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The timing of Wagner’s Russia rebellion is perfect for Ukraine, as counteroffensive stalls

Interesting oped-Is it correct? Incorrect? Somewhere in between? Or totally off the wall? I do find some parts to be non credible, but, still the timing is curious. Using Khodorkovsky as an authoritative voice on Russia is rather pathetic.

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Throughout Yevgeny Prigozhin’s escalating hostilities with Russia’s defence ministry chiefs, as he branded them traitors and called for them to be hanged in Red Square, he had always spared the president.

“Papa,” as the Wagner chief and his men often called Putin, was misled, duped, and betrayed by his most senior functionaries, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigi and Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov.

Deference towards Putin from his former chef served as a final, fragile thread holding the military structure together, preserving the image that the president was still in charge, and the insubordinate militia still served him, even as its leader conducted warfare on his own terms with open contempt for the state.

The final rubicon has now been crossed as Prigozhin informs Putin that he is “deeply mistaken” in his assessment of who has betrayed the nation, and he will be able to make that point in person when his 25,000-strong force arrives in Moscow.

This insurrection now looks like the culmination of a lengthy, well-planned campaign. The Wagner chief has steadily built up his credibility over the course of the war, orchestrating the epic, ultimately successful battle for Bakhmut as the Russian army floundered elsewhere.

Prigozhin abandoned his dinner suits for army fatigues and began filming monologues from the frontlines, where he contrasted the valour of soldiers in trenches with the cowardice and incompetence of bureaucrats behind their desks in Moscow.

The Wagner chief, and other commanders, quickly discovered that their targets did not fight back and no sanction followed. As the invasion faltered and cemeteries filled, Shoigu and Gerasimov became lightning rods for popular anger. The president made no effort to defend them and appeared happy for them to be scapegoats.

Prigozhin continued to build power, lobbying for more tanks, jets, and artillery as he made his militia into Russia’s most feared fighting force. His public profile grew as Wagner merchandise flooded street stalls in Moscow and St Petersburg, and the influential cadre of military bloggers declared him a saviour. Opinion polls showed growing awareness and approval of the Wagner leader.

The rift with the defence ministry widened with a peculiar incident as Wagner took a regular army officer prisoner and filmed a confession that he had ordered troops to fire on them. The officer later said the confession was forced and the mercenaries were stealing tanks from the military. Further reports of firefights between Wagner and the army followed. Putin finally intervened, at the urging of influential military figures, to back his defence minister with a new rule that every private militia must sign terms with the ministry to regularise their status within the military structure. That gambit now appears to have backfired.

“No one will sign any contracts,” Prigozhin said. And now, using a classically Putin-style pretext for aggression, with a thin-looking claim that the army fired rockets at a Wagner base, he has made his move.

How far this revolution rolls is an open question. Prigozhin was swiftly denounced by commanders he once considered allies, such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and General Sergey Surovikin, previously the head of the invasion force.

But lower down the ranks, loyalties may be more divided after tens of thousands of soldiers have died on the battlefields of Ukraine through the decisions of their commanders. Wagner’s smooth progress across the border and into Russian cities suggests so.

Russia’s opposition leaders find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. Their hopes have been invested in an uprising from within to bring down the regime, end the war, and offer hope of a new dawn in Russia. But the arrival of a mercenary warlord with a convict army implicated in years of war crimes is not the salvation they were praying for.
Exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsy has spoken in support of the revolution, although he has the luxury of living some way from it in London. “Anti-war Russians should support Prigozhin in this moment,” he said. “His march is a huge blow to Putin’s legitimacy, and anything that fractures the regime is good.”

The oligarch is correct that even if Putin can stave off this threat, he has never looked weaker than in announcing the effective loss of Russian cities in a panicked emergency broadcast, and other sharks in the water will have smelled blood.

For Ukraine, the timing is ideal as its counteroffensive stalls and questions circle around the depth and duration of Western support. So perfect that as this drama plays out, many will reconsider the alleged contacts between Prigozhin and Ukrainian intelligence services, and wonder again about his agenda.

I’m going to end on this note.. my doubts about Wagner have been with me for a while. Previously, expressing concerns and questions about this mercenary band at my former site. Kaz may recall some of my previous doubts?

Still this episode, what ever it actually is, does serve as a distraction from Ukraine’s failed counter offensive? Is it media hype? Is it the real deal?

Update

Wagner Stops for Coffee?

The Wagner Group – the Yevgeny Prigozhin-led army of mercenaries – made global headlines Saturday morning after it initiated a coup against Vladimir Putin and Russian military leadership. Videos of Wagner soldiers, tanks and armed vehicles rumbling across the Russian border from Ukraine – where it has led Moscow’s war on Ukraine – soon filled the internet, as did one very peculiar clip shared online by an independent military analyst of armed soldiers ordering coffee at a restaurant in Rostov – the city Wagner claims it seized control of today.

Who are these independent military analysts?

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