The Wagner rebellion left Putin weakened to continue his war in Ukraine

The founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, speaks inside the headquarters of the military command center of the South Russian army, in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia. (“Concord”/Handout via REUTERS) (Handout ./)

The damage is already done. The Wagner rebellion may be over, but its aftershocks will continue as they do every time an earthquake strikes. Yevgeny Prigozhin and his mercenaries wagner group they gave up their attempt to reach Moscow to take revenge against the defense minister, Sergey Shoiguand the head of the army, Valery Gerasimov, for having boycotted them on the Ukrainian front. But With their rebellion they left Vladimir Putin weakened to continue his invasion of Ukraine and blunted his all-encompassing power of the last 23 years.. The mutiny of the mercenaries seems to have been deposed, for now, without major consequences. Although the war in Ukraine will no longer be what it was until two days ago. The beginning of the end of the invasion has already begun.

After leading a 50,000-strong military convoy from eastern Ukraine to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don (1.1 million inhabitants), seize the headquarters of the Southern Command of the Russian army in that city and order thousands of his men to continue the advance along the M4 highway towards Moscow, Prigozhin announced that he had reached an agreement and that he was returning to the group’s bases in Ukraine and eastern Russia.. Then it was learned that he would go “into exile” in belarus. In half there were armed clashes in Voronezhalso a city of more than a million inhabitants halfway between Rostov and Moscow, where apparently the Wagners shot down a military transport plane and three army helicopters. From the Kremlin it was announced that no reprisals would be taken against the mutineers. In the middle there was a call from the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenkoa close ally of Putin, who attended Prigozhin and in which the details of the armistice would have been agreed.

It is not credible that everything was so simple. There were other negotiations. In a country where people fall from windows or are poisoned by much less, it is hardly credible that such a challenge of power would have been taken so lightly and that the episode ends in this way. Details will appear in the coming days. In Ukraine, some are convinced that it was a grand move to hide what is really going on on the war front and in palace fights within the elite that surrounds Putin in the Kremlin.

People took photos with the Wagner mercenaries and encouraged them to continue while they were stationed at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.  (Reuters/Stringer)
People took photos with the Wagner mercenaries and encouraged them to continue while they were stationed at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. (REUTERS/Stringer) (Stringer ./)

Putin kept his friend for years Prigozhin like a watchdog who would let go of the rope every time a supposed enemy approached. He used it, in particular, to keep his Defense Minister and other senior military commanders in check. To give him greater power, he lHe allowed (or ordered) him to build a small army of mercenaries to do what regular soldiers couldn’t in Syria, several African countries and in the last year in Ukraine. But the “great strategist” of the Kremlin failed to see that the beast he had created could one day show its teeth. And this is what happened, there came a time when Prigozhin no longer had enough videos denouncing Shoigu and other generals for not providing him with the necessary ammunition for the assault on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut or that army helicopters were firing on their own forces. He launched himself with all the fury towards the enemy that his master had previously pointed out to him..

Until just a few hours after the riot, everyone who knew the characters and the power structures in Moscow assured that Prigozhin never spoke for himself, but always said what his boss wanted him to say. “I have no doubt that all of Prigozhin’s activities are coordinated with the man from above (by Putin). The things he is allowed to say – all those statements directed at the top of the Defense Ministry and at Russian elites in general – indicate not that he is playing by his own rules but, on the contrary, everything is coordinated. In our country, those kinds of antics are resolved very quickly if they don’t have the approval of number one”, he told the independent Russian publication a few hours before the rebellion. jellyfish a former intelligence officer who knows Putin from when they both served as agents of the KGB in East Berlin.

Evidently something happened on the way. The simplest explanation is that could not withstand the provocations of the military clique and like a bison launched to counterattack. There are elements to support this vision. Prigozhin is not an intellectual who can coldly analyze his actions. He is about a man who spent a good part of his life in some of the harshest prisons in the former Soviet Union and who he was part of the Saint Petersburg mafia. In 2000 she met Putin who was then the deputy mayor of the city. Prigozhin, who until a few months earlier sold sausages from a street stall, had opened several restaurants and relied on Putin’s office for clearance. That’s how they met and did mutual favors. When Putin arrived at the Kremlin, he handed over all the official restaurant concessions to his friend. Hence his nickname “Putin’s chef”.

Wagner Group mercenaries walking and drinking coffee in one of the streets of the taken Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.  (Reuters/Stringer)
Wagner Group mercenaries walking and drinking coffee in one of the streets of the taken Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. (REUTERS/Stringer) (STRINGER/)

With Russia’s intervention in Syria, Putin needed a parallel military force to do the “dirty work” that the soldiers of his army could not do. And there was, once again, Prigozhin to assemble the Wagner Group, commandos of mercenaries ready for anything. The paramilitaries were consolidating and from Syria they began to provide services in Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic and wherever a Russian interest needed protection. The Wagners became very rich guarding the diamond mines that the companies of the Russian oligarchs exploit in various African countries. Until the invasion of Ukraine came and Putin once again needed a parallel force that could carry out the actions that the regular army could not. He ended up putting together a veritable army of more than 50,000 combatants who committed all possible atrocities.

The Wagners held the front line in the region around the hotly contested Ukrainian town of Bakhmut when the Russian regular forces had been overwhelmed. They did this by recruiting convicts from Russian prisons whose sentences were commuted in exchange for fighting in the Ukraine. The discipline in the ranks of the mercenaries was also prison. Two parallel units came out into combat, the first went to the front, the second fired at anyone who wanted to go back. There are innumerable proofs of the barbarism of these people that Prigozhin had in command, from torture chambers to “clubs” where they held dozens of Ukrainian women captive.

With this “success” Prigozhin “enlarged”. And she began to speak. She took Putin’s endorsement to whip up Moscow’s military commandos and began exploding on other issues explosively. He seemed to be the only Russian who could say what all the others had to keep quiet.. He frequently referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war, rather than the legally mandated term “special military operation.” He regularly insulted Army generals and accused them of being inept. He said that the war was a failure. He even spoke positively of the imprisoned opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, and his ability to expose corruption in the Russian government. And even he raised the possibility that the Russian people would rise up against the country’s elites and hang their leaders.

Prigozhin negotiating with Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov at the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces in Rostov-on-Don.  (Video obtained by REUTERS)
Prigozhin negotiating with Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov at the headquarters of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces in Rostov-on-Don. (Video obtained by REUTERS) (Social Media /)

Until Friday, when for some reason he decided to go off with the commanders who are in the barracks and the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. He said it was because they they had ordered an attack against one of the Wagner headquarters in the Ukraine, killing dozens of their mercenaries. She even showed a wooded area with several uniformed bodies in a video she posted on social media. He ordered his fighters to pack up and headed with a huge convoy for Russian territory.

Now we will have to wait for the reactions to what happened. Last night he said in the CNN, Nina Khrushchovathe granddaughter of the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, that people in Moscow were comparing the situation to what happened in 1991 when hardline KGB agents attempted a coup. At that moment, the attempt was thwarted in a few hours and without major consequences, but a few months later the Soviet Union was dissolved. It is possible that behind Prigozhin’s bravado there were powerful elements of the FSB, the secret services, and that all this could have been a rehearsal, a test for things to come.

From now on, Putin will also move his pieces. This time, the beast he created raged away from him, dealing serious damage to him. He will have it very at bay under the tutelage of his friend Lukashenko in Belarus. He will try to recover from the hard blow as soon as possible with his usual methods: a purge that includes greater restrictions on individual liberties, jail and death. But last night’s images from Rostov-on-Don with people in the streets cheering for the Wagners, do not seem to be very rosy for their imperial dreams. Neither does the news that comes from the front and talks about Russian defenses in Zaporizhzhia are falling.

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