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Key Details about Russia’s Armed Rebellion Remain Enigmatic a Week Later

by Ryan Lee
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mercenary leader

Did Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary group, receive assistance from Russia’s military and political elite during the recent armed rebellion that shook the nation?

Even after a week since the mutiny posed the most significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in over two decades, critical information regarding the uprising remains undisclosed.

Uncertainty surrounds the fate of Prigozhin, his private military forces known as the Wagner Group, as well as the arrangement they struck with the Kremlin, leaving the future of the Russian defense minister they attempted to remove in question.

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Lastly, the most significant unknown: Can Putin address the vulnerabilities exposed by the events of the past weekend?

WAS PRIGOZHIN AIDED FROM WITHIN?

Many observers argue that Prigozhin could not have seized control of military facilities in Rostov-on-Don, a southern city, and rapidly advanced toward Moscow on June 24 without some level of collaboration with certain members of the military leadership.

Thousands of mercenaries from his private army traversed nearly 1,000 kilometers (approximately 620 miles) across Russia without encountering significant resistance, shooting down at least seven military aircraft and causing the deaths of ten airmen.

Prigozhin claimed that they came within 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) of Moscow when he ordered a retreat following a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. This agreement granted amnesty to Prigozhin and his Wagner Group forces, permitting them to relocate to Belarus.

Some Kremlin observers speculate that senior military officers might have supported Prigozhin’s attempt to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff. Alternatively, they may have chosen to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

“The head of the Wagner mercenary group counted on the support of senior military officers, and given that he came close to reaching Moscow without facing significant resistance, he might not have been entirely mistaken,” wrote analyst Mikhail Komin in a commentary for the Carnegie Endowment.

“It is entirely possible that at the outset of his ‘march for justice,’ Prigozhin believed that he would receive support from numerous officers within the armed forces and that, if his uprising succeeded, certain factions within the ruling elite would join them.”

Russian law enforcement agencies share this belief to some extent. Some military bloggers reported that investigators were examining whether certain officers sided with Prigozhin.

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a senior military official with longstanding ties to Prigozhin, is believed to have been apprehended, according to sources familiar with the matter who cited U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence assessments. It remains unclear whether Surovikin faces any charges or where he is being held.

Russian military bloggers alleged that some border guards were accused of failing to resist the convoy of Wagner forces as it crossed into Russia from Ukraine, and certain pilots may face potential charges for refusing to halt the convoy’s movement toward Moscow.

However, these claims lacked official confirmation and could not be independently verified.

Some attribute the lack of a forceful military response to the mutiny to the chaotic and uncertain situation, as well as the Kremlin’s reluctance to employ force in populated areas.

Mark Galeotti, a London-based expert on Russian security affairs, noted that the government system is “hierarchical and slow,” discouraging initiative.

“In that context, people would simply be unwilling to act without direct orders, either out of fear of being abandoned if they guessed wrong or because they sympathized with Prigozhin to some extent,” he added.

Pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov suggested that some Russian military personnel may have been hesitant to confront Prigozhin initially, but their stance hardened after Wagner forces shot down several military helicopters.

AN AMBIGUOUS AGREEMENT AND UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Another enigma revolves around the terms of the agreement that brought an end to the mutiny. Russia’s main intelligence agency initiated an investigation against Prigozhin for the rebellion, but the case was subsequently dropped as part of the agreement. Putin, Prigozhin, and Lukashenko all described it as a compromise aimed at avoiding bloodshed, yet few details have been disclosed.

The future of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group also remains uncertain. Putin mentioned that the mercenaries who did not participate in the mutiny could sign contracts with the Defense Ministry, retire, or relocate to Belarus, but it is unclear how many will join him and whether they will remain a unified force.

Prigozhin may not feel entirely secure under Lukashenko, who is known for his authoritarian rule and relies on Putin’s political and financial support. The exact whereabouts of the mercenary leader remain unknown. While Lukashenko confirmed that Prigozhin is in Belarus, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to disclose his location.

Lukashenko is expected to maintain strict control over Prigozhin’s troops.

“I suspect that Moscow hopes the commanders will move to Belarus and eventually embark on operations in Africa,” said Michael Kofman, an expert with the Center for Naval Analyses. “Meanwhile, they will attempt to regain control over Wagner’s heavy equipment and figure out how to utilize the rank and file who choose to stay.”

Others believe that the Kremlin will not allow Prigozhin to operate independently abroad, as he did previously. Reports from Syria this week suggested that Wagner troops were instructed to report to the primary Russian military base in the country.

Although Russia terminated its criminal investigation into the mutiny, Putin indicated that authorities would scrutinize Wagner’s activities for any illicit behavior. This could potentially lead to charges of financial crimes.

In a startling revelation, Putin declared that the government had invested billions of dollars into Wagner, contradicting his previous denials of any connection between the state and the mercenary group.

“It turns out that Vladimir Putin actually funded the mutiny with taxpayer money,” wrote analyst Andrei Kolesnikov.

WILL THE DEFENSE MINISTER SURVIVE?

While Prigozhin aimed to remove top military leaders, including the defense minister, some believe that Sergei Shoigu may emerge strengthened.

“Interestingly, the main beneficiary appears to be Shoigu: with Prigozhin and Wagner out of the picture, Putin is now protected against similar mutinies and any further involvement with private military companies,” said analyst Tatiana Stanovaya.

Stanovaya suggested that Shoigu could utilize the situation to eradicate any signs of dissent within the military leadership.

However, Komin of the Carnegie Endowment argued that Prigozhin’s mutiny “exposed the scale of the crisis within the Russian armed forces, disillusioned by constant failures and weary of war, as well as within the military and security elites.”

This could set the stage for additional challenges to authority in the future.

“When senior and mid-ranking officers respond to an armed mutiny with a ‘go slow’ approach, it leaves little doubt that the Wagner boss will not be the last challenger to confront Shoigu and his allies, capitalizing on the unspoken but growing discontent within the Russian armed forces,” Komin added.

Debate also surrounds the future of military contractors in Russia. Vladislav Surkov, a former senior aide to Putin, strongly argued that they pose a significant threat to Russia’s stability, warning that private armies like Wagner could transform the country into a “Eurasian tribal zone.”

CAN PUTIN RECOVER FROM THIS?

Despite the swift resolution of the crisis through the agreement with Prigozhin, which averted a potentially chaotic battle for Moscow, the events exposed striking weaknesses in Putin’s government.

After a hesitant initial response to the mutiny, Putin attempted to restore his image of strength and authority through a series of events. State television emphasized that the quick end to the rebellion bolstered Putin’s position.

He addressed army troops and law enforcement officers in a Kremlin ceremony reminiscent of the grand military traditions of the Russian empire—a rare display from a leader known for his secretive and reserved nature, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an apparent effort to move past the rebellion, Putin focused on topics such as tourism development in Derbent and technological innovations.

However, despite these attempts and the state propaganda’s damage-control efforts, Putin’s vulnerability and weakness have become evident.

“This mutiny was so shocking that it made the regime appear on the verge of collapse, significantly undermining Putin’s ability to maintain control in the eyes of the political class,” noted Stanovaya.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about armed rebellion

What are the key details about the armed rebellion in Russia?

The armed rebellion in Russia raised questions about potential inside help, the fate of mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner private military forces, the deal they struck with the Kremlin, and the future of the Russian defense minister. There are also concerns about whether Putin can address the weaknesses exposed by the events.

Was there collusion between Prigozhin and the military and political elite?

Many observers speculate that Prigozhin may have received assistance from some members of the military brass, as taking over military facilities and advancing towards Moscow without significant resistance would have been unlikely otherwise. The extent of collusion and support from the military and political elite remains unclear.

What is the future of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group?

The future of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group is uncertain. Putin mentioned that mercenaries who did not participate in the mutiny can sign contracts with the Defense Ministry, retire, or move to Belarus. However, the number of mercenaries who will join Prigozhin and whether they will remain a unified force is unknown. Prigozhin’s safety in Belarus and the exact whereabouts of the mercenary leader are also unclear.

Can Putin recover from the weaknesses exposed by the events?

The armed rebellion revealed vulnerabilities within Putin’s government and raised concerns about his ability to maintain control. While Putin attempted to project strength and authority following the mutiny, the crisis significantly undermined his standing among the political class. It remains to be seen how Putin will recover from the aftermath and address the weaknesses exposed by the rebellion.

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4 comments

Sara88 June 30, 2023 - 9:33 pm

Rssia rebellion is a big deal! Prigozhin mayb got help from miltary & politicians. Putin needs to recovr. Uncertainty all around.

Reply
Lena86 June 30, 2023 - 10:06 pm

I heared abt the rebllion in russia, so much unknwn stuff. Did prigozhin collabrate with miltary bigwigs? And what will happen to him and wagner group? Putin’s got a lot of problems now!

Reply
MaxPower July 1, 2023 - 1:46 am

Rssia’s armed rebelion is a mystery, man. Did Prigozhin get help? Whr is he now? Putin gotta fix his weak govt. tough time for him.

Reply
Johnny22 July 1, 2023 - 11:40 am

wow russia rebellion what happnd? y prigozhin got help from insid? putin in troubl? need to fix govrnmnt weakness asap!

Reply

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