Friday 24th June 2023: Prigozhin Tells Russians the truth about the war and then launches what looks like an attempted coup. The result seems to be a weaken Russian military, and a weakened Putin.
But what really happened, and what will happen next?
What just happened?
It is still not entirely clear.
What has been revealed so far is there was attempt said to be a “mutiny” against the Russian government, that was called off because a deal was brokered by the Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko for Prigozhin to be given sanctuary in Belarus in return for abandoning this advance to Moscow. This does not sound like a deal either Putin or Prigozhin would accept, leaving the feeling there has to be more to this story. So far, there are at least two versions to consider.
Version1: Prigozhin only intended to protest and was surprised how far it went.
June 26 (Reuters) – Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday that a one-day mutiny by his Wagner force had been intended not to overthrow Russia’s government but to register a protest over what he said was its ineffectual conduct of the war in Ukraine.Reuters: We didn’t want to overthrow government, Prigozhin says in first comments since mutiny
This protest results in troops taking over two Russian cities and being managing to pass through so many check points that the within reached 200km of Moscow before then turning around even though they had not encountered any significant resistance at that time.
The story reminds me of a stunt by an Australian comedy team with a fake motorcade who were waived through security checkpoints all the way to the hotel where the US president was staying for the APEC conference in 2007 during the Gulf war. They comedians also voluntarily turned around, having expected to have been stopped before things went so far.
But there may be more to the Prigozhin story.
Version 2: A real plot that ended before it began.
Another possibly is that Prigozhin claiming it was only a protest was just part of his backing down after he failed.
Surovikin released a video Friday, just as the rebellion was starting, appealing to Prigozhin to halt the mutiny soon after it began. The video message made it clear he sided with Putin. But the footage raised more questions than answers about Surovikin’s whereabouts and his state of mind – he appeared unshaven and with a halting delivery, as if reading from a script.CNN: After the short-lived insurrection, questions swirl over top Russian commander and Prigozhin
In this version of the story Surovikin was an ally of Prigozhin and VIP member of the Wagner group who had been taken into custody as the start of the “uprising”.
One European intelligence official told CNN there were indications that top Russian security officials had some knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans, and may not have passed on information about them, preferring instead to see how they played out.
“They might have known, and might have not told about it, [or] known about it and decided to help it succeed. There are some hints. There might have been prior knowledge,” the official said.
Documents shared exclusively with CNN suggest that Surovikin was a VIP member of the Wagner private military company.
The documents, obtained by the Russian investigative Dossier Center, showed that Surovikin had a personal registration number with Wagner.
In the documents, “VIP” is written next to Surovikin’s number, and analysts at the Dossier Center say there are at least 30 other senior Russian military and intelligence officials also listed as VIP.CNN: After the short-lived insurrection, questions swirl over top Russian commander and Prigozhin
As of 30th June, Neither Prigozhin nor Surovikin has been seen in public for nearly a week. There are reports that Surovikin has been arrested and has not been in contact with his family since Saturday the 25th of June, although others say “The rumors about the arrest of Surovikin are dispersing the topic of rebellion in order to promote political instability in Russia”.
It is hard to imagine that Prigozhin could have felt he could find any safety by accepting exile in Belarus. Either news of the whereabouts of Prigozhin and Surovikin will emerge, or this plot will go as quiet as the two of them have so far.
But Putin has again been damaged by the information war, and some suggest he may feel the need to show his strength or create a distraction so much that he introduces tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict. One theory is that the use of tactical nuclear weapons would force those senior generals to be preoccupied by the repercussions of the use of nuclear weapons and not by the repercussions of the mutiny against Putin”.
The other impact of events is that the Wagner group, who were regarded as one of the most effective miliary forces for Russia in the war, are now effectively disbanded. Plus, there may be a moral problem in the remaining forces not only from losing part of the war effort, but also from heating Prigozhin speak on the motives for the war.
Putin loses another information war?
From all appearances, the idea of an uprising was extremely popular.
Wagner group fighters were cheered by the public as they withdrew from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don overnight and headed back to their field camps – but their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has not yet appeared in Belarus.Crowds cheer Wagner troops
Video: “Crowds of people cheered in support of Wagner group troops as they left the captured Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday night.“
The lowest estimates are that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russians have been killed in the war with 4x to 6x as many seriously and permanently injured. So around 200,000 with families all devastated by the impact of the war. The show of support for Wagner suggests many may agree with Prigozhin’s comments on the war.
Will the truth having been exposed matter?
“The Ministry of Defense is trying to deceive the public and the president and spin the story that there were insane levels of aggression from the Ukrainian side and that they were going to attack us together with the whole NATO block,” the Russian businessman said. “The special operation was started for a completely different reason.”Prigozhin Says Putin’s Reason for Invading Ukraine Was a Lie
“The war was needed … so that Shoigu could become a marshal … so that he could get a second ‘Hero’ (of Russia) medal. The war wasn’t needed to demilitarise or denazify Ukraine.”Russian mercenary boss says Moscow’s war in Ukraine is based on lies