Wagner is a private military organization funded by the Russian government. Since its recent uprising, it continues to stay in the news cycle.
Wagner is composed of mercenaries and convicts and has been described as a de facto private army of Vladimir Putin's ally, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a hardened Soviet criminal who became known as "Putin's Chef." In the past, Prigozhin spent 13 years in Soviet gulag-style hard labor prison.
Wagner was first identified in 2014, when it started backing pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. It is thought to have helped Russia annex Crimea in the same year. Wagner forces have also been active in multiple regions in Africa and the Middle East.
However, Wagner's numbers have grown considerably. When announcing his "march for justice" on Moscow, Prigozhin said that he commanded 25,000 troops. Although mercenary forces are technically illegal in Russia, Wagner registered as a company in 2022, sporting bold corporate signage on its building in Saint Petersburg. The U.S. said it designated the group a "transnational criminal organization" in January 2023.
After the Wagner rebellion terminated, the Russian Defense Ministry stated it will claim the group's heavy weapons and military hardware, encouraging the mercenary units to self-integrate into the Russian military. The move follows public condemnation of the Russian military and the Ukraine war, and revolt orchestrated by Prigozhin, who marched on Moscow with an estimated 5,000 fighters, but stopped 200 km (about 124 miles) short of the capital.
Multiple theories of what happened are emerging. Ukrainian political strategist Yuri Podorozhny argues that the most obvious version is that Prigozhin is the spokesman for the part of the army that is dissatisfied with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Accordingly, his uprising is an attempt to convey to Putin there is a disgruntled segment in the military. This theory is augmented by FSB securing the upper hand in the Moscow power hierarchy.
Based on my sources in Europe, Ukraine, and Russia, I suspect that initially the Wagner uprising was coordinated with Putin to assess loyalties and serve as a predicate to reshuffle influence and organizational structure in the military apparatus. Regardless of either scenario, Prigozhin first made videos criticizing the military leadership and Russia's war propaganda. In an older video he admitted even contemplating a move on Moscow.
The third theory is that Prigozhin raised an uprising for survival. Ostensibly, Gen. Shoigu gave the order to have Prigozhin killed, and Prigozhin staged a campaign against Moscow. However, it seems peculiar that 25,000 Wagnerians moved toward Moscow unhindered or that Shoigu would do anything without Putin's blessing.
Russian military seemingly disengaged at the most critical time. Only the Ministry of Defense, which lost 12 pilots, joined the confrontation. The possible explanation, other than the incompetence and disarray of the military, is that various segments of Russian forces are loyal to Prigozhin. It is also peculiar that despite the media assault on Prigozhin and his exile, he moves around freely in Russia and Belarus — for now.
The appearance of brutish Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko as the one who allegedly managed to stop this uprising is disingenuous. Because if Prigozhin really dared to threaten Putin and hypothetically could seize power, then there should be one solution to the failed coup — the elimination of Prigozhin at any cost, rather than mediation by a puppet troglodyte.
Most likely, the transfer of the Wagner troops will continue to be financed from the Russian budget. Prigozhin will face the task of preparing the Belarusian Front.
Institute for the Study of War believes that the Wagner rebellion is not over and will have both short-term and long-term consequences that could benefit Ukraine. Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov predicts future riots in Russia, and the controversial Russian blogger Igor Girkin-Strelkov worries that the Belarusian base of the Wagnerians is now closer to Moscow than their former field camps were.
There will be an attempt to either eliminate Putin or speed up the transition of power, Director of the Center for Research on Civil Society Problems Vitaly Kulik explains. This is not a resolved conflict, but a deferred one. Prigozhin himself will not necessarily take part in it.
A repeat attempt to redistribute power, seize it or speed up transit cannot be avoided, argues Kulik. According to the expert, there was a momentary mobilization of elites around Putin because it was profitable and seemed safe. Since Putin showed weakness, there will be attempt number two, three ... the expert predicts.
Putin, who did not come up with true countermeasures, did not dare to immediately destroy Prigozhin, and so expedited his own inexorable fate.
As author Joseph Conrad said in "The Heart of Darkness": "Exterminate all the brutes."
Yuri Vanetik is a private investor, lawyer and political strategist based in California. Read Yuri Vanetik's Reports — More Here.
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