Wagner Mercenaries in Rebellion

A stupid move by a crackpot? Or a turning point?

AP (“Russian mercenary chief says his forces are rebelling, some left Ukraine and entered city in Russia“):

The owner of the Wagner private military contractor made his most direct challenge to the Kremlin yet, calling for an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia’s defense minister. The security services reacted immediately by calling for the arrest of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In a sign of how seriously the Kremlin was taking the threat, security was heightened in Moscow and in Rostov-on-Don, which is home to the Russian military headquarters for the southern region and also oversees the fighting in Ukraine.

While the outcome of the confrontation was still unclear, it appeared likely to further hinder Moscow’s war effort as Kyiv’s forces were probing Russian defenses in the initial stages of a counteroffensive. The dispute, especially if Prigozhin were to succeed, also could have repercussions for President Vladimir Putin and his ability to maintain a united front.

Prigozhin claimed early Saturday that his forces had crossed into Russia from Ukraine and had reached Rostov, saying they faced no resistance from young conscripts at checkpoints and that his forces “aren’t fighting against children.”

“But we will destroy anyone who stands in our way,” he said in one of a series of angry video and audio recordings posted on social media beginning late Friday. “We are moving forward and will go until the end.”

He claimed that the chief of the General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, scrambled warplanes to strike Wagner’s convoys, which were driving alongside ordinary vehicles. Prigozhin also said his forces shot down a Russian military helicopter that fired on a civilian convoy, but there was no independent confirmation.

And despite Prigozhin’s statements that Wagner convoys had entered Rostov-on-Don, there was no confirmation of that yet on Russian social networks. Video posted online showed armored vehicles, including tanks, stationed on the streets and troops moving into position, but it was unclear whether they were under Wagner or military command. Earlier, heavy trucks were seen blocking highways leading into the city and long convoys of National Guard trucks were seen on a road.

The governor of the Voronezh region, just to the north, told residents that a column of military vehicles was moving along the main highway and advised them to stay off the road.

Prigozhin said Wagner field camps in Ukraine were struck by rockets, helicopter gunships and artillery fire on orders from Gerasimov following a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, at which they decided to destroy Wagner.

The Wagner forces have played a crucial role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, succeeding in taking the city where the bloodiest and longest battles have taken place, Bakhmut. But Prigozhin has increasingly criticized Russia’s military brass, accusing it of incompetence and of starving his troops of weapons and ammunition.

Prigozhin, who said he had 25,000 troops under his command, said his troops would punish Shoigu in an armed rebellion and urged the army not to offer resistance: “This is not a military coup, but a march of justice.”

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee, which is part of the Federal Security Services, or FSB, charged him with calling for an armed rebellion, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The FSB urged Wagner’s contract soldiers to arrest Prigozhin and refuse to follow his “criminal and treacherous orders.” It called his statements a “stab in the back to Russian troops” and said they amounted to fomenting armed conflict.

Retired Naval War College professor Tom Nichols, a Russia hand going back decades, writing late last night, cautioned that “at this moment, almost no one—perhaps not even officials in the Kremlin—knows exactly what is happening” but assesses the situation this way:

Think of this conflict not as a contest between the Russian state and a mercenary group, but a falling out among gangsters, a kind of Mafia war.

A government doing a lot of bad things in the world can make great use of a cadre of hardened and nasty mercenaries, and Prigozhin has been making his bones for years as a tough guy leading other tough guys, ultranationalist patriots who care more about Mother Russia than the supposedly lazy and corrupt bureaucrats in Moscow. The Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, is led by a political survivor named Sergei Shoigu, who has managed to stay in the Kremlin in one capacity or another since 1991. Shoigu never served in the Soviet or Russian military, yet affects the dress and mannerisms of a martinet.

Prigozhin and Shoigu, both personally close to Putin, have good reason to hate each other. Shoigu’s forces have been humiliated in Ukraine, shown up both by the Ukrainians and Prigozhin’s mercenaries (a point Prigozhin hammers home every chance he gets). Prigozhin claims that Shoigu has withheld ammunition and supplies from Wagner, which is probably true; a defense minister is going to take care of his own forces first. The two men have a lot of bad blood between them, and Prigozhin might have been hoping to displace Shoigu or move up somehow in the Moscow power structure. But Shoigu is no rookie, and a Russian Defense Ministry edict was about to go into force requiring all mercenaries to sign up with the Russian military, which would place them under Shoigu’s control.

This order was likely an important part of the conflict we’re seeing now. I do not know why the Russians would hit Wagner’s forces—or whether that is what happened—but the tension between Prigozhin and Shoigu was unsustainable. Prigozhin, however, is a hothead, and this time, he has gone too far, essentially forcing Putin to choose between them. The fact that there is now an arrest warrant out for the Wagner chief means that Putin is siding with his defense minister; meanwhile, the Russian security service, the FSB, called Prigozhin’s actions a “stab in the back” for Russia’s soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

My friend and veteran Russia-watcher Nikolas Gvosdev summed it up to me tonight by saying that Prigozhin might be the better fighter and leader, but Putin is choosing loyalty over competence. As Michael Corleone might say: It’s the smart move.

Indeed. I know less about the situation than Nichols or Gvosdev but my instinct is that mercenaries are not the most loyal of troops. Even if Prigozhin’s men are more highly trained and competent than the Russian army proper—a safe bet in the main—he only has 25,000 of them. And are they really willing to go up against Putin’s vastly larger force and the backing of the Russian state apparatus? That’s not the way I’d bet, at least when push comes to shove.

Nichols continues,

A full-scale civil conflict—for now—seems unlikely, if only because Prigozhin has no institutional base and no major force beyond his fighters, who are a pretty unsavory bunch. He claims that his forces have entered Rostov, but it’s unclear if that’s happened. (If Wagner’s troops gain control of Rostov, they could seize more arms and imperil Russian military supply lines in Ukraine.) Prigozhin is, in any case, making a dangerous appeal to the anger and desolation of the regular Russian military, the men who’ve been taking a beating in Ukraine, asking them to stand aside as he hunts down the defense minister.

He also considers a possibility that I’ve raised many times since the faltering of the initial invasion:

Prigozhin in the past was always careful to avoid criticizing Putin, instead blasting Shoigu and Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov. After a year and a half of disasters in Ukraine, however, a lot of angry officers in Moscow may well agree with Prigozhin and want Shoigu and Gerasimov gone—and might well be holding Putin responsible for not firing them. But Shoigu is Putin’s man, and while that relationship is clearly under a great deal of strain, opposing the minister of defense and threatening the stability of the ruling clique in the Kremlin during wartime are not small things.

Right now, none of this looks organized enough to be a coup. But coups sometimes look ridiculous in the offing—the 1991 coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was a complete clown show—so the possibility remains that Prigozhin has friends in Moscow who are working with him. Military failure has been known to threaten the stability of Russia’s governments in the past, as Russian imperial leaders endured in 1905 and then again, for the last time, in 1917.

Obviously, going back more than a century for examples is fraught. I would certainly bet against a coup, much less a successful one. But the possibility is at least stronger than it has been during Putin’s tenure.

Alas, ever the buzzkill, Nichols reminds us of the elephant in the room:

Instability in a nuclear-armed country is always worrying. For now, although the Kremlin is likely in turmoil, there is no evidence of imminent violence or government crack-up. Russian nuclear control is likely divided among Putin, Shoigu, and Gerasimov, and none of them have vanished or been displaced (as far as we can tell). That’s the good news.

Of more concern is the possibility that Prigozhin’s gambit all along was the leading edge of an effort by hard-right Russian nationalists to push Putin to be even more violent in Ukraine, more confrontational with the West, and perhaps even to provoke a conflict with NATO. So far, tonight’s chaos does not seem to involve the U.S., NATO, or even Ukraine, but a fight among Russian gangsters, in part over whether Russia is being brutal enough in a war of unprovoked aggression, is something to watch.

For now, with Wagner out of the picture—or perhaps even in open revolt against Russian regular forces—the Ukrainians have caught a break. But there are still a lot of bad things that can happen in Moscow in the next few days, or even hours. As the political scientist and Eurasia Group president, Ian Bremmer, noted tonight: “Putin’s never looked weaker than right now, in the Ukraine war, and at home, which is welcome—and extremely dangerous.”

Be careful what you wish for.

Nichols concludes,

The fact that Prigozhin’s threats could make the Kremlin’s teeth clench to the point of issuing alerts and emergency news broadcasts suggests that Prigozhin is not the only angry ultranationalist out there. It’s also possible that none of this is true, that this is not a coup so much as it is a settling of accounts among a group of violent and terrible men. Perhaps Prigozhin is just a hard case who thought he could move to Moscow by stomping on Shoigu’s neck, literally and figuratively, and he overplayed his hand. But no matter how this ends, Prigozhin has shattered Putin’s narrative, torching the war as a needless and even criminal mistake. That’s a problem for Putin that could outlast this rebellion.

Let us hope. But, alas: see above.

FILED UNDER: World Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To repeat myself, Prigozhin is not playing with a full deck. A dead man walking.

  2. Kathy says:


    It’s beginning to look less like a Roman general marshalling his legions for a coup, and more like French troops mutinying in the trenches.

    The former had two possible outcomes: death or the throne. The latter had one: execution.

  3. charontwo says:

    The above analysis seems pretty focused on one person’s views – Tom Nichols.

    He is knowledgeable, but trusting one POV has its risks.

    Phillips O’Brien says this action appears sufficiently well organized to have been planned carefully in advance.

  4. JohnMc says:

    Seems this morning to have been planned by Wagner very carefully. Video was released claiming to show attack on their camp by MOD but several online analysts found it a fake. They then took control of Rostov in 3hrs with no shooting. Set a.column of at least 1000s with tanks on flatbed north and took control of Volones, (spell.alert) with airfield again w/out resistance.

    Several quotes from Rus ‘telegram’ social media say.most of Rus staff hastily called to Kremlin were seriously drunk.

    Wagner claims to have shot down 1 K52 and that other aircraft refuse to attack his column. If other groups w/in Security area refuse to fight Wager, Kremlin in deep shit. Think: GRU, FSB.

    Sitting in Rostov, Wagner in control of all supply to Rus forces in Ukraine. ALL! His hands on their windpipe.

    Very big deal.

  5. charontwo says:

    trusting one POV has its risks

    Which could, BTW, be also said about Adam Silverman at BJ.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    Reposting from the Open Thread:

    Assuming Russia sends in troops, where will they come from? This is completely just me speculating, but if they come from the Moscow side then it will be troops led by someone Putin doesn’t entirely trust, because I can’t see his paranoia allowing him to do anything but build up trusted troop presence around Moscow right now, and making the Ukraine front a dumping ground for those whose loyalties he can’t depend on.

    From the earliest part of the war, it seemed to me that Prigozhin saw himself as the next Russian dictator. If I had to guess, I think Putin finally stopped protecting him at least a month ago, nominally because of the failure of the winter campaign, but in actuality because Putin felt the need to eliminate him as a threat, so he let the other generals use him and his troops as they would. It seems that use has been to draw Ukrainian fire so as to scout out Ukrainian locations, and shelling Prigozhin’s troops from the rear when they attempt to retreat. At this point Prigozhin has nowhere to go and so he is attempting this pathetic coup attempt.

    Totally and completely pulled that out of my *ss.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    Anne Applebaum makes similar points and begins by asking if Putin is facing his Nicholas II moment and if he even realizes it.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    According to the NYTimes live updates (no subscription needed), Prigozhin’s column is now halfway to Moscow and there have been attacks on it with helicopters.

  9. charontwo says:

    Some coverage:

    https://twitter.com/ragipsoylu Turk Journalist

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCNeDWCI0vo Al Jazeera

    (Linkies from BJ comments)

  10. Scott says:

    It is astonishing to me that there are significant independent military forces outside of the Russian government.

    When I heard about the Wagner forces, I also wondered about the Chechen forces.

    Chechen leader offers to help put down Wagner mutiny

    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on Saturday his forces were ready to help put down a mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary.

    Kadyrov in a statement posted on Telegram called Prigozhin’s behaviour “a knife in the back” and called on Russian soldiers not to give in to any “provocations.”

  11. Scott says:

    It is astonishing to me that there are significant independent military forces outside of the Russian government.

    When I heard about the Wagner forces, I also wondered about the Chechen forces.

    Chechen leader offers to help put down Wagner mutiny

    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on Saturday his forces were ready to help put down a mutiny by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to use harsh methods if necessary.

    Kadyrov in a statement posted on Telegram called Prigozhin’s behaviour “a knife in the back” and called on Russian soldiers not to give in to any “provocations.”

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    As some wit asked last night on Twitter, “Between Putin and Prigozhin, who will be the leader of the Republican Party?”

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    In a very Tolstoy moment, the outcome of this will rest on individual Russian soldiers. Will they fight? Or will thy settle back to watch the show? A Russian public that was never prepared for war is now edging toward civil war even less prepared. No one knows how Boris and Ivan and Anatoly will react when their officers order them to open fire on Wagner troops. No one knows, including Boris and Ivan and Anatoly. Oh, the suspense of it all.

    But there’s one question above all others: How can Tucker Carlson blame this on wokeness?

  14. gVOR10 says:

    The only way I could make sense of Bakhmut was that Ukraine was willing to fight a battle of attrition as long as they had a favorable loss ratio, and Putin was willing to accept an unfavorable loss ratio that weakened Prigozhin as a potential rival. Then Putin decreed, or allowed Shoigu to decree, Prigozhin’s troops would be inducted into the official army. This has forced Prigozhin to take his shot, even though it’s long odds.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR10: That makes sense

  16. gVOR10 says:

    LGM is having too much fun with this to not link to them.

    For the last bit I had to look up that there was a dubbed Ukrainian version of Paddington with Zelenskyy doing the voice of Paddington back in his pre-politics days. Between Zelenskyy and Al Franken, maybe the moral is actors and TV personalities bad, comics good.

    Trump offered aid to Ukraine in return for Zelenskyy announcing a fake investigation into the Bidens. Zelenskyy refused. He did the right thing, even though it must have been hard to turn down the prez of the United States. And in the unforeseeable future he now has a solid partner and billions in aid. Good to see virtue rewarded occasionally. (And why isn’t DOJ pursuing an open and shut case on solicitation of a bribe?)

  17. Argon says:

    A crazy idea I had was that this was all a means of giving Putin a way of exiting Ukraine while saving face. Prigozhin is claiming that Putin was told lies about Ukraine and the war by his advisors. So Putin could claim he was being misled, charge the senior advisors with assorted crimes (they will find convenient windows to fall out of), and back out of the war with Prigozhin managing the process as his new, top military commander.

    Regardless, everyone involved will be wondering who will be scapegoated for this fuster cluck…

  18. MarkedMan says:

    Mayor of Lipetsk confirms Prigozhin’s troops are going through his town. That’s almost precisely halfway between Donetsk and Moscow.

  19. becca says:

    There are reports Lukashenko has “fled” Belarus and flown to Türkiye with his family. Apparently Putin urged him to go. WTF?

  20. JohnSF says:

    I suspect that may have been Prigozhin’s pitch to his patron group, and via them to Putin: it was all down to incompetents in the military and FSB.
    But Shoigu’s counter would be: Gerasimov and I may incompetent, but a least you know you can trust us. And we all get to wet our beaks.
    Prigozhin’s a loose cannon, and some of his camp are fanatics.

    Looks like Putin decided Shoigu was the safer bet.
    And Prigozhin had to fear that once MoD had control of his troops, someone might decide “stone dead hath no fellow”.

    Anyhoo: Russian mil-blogger Girkin is reporting Wagner forces now within Moscow oblast.
    Last major obstacle to the spearhead seems to be the Oka River crossing.
    Some indications Wagner teams were pre-positioned on the route to disrupt attempted blocking points from the rear. Also FSB and Guard units failing to engage. Has somebody been suborning key officers?
    Another interesting point: a lot of mobik groups were being shipped south to around Rostov with minimal training. The combat training there appears largely to have been done by Wagner.
    The far-right Rusich militia also seems to have thrown in with Wagner.

    More popcorn.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Tucker will rise to the task. And we’ll know because JKB or some other troll will parrot him–claiming the credit for an original thought, of course.

  22. JohnSF says:

    Was about to say: watch Belarus.
    Been some background hum about this since yesterday evening.
    I suspect Ukraine may be taking a hand in events there.
    Also, Putin’s plane reported leaving Moscow for St Petersburg.

  23. MarkedMan says:


    Phillips O’Brien says this action appears sufficiently well organized to have been planned carefully in advance.

    Earlier I called this a pathetic attempt but it looks like the source you pointed to is closer to the mark. At least some of his troops have reached halfway to Moscow without any significant opposition.

  24. charontwo says:
  25. Andy says:

    I was in the USSR during the coup against Gorbachev. Different circumstances but the vibes are the same here, as are the initial attitudes of regular Russians.

    This is an emergent situation and no one knows what’s going to happen, especially people like Nichols who have publication deadlines to meet and are expected to give expert assessments because of their prominence.

    At this point, I would be wary of anyone making confident predictions and we’ve seen already how many of the things said by experts yesterday were wrong or overtaken by events as if this morning.

  26. charontwo says:

    Another take:


    Prigozhin might appear far better prepared and forward-looking than we expect. He’s not only going all-in against Moscow with some 25,000 of his core force, but he’s also very probably having sleeping cells of supporters in the regular military and retired Wagner mercs across Russia… and also, prisons?

  27. JohnSF says:

    Major point here: Wagner seem to be in control of both Rostov and Voroznezh.
    Rostov is the main depot for the SE Ukraine front, Voronezh a main for the Kharkiv/NE.
    There will have been a LOT of Russian troops in both.
    Indicates either extreme apathy among the army, including the officer corps, or planned subversion of key units.
    Or both, of course.

  28. MarkedMan says:


    I would be wary of anyone making confident predictions

    That’s fair. But the facts on the ground are astounding even without predictions.

  29. charontwo says:



    How this plays out is contingent on decisions yet to be made, battles yet to be fought.

    After 1 day at Gettysburg, did anyone know who would win? Most of the forces had not yet even arrived there.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: Whu! Lipetsk looks more like 2/3 of the way to Moscow. Regular military forces would likely be thin between Rostov and Moscow. It gets more interesting when they get close to Moscow. But to have gone from Rostov to Lipetsk, either they’re just cruising up the highway, unworried about opposition, or these are units they had pre-positioned on the road to Moscow. Which implies a considerable level of planning and preparation.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @charontwo: I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that he has been essentially unopposed to this point. Surely the generals know they are all dead if he wins? If so, it implies they have lost their underlings.

  32. Stormy Dragon says:

    I wonder what the intersection is between the pundits predicting doom for Prigozhin and the pundits who predicted Kyiv would fall in 72 hours

  33. Andy says:


    Most Russian ground forces are on the front lines. The exceptions are some Rosvgardia (National Guard) units and conscripts. Mobilizing and and deploying those takes time and there will likely be questions on how loyal they will be in this situation.

  34. Michael Cain says:


    Surely the generals know they are all dead if he wins? If so, it implies they have lost their underlings.

    It’s always the Colonels that you have to watch out for. Look at the history of military coups.

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Cain: Hah! I served in Ghana in the Peace Corps, then under the control of former Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, who led a coup of junior officers. (A dictator while I was there, he eventually held elections that were considered free and fair. He won two consecutive terms, then peacefully left office and mostly stayed out of politics, acting more or less as an African Senior Statesman, lecturing at Universities such as Oxford and visiting other African countries in a semi-official role. I was much surprised to learn it is thought his death in early 2020 might have been due to COVID)

  36. MarkedMan says:

    According to The Washington Post, this is a video of Russian troops deliberately destroying roads around Moscow in order to prevent Prigozhin’s entry.

  37. Gavin says:

    The incompetence of the “coup” makes me think it’s a planned disinformation op actually intended to root out any UKR sleeper cells within the conquered areas. I guess we’ll see.

  38. JohnSF says:

    Latest LOL’ery: reports of a “peace deal” now making the rounds.
    Let us see.

    Whatever happens, this can’t have done the supply systems for the battle fronts any favours.

  39. JohnSF says:

    Doug Saunders wins the internets for today:

    Of course as realists we must acknowledge that Russia as a great power deserves to have its sphere of influence which is free from foreign interference.
    At the moment, that sphere of influence appears to extend to the Third Ring Road of Moscow. No, wait, the Garden Ring. Wait…

  40. MarkedMan says:

    @JohnSF:What. The. Actual. Fuck. Was. That?

    I guess Prigozhin didn’t have any allies in Moscow after all. Of course, now he’s a dead man.

  41. Gustopher says:

    I would certainly bet against a coup, much less a successful one.

    You don’t march an army on the capital without the intention of taking over.

    Of course, I also think Jan 6th was an attempted coup, and that was mostly an angry mob with a few real reductionists mixed in.

  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    So, Lukashenko negotiated a deal between Putin and Prigozhin? Then I guess Putin’s panicky TV address to his nation was a wee bit unfortunate, eh? Makes it rather hard to dismiss the whole thing as a Western provocation or fake news. And Prig committed the ultimate betrayal by casting doubt on the whole rationale for invading Ukraine. And now Putin’s being rescued by Lukashenko? What are the Russian super-patriot milbloggers to make of all this?

  43. JohnSF says:

    Best wait on events. Wagner got a long way toward Moscow, via areas with large Russian army forces local (Rostov and Voronezh). That indicates a large number of amy officers are not willing to risk anything for the regime.
    Initial reports Lukashenko (!) negotiated a truce; if true, in terms of Russian politics that is just humiliating for Putin.
    And that part of the deal is Shoigu and Gersaimov retire, Prigozhin gets exile in Africa

    If it’s true that Putin decamped to St Petersburg, then signs up to a deal, he’ll be a laughing stock among the siloviki.

    Anyway, best wait on events, and the repercussions.
    What happens at MoD is critical; if Shoigu is forced out.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    BTW, enough with the attempts to portray this all as Putin playing n-dimensional chess. This is not by any stretch of the imagination a clever ploy. There is no version of the dictator game in which it’s a smart move to announce that you are under attack by your own troops, please save me, oh God, I don’t want to have to live out my life in Dubai. Stalin did not need to be saved by an intervention from Erich Honecker. Putin looks weak and weak is not a good look for a thuggish authoritarian.

  45. becca says:

    Prigozhin knows the real conditions on the ground. His tirades against Russian elites set the stage for this. If he is sensing failure in Ukraine, maybe he is simply planning for the future, knowing Putin and the Kremlin will sacrifice him to save their own skins. Who knows where this goes, but, like the saying goes, everybody’s got a plan until someone punches them in the mouth.

  46. JohnSF says:

    Also IF (big if) Putins has made a deal sidelining Shoigu and Gerasimov, are they just going to roll over and play dead. Especially if they have a chance of winding up being dead.
    I don’t think this is all over yet.
    I wonder if Game of Thrones is popular in Russia?

  47. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnSF: Considering that Lukashenko has been nothing more than Putin’s “Mini-Me”, I absolutely refuse to believe that the original suggestion didn’t come from Putin.

    But considering that this all has come off like Putin tripping over the family dog and landing ass over teakettle with split pants in front of the entire Russian populace I can’t believe that this was any great design from behind the curtain, either.

    (Honestly–WTF is going on?!)

  48. Kathy says:


    What. The. Actual. Fuck. Was. That?

    A fizzle?

  49. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Thing is, Lukashenko has always been a bit of a joke to the Moscow elite: “the potato farmer”.
    Now he helps broker a deal while Putin is mostly off-stage?
    Sniggering will abound.

    Yes , the deal will have been approved by Putin.
    But it really does not make him look good; the new tsar bailed out by the bumpkin.

  50. dazedandconfused says:


    War has a special, special way of making some (all, if they hang around long enough) people lose their damn mind. Assuming rational behavior is irrational.

  51. Sleeping Dog says:

    What’s interesting is that the Wagner mercenaries managed to reach the outskirts of Moscow without being seriously engaged. It’s as if the Russian citizenry joined the Ukrainians and sat back with vodka and popcorn to see how this turned out. Whatever happens after this, Putin is an empty suit who will overthrown by someone else.

    On the frontline, you know that Russia isn’t spreading this news, but you know the Ukrainians are, leaving us to wonder about the morale of Russian troops.

  52. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnSF: Now the rumor (snagged from Agenda-Free TV over at YouTube where the guy who runs it seems to be just as WTF as I am) is that a) Prigozhin is moving to Belarus and those of the Wagner group who didn’t participate in the “March on Moscow” are to be subsumed into the Russian military.

    Whoever came up with the above has to be joking.

    Two points: a) anyone think that in a month or so we wouldn’t be seeing The Defenestration of Belarus? and b) what are they planning to do with those of the Wagner group who DID participate in the “March on Moscow”? Just say “you’ve been naughty boys, now go home”? Shove them all off in Siberia?

    All the scuttlebutt does seem to indicate an arrangement with Prigozhin meeping it out of Russia in some manner, but if he vanishes, what’s to keep the Wagner March on Moscow group from just doing whatever they feel necessary to survive? Including going guerrilla inside Russia? It would be better if they decided to get rid of their embarrassing commander while he is with them so they can cart his corpse BACK to Moscow, dump it on the Kremlin floor, and pull a “we wuz betrayed/just following orders”

    If Prigozhin is really thinking of pulling this off he hasn’t read the history of the Thirty Years War very well and what happens to mercenary captains who betray their forces.

  53. grumpy realist says:

    ….here’s The Guardian’s reportage on things.

    So it looks like Prigozhin was intelligent enough to barter for a parole for his March on Moscow people as well but I suspect The Defenestration of Belarus is still on in his future. Prigozhin will be allowed to live in Belarus just as long as it’s more productive to keep him around than to sell him out, I suspect. Putin CAN’T allow Prigozhin to remain alive.

    So….I’ll take “stupid move by a crackpot” for $40, Alex.

    And the Ukrainians must be peeing their pants laughing at this.

  54. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    a) anyone think that in a month or so we wouldn’t be seeing The Defenestration of Belarus?

    That seems to be the fashion against domestic enemies.

    On the other hand, his car may blow up.

  55. Moosebreath says:

    @grumpy realist:

    “but I suspect The Defenestration of Belarus is still on in his future”.

    I see 2 possibilities:

    1. Prigozhin for some reason thinks it won’t happen to him. I can’t see why or how it wouldn’t, but I am not in his shoes.
    2. Prigozhin thinks he can escape from Belarus before he gets defenestrated. More likely to me.

  56. dazedandconfused says:
  57. Andy says:

    This has been a weird event, even by Russian standards. And it’s not over yet, there are very likely more shoes to drop.

  58. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Also requires Russian Army to forgive and forget their helicopters being shot down by Wagner SAM batteries, and that the deal is also supposed to see Shoigu and Gerasimov step down.
    That’s going to be the thing to watch for.

    Mean while in Ukraine, UAF forces have now taken some the “DNR” territory under effective Russian control since 2015.

  59. dazedandconfused says:

    I had heard both Shoigu and Gerasimov were supposed to be in the town of Rostov for a meeting yesterday. This may have been why Prigo occupied the town, but both of them had left by helicopter when news arrived Wagner was headed their way. ahref=”https://twitter.com/vidtranslator/status/1672464280086802432″>This conversation has a comment that seems to indicate Prigo was looking for them but knew he had missed them, so instead he took it out on the general of the forces stationed there.

  60. dazedandconfused says:
  61. dazedandconfused says:
  62. gVOR10 says:

    So Prigozhin settled for some promises to his troops and a bolt hole for himself? Talk about your not with a bang but a whimper.

    Just as well, I was tired of trying to remember if it’s z after h except after o.

  63. dazedandconfused says:
  64. Michael Reynolds says:

    Prigozhin cannot possibly be naive enough to believe any promise Putin makes to him. Does he think he’ll be safe in Belarus? Do they have no upper floor windows in Belarus? When you strike at the Tsar you gotta kill him. This was a lot of trouble to go to just to commit suicide.

  65. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Prigozhin is many things, but naive is not one of them. He will have, or at least thinks he has, an insurance policy.
    What that may be, damifino.
    Perhaps a reshuffle in the power-broker hierarchy in Moscow?
    If Shoigu gets booted, that will signify.
    If not, Priggy best try doing a runner to the Congo.

  66. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    His behavior seemed to change over the course of Bakmut. A battle in which whole companies apparently melted away in a day. He may well have addressed some of them with a pep talk, looked into their eyes, and a day later contemplated the heap of body bags and rows of bloody agony on stretchers which had been them. Heck of a lot of pictures of him with his guys in fatigues.

    A certain indifference to your own life and death can creep in when you are around a lot of guys being maimed and dying…and who are accepting it. He may well have been rendered willing to sacrifice his old ass just to make a point…or at least put it on the line. His believed himself different from the other oligarchs, he was a tough guy out there fighting for the cause, after all. An act? Perhaps. But we all must be careful what we pretend to be.

    This is not to say the point was well-founded. His internal guilt may have manifested as rage. Towards any others, with any rationalizations.

  67. Kathy says:


    I think it was Camille Desmoulins who thought his insurance policy was his friendship with Robespierre, who’d been his schoolmate.

    He was executed.

    The problem is such insurance policies are not guaranteed contracts, and often fail to pay off.

  68. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think that’s a real possibility. Maybe he has a teeny, tiny bit of conscience.

  69. Stormy Dragon says:


    3. Putin was already trying to kill Prigozhin, leaving Prigozhin in a “well, it can’t make things any worse” position. So now he’s in no more danger than before, but at least there’s some breathing room to figure out the next step. And who knows, the horse may learn to sing.