Yesterday, June 23, 2023, it was reported that the Russian government has opened up a criminal investigation into Wagner Group Chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Let’s look at some contextual details to better understand what is going on in Russia.
What is the Wagner Group?
- A Russian private military company that works directly for Putin and the Kremlin
- The PMC group have been central to Russia’s military footprint abroad, as the Wagner Group has sent advisors and tactical teams around the globe in hopes of boosting Russia’s position as a power broker abroad
Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?
- Prigozhin is a Russian convict and businessman who rose through the oligarchical elite through the meat processing industry
- He worked his way into Putin’s inner circle by entertaining Putin and guests at his restaurants
- As a “new man” in Russia’s oligarchical class, he was given the control of the Wagner Group and oversees its operations
Wagner Group have been in the headlines a lot in the past several years, but the war in Ukraine brought them into mainstream prominence. The group have been used in Ukraine as Russia’s preeminent assault units.
Controversy over their role on the front lines grew once it became clear Russia was not going to seize Ukraine. That controversy grew into low morale and animosity within the Wagner Group itself. You may remember a few of the highlights regarding Wagner Group’s involvement in the war thus far:
- Accusations of Wagner being sent on suicide missions
- Accusations of conventional forces abandoning Wagner’s flanks
- Rumors that Wagner has suffered more than 30,000 casualties during the war
- Revelation that Wagner has been unable to recruit members, and as drawn from Russia’s prison infrastructure for manpower
- Prigozhin speaking out in a video, accusing Putin and Russian Army Generals of negligence
It is safe to say that the Wagner Group has had a interesting and impactful role in Ukraine, put also in Russian politics. What is interesting is this; before the Ukraine war, Wagner was seen as a mysterious and growing organization made up of elite operators. Why? Because many of those operators were showing up in places like Syria, Venezuela, and even within Africa, to bolster Russia foreign policy goals abroad.
The war in Ukraine did an interesting thing though. It made Prigozhin, a man many thought to be extremely influential in Putin’s inner circle, into another pawn. Wagner had a reputation abroad. There was a element of prestige to what they could do, and what they could offer the Kremlin. It made Prigozhin a man of influence.
But now, with their numbers decimated and their talent pool in the gutter, the Wagner Group are like any other Russian Army unit being sent to the slaughter on the frontlines in Ukraine’s east.
And it is because of all of that we arrive at today’s developments.
It has been reported that Yevgeny Prigozhin has called for open, armed rebellion against Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu.
- What is unclear is whether or not Prigozhin’s call for revolt also applies more broadly (i.e. a coup to oust Putin and his inner circle)
This is not the first time that Prigozhin has voiced his dissatisfaction with Russia’s military leadership, and Shoigu in particular. Prigozhin had previously made videos releasing his controversial statements, and he has done so once again, calling for this revolt.
Wagner mercenary chief calls for armed rebellion against Russian military leadership
The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group appears to be threatening an armed rebellion against Russia's military…
Prigozhin’s newest claim is that Russian forces, under Shoigu’s guidance, intentionally shelled Wagner positions on the front lines.
Moscow has taken the threats seriously enough, as National Guard units have been deployed around government buildings in Moscow. Prigozhin has called this “a march of justice” and not a military coup.
Prigozhin’s tendency to push him and his opinions immediately into the public forum, to me, indicate paranoia and desperation. By directly pushing these messages to social media in video format, Prigozhin can immediately craft narratives. In a way, he must be trying to protect himself. From the Kremlin perspective, this type of power and influence is a threat, and everyone knows it.
Is there a broader coup about to occur in Russia? That is yet to be determined. The most extreme claim on social media is that nearly 30,000 Wagner soldiers are occupying positions in vicinity of Rostov, and are fighting the Russian Army there.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
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As of June 24, there are a few updates to the situation:
- Putin has allegedly tried to enter Kazakhstan, but was turne away
- Putin has gotten on a flight to St. Petersburg, but is likely at a private residence near Tver
- Wagner has seized Rostov and Voronezh, and is approaching Krasnodar and Volgograd — all without resistance
- A Wagner member allegedly tried assassinating Prigozhin, but failed and was executed
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister — and one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs — has fled to Turkey
- Rumors that Martial Law could go in affect in Russia, with violations resulting in jail time
- Moscow is being fortified by military and law enforcement
Follow me for more updates.