SUMMARY – On June 23, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a petty criminal-turned-hot dog vendor-turned-restaurateur-turned mercenary warlord led his mercenary army, the infamous “Wagner Group”, in what he describes as a “March of Justice” against the Russian Defense Ministry, accusing that governmental body of launching deliberate attacks on his troops in order to destroy his army. As of the dawn of June 24, Prigozhin’s forces have captured the major city and vital command and logistics hub of Rostov-On-Don, securing the city center, as well as the main regional military headquarters. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has vowed to crush the Wagner mutiny in a public address on the morning of June 24. These actions have dire implications for the world. This is a developing situation.
The Current Situation – The Wagner PMC has been the core of Russia’s recent battles in Ukraine, acting as elite shock troops in brutal battles throughout the region, particularly in Bakhmut, at the end of May. The mercenary army has been in action around the world, primarily in Africa (in Chad, Libya and Sudan) and the Middle East, earning a reputation for combat effectiveness, corruption and brutality.
Over the last few months, however, the 62-year old Prigozhin has been increasingly seen as unstable, making increasingly angry and bizarre claims that the Russian Ministry of Defence has been deliberately attacking his forces, claims that the Ministry has vehemently denied. It is these attacks that appear to be the linchpin behind the crisis.
The “Long March” Begins – On June 23rd, Wagner troops variously either left their positions to follow Prigozhin in his march to Rostov-On-Don, or turned and fired on regular Russian Army troops. This has completely disrupted Russian operations in Ukraine. Additionally, Western intelligence services have been caught flat-footed, not remotely suspecting Prigozhin’s actions, indicating that Prigozhin may not have been suborned.
As of the morning of June 24th, Wagner forces have been reported in the city of Voronezh, an approximate 6-hour drive from Moscow. In Moscow itself, loyalist troops and armored vehicles have been deployed into the city itself to protect the Kremlin and various areas where the oligarchs supporting the Putin regime live. There are also reports of scattered fighting and other potential mutinies at various bases around Moscow.
The danger, and the reason this action by Prigozhin is so dangerous, is that the vast bulk of Russia’s regular army is physically inside Ukraine at this time, meaning that there are very few forces between Prigozhin and Moscow who are either willing or capable of standing up to Wagner’s battle-hardened troops in any kind of fight.
The Bad…Good and Ugly Being Irrelevant – Information on the situation remains highly fluid and uncertain, but some analysis is possible.
To begin, Prigozhin’s actions are frankly bizarre. “Friendly Fire” incidents happen in war, often frequently. Even in extreme cases, these kinds of incidents are no reason for a mutiny that can only be seen as not simply irrelevant, but highly damaging to an active war effort.
What is currently unknown – and is a decisive factor – is whether or not the flow of supplies through Rostov-On-Don has been disrupted or not.
This leads to three possibilities, none of them good:
- Prigozhin may have been “turned”, or “suborned”, by a foreign intelligence agency to strike out against Putin’s government. It is hard to understand why Prigozhin would agree to do such a thing, as he owes everything good that has happened in his life in the last thirty-odd years to Vladimir Putin, personally. And, while not having any real, professional military training, Prigozhin must certainly understand the impact his actions will have on the Russian war effort against Ukraine. The fact that Ukraine itself does not seem to be taking advantage of this disruption immediately, would tend to indicate that they had no knowledge of Prigozhin’s actions beforehand. This is backed up by anonymous sources within the Western intelligence communities, who have confirmed that no one knew or suspected the mercenary chief’s actions until he struck out on his suicide charge.
- Conversely, swinging into pure speculation-mode, Prigozhin may be tilting at this particular windmill at the direct order of Putin, himself, in an old-school-Hollywood bit of skullduggery, taking a radical action that would allow Putin to declare martial law, and make a clean sweep of the Russian oligarchs (most of whom, like Putin, are former KGB officers) standing in his way from a return to Stalinist-style policies of control, effectively creating a kind of “Soviet Union, 2.0”, with Putin as absolute and unchallenged ruler. In this scenario, Prigozhin could be “tried for treason” and “sentenced to prison”, and then retired to a nice country home in Siberia, far away from cameras and reporters. While certainly requiring some extensive mental gymnastics, this is not outside the realm of possibility.
- Lastly, there is the most frightening possibility: That Prigozhin has actually become unhinged, and truly believes that his actions of the last forty-eight hours are perfectly justified. If this is the case, all bets are off, because Putin has been facing a quietly increasing rise of resistance from the oligarchs he relies on to retain power. This could lead to an all-out Civil War in Russia, a nuclear-armed superpower with a nuclear arsenal comparable to that of the United States, with the potential for unauthorized uses of nuclear weapons. Peripheral to this, is the possibility that, should Ukraine “steal a march” on Russia, and make a sudden spate of critical gains, the Russian military command could panic, and use tactical nuclear weapons to attack Ukraine’s Main Supply Routes (MSR’s) to hold their advance amid the confusion. Such an action would cause a panic in both the European Union and in NATO…and no one knows what will happen after that.
Conclusion – Yevgeny Prigozhin’s actions are unprecedented in the modern day. Nothing like this has been seen on so critical a geopolitical scale since the Russian Revolution of 1917. While pithy remarks about Machiavelli being right on mercenaries might be true, they are also largely irrelevant to the current situation.
By his actions, whatever their rationale might be, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his mercenary army have placed the world in significant danger of all-out war, on a scale never before seen.
The FreedomistMIA is keeping a close watch on this situation at press time, and will update this story for our readers as the situation develops.