Stab in the back", or "On to Moscow!" Is there a revolution in Russia or a military mutiny?
Military mutiny in Russia, Prigozhin, Wagner
“A stab in the back of the country and the people” is how Vladimir Putin described the events in Russia, which the whole world has been watching closely since the evening of June 23. Head of the paramilitary group Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin, after a long open conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, moved to action.
Prigozhin accused the Ministry of Defense of bombing and massacring Wagner fighters and began a “march of justice.” On tanks and military equipment, its fighters (a large number of prisoners released to participate in the war in Ukraine) seized all the administrative and military facilities in Rostov-on-Don, including the headquarters of the southern military district located there.
Prigozhin demands a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov and promises to march on Moscow, but at the same time emphasizes his complete loyalty to President Putin. Putin, however, does not seem to be reciprocating.
“You were tricked into committing a serious crime” – Putin on Prigozhin’s rebellion
“I appeal to the citizens of Russia, the personnel of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and special services, the fighters who are fighting in positions.
I appeal to those who, by deceit or threats, were dragged into a difficult adventure, pushed onto the path of a serious crime – armed rebellion, ”Putin said.
What Putin said:
- Russia will protect itself from internal betrayal.
- This is an armed rebellion, a stab in the back, which pushes only to defeat and capitulation.
- A similar situation was in the First World War, when the victory was “stolen” from Russia and a civil war began.
- Any internal turmoil is a deadly threat to statehood.
- The punishment of the rebels will be inevitable and harsh, all the necessary orders have been given.
- Those who betrayed Russia will answer for this.
Officials who had hitherto been silent unanimously began to speak out in support of Putin after his speech
All the leading officials in Russia, former and current, who have either remained silent so far or previously supported Prigozhin’s rhetoric, after Putin’s speech spoke publicly in support of the president.
In Moscow, after Putin’s speech, they began to remove banners advertising contract service in the Wagner PMC
In Rostov the population has also sharply revived, there are a lot of people on the streets, people are speaking out in support of the president. “What have they done to the city! Did you hear what Putin said?” – says a local resident in this video.
However, many Russian and international media, including the BBC, also citing sources in the FSB, report that the Wagner fighters have already taken control of all key facilities in Voronezh as well, and “it is now exactly like in Rostov.”
It is reported that the Russian authorities do not yet have a specific plan to suppress the Wagner rebellion.
How it all started
On the afternoon of June 23, Telegram channels linked to Prigozhin circulated a 30-minute video in which he vehemently criticizes the war in Ukraine. In short, he said:
- “There was no need to start a war at all: NATO was not going to attack Russia”
- “Nothing terrible has happened in Donbas for eight years”
- “Zelensky was ready for negotiations”
- “The Russian military needed the war to distinguish itself, and the oligarchs needed it to enrich themselves at the expense of Ukraine”
- “Everything was done wrong. And all that had to be done was not to lie, not to steal, and take care of the soldiers.”
In the evening, a video appeared on the same Telegram channels, probably filmed in a PMC field camp. Prigozhin accused the Russian Defense Ministry of delivering strikes that led to numerous casualties among the Wagnerites. There are no casualties in the video itself, and analysts say it looks like a fake.
Prigozhin said he intended to stop the evil that the military leadership of the country was carrying, and called on the military and all sympathizers to join him.
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The Russian ministry of defense called the report about the attacks on the camps of the Wagner fighters a provocation, and a criminal case was immediately opened against Prigogine for incitement to rebellion.
At night, Prigozhin announced that Wagner units had entered Rostov-on-Don and completely taken control of it. Until the morning there was a stream of messages from Prigozhin, including that his fighters shot down a helicopter, which, according to him, had opened fire on his convoy.
The governor of the Rostov region asked citizens not to leave their homes.
Presumably, it is the Wagner fighters who now control the buildings of the departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB, the headquarters of the Southern Military District, the administration of Rostov and one of the police departments. Although authoritative military experts still assumed that the soldiers who surrounded the government buildings were actually military personnel of the Russian ministry of defense.
Large army and police forces have been mobilized in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, and military equipment is on the streets even in Moscow. In Moscow blocked the passage to the presidential administration. Checkpoints have been set up on the highway linking Moscow, Voronezh and Rostov-on-Don, and entrances to Rostov have been blocked.
On the morning of June 24, Moscow Mayor Sobyanin said that “anti-terrorist measures aimed at strengthening security measures” are being carried out in Moscow. But what exactly this means is unclear.
After Putin’s speech, Prigozhin is doomed, many experts say
“Putin, after some hesitation, spoke out against the Wagnerites, declaring them traitors. So the option of just changing the balance of power in power in his favor is already excluded for Prigozhin. He will have to go into a head-on collision not only with the generals from the General Staff, but with the entire vertical of power,” says Boris Kagarlitsky, who has been declared a “foreign agent” in Russia.
Thus, the rebellion is politically doomed, no matter how the military situation develops. The winning side may be the security forces associated with Nikolai Patrushev and the FSB. Either they successfully organize the suppression of the rebellion, or at the last moment they come to an agreement with the rebels, and, having much greater political resources, will push Prigozhin aside, not allowing him to take real control levers.
But regardless of how Prigozhin’s fate turns out, we are now witnessing the collapse of the Putin regime.
It will be replaced by the Russian version of the military junta, which, however, will still have to face the accumulated problems of the country and begin to change something. The question of peace and social transformations is objectively overdue.”
What is ‘Wagner’ and where did it come from
This is a private military company that was created about ten years ago in the interests of the Russian authorities. PMC is a private military company, and “Wagner” appeared in the name because of the first commander, former intelligence officer Dmitry Utkin with the call sign “Wagner”.
Many media wrote that PMC fighters participated in the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and in the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine. Later, Russia also used mercenaries in military conflicts in Syria and African countries.
Prigozhin against Russian defense minister Shoigu
Yevgeny Prigozhin is a businessman, founder of the Wagner PMC and the “factory of pro-Kremlin trolls.”
Prior to the creation of the PMC, Prigozhin organized receptions for senior officials for a long time. For example, when in 2002 Vladimir Putin received former US President George W. Bush.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Prigozhin has been known primarily for the fact that his mercenaries, largely released prisoners, are fighting in Ukraine.
Prigozhin actively interacts with the media, and likes to be photographed against the backdrop of hundreds of dead bodies.
The conflict between Prigozhin and the ministry of defense has been dragging on for almost a year. He criticizes the command of the Russian army for inefficiency and inability to fight and constantly insults both the Minister of Defense and all his employees with obscene words.
Prigozhin stated that they are constantly trying to “belittle” the merits of his fighters, that they do not give him the right amount of ammunition and that they are trying to destroy his military company.