yes, Putin, are apparently amongst their irritants, for the way the war is being conducted. ISW suggests today that if Putin had intended to use Wagner's actions as a pretext for a crackdown on antagonistic ultranationalists this rally would have been a prime candidate on which to make a start. ISW concludes that there is a likely risk of the events of the last few days "expanding the window of acceptable anti Kremlin criticism" and that other nationalists critical of the war effort may start to test the boundaries. Squeaky bum time in the Kremlin.
Lukashenko wasn't negotiating with putin though, he was talking to goddamn Bortnikov. Pynya just bailed around the time Wagner got through Rostov and turned his plane's transponder off close to his residence in Valdai, and nobody could reach him for the rest of the day. That's right, he legitimately turned tail and ran. He's even weaker than you realize, but the powers that be in russia know it perfectly well now.
All the commentary on Prigozhin’s insurrection assumes that this is all real, and seems to ignore the Russian predilection for maskirovka!
Prigozhin looks as if he’s still loyal to Putin himself and his tough and experienced fighters are only 100 miles from Kyiv: threat or not?
It’s clearly time for ‘gloves off’, and I would suggest a couple of Polish divisions to move into the area north of Kyiv in a purely defensive deployment of course
Can Ihor Sikorsky Kyiv or Boryspil Airports take Polish fighter planes?
After couple of days tbought, I've had some ideas that make sense to me. Why did Prigozhin start the mutiny?
Although Prigozhin is clearly the star and public face and boss of Wagner, he could not run the organization without very competent sub-ommanders, many of which have probably been with him long before Ukraine. I'm sure his leadership group was 1,000% against being absorbed into the Russian Army. As a star and wealthy man, Prigozhin could always make himself another future; but his subordinates as unknowns would be at the mercy of the Russian Ministry of Defense (and some of them may not have liked the idea of relocating to a hot desert--Syria/Africa). These subordinates may have initiated (and they certainly enthusiastically backed) the mutiny.
Why did Prigozhin stop the mutiny?
There may actually be some exceptions to Prigozhin's willingness to sacrifice human lives. He is quite willing to execute traitors and accept the death of Russian convicts fighting Ukrainians. But both he and Putin seem to have real qualms about large-scale Russian on Russian violence. At the very least, it's a bad look for both of them and hard to justify to the public. Certainly, pro-war Russian milbloggers would decry it as a gigantic waste of military resources in the midst of the "special military operation."
What do you think about Robert Reich’s (no fool he) theory in his blog today that this could possibly have been a piece of elaborate theatre cooked up by Putin and Prigozhin?
I was wondering whether the Wagner forces would be moving to Belarus with their leader, and the latest word is that they will do so. Presumably that new base under construction will be well away from whatever regular Russian troops are already in place.
However, Wagner's paychest, or at least the petty cash supply, is now in the hands of the Russian government and it will be a long time before that is returned.
I also wonder how long Belarus can tolerate a large, armed, and independent band of fighters who might be in need of paycheques.