Turmoil in Russia: Prigozhin’s Challenge and the Wagner PMC

It appears that the leader of the Wagner Private Military Company, Prigozhin, had been planning to challenge the Russian military leadership for quite some time. Surprising, isn’t it? And it turns out that the US intelligence was aware of this. Isn’t that something? However, things didn’t go as planned. The exact reasons for this are still not fully understood. But that remains to be seen.

According to the New York Times, the US was uncertain about the outcome of the Wagner militants’ march. Additionally, there were serious concerns in Washington about how this would impact Russia’s control over its nuclear arsenal.

In the United States, like anywhere else, there are numerous conspiracy theories. Yesterday, I had a deliberate discussion about this situation with our politicians and expert political analysts specializing in Europe, individuals who have deeper access to information than the average American.

Here’s the gist of it: Prigozhin’s conflict with Shoigu and the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces had intensified significantly. Whenever a separate paramilitary or military structure gains substantial power (similar to Blackwater in the US, led by Erik Prince), tensions naturally arise between that structure and the government. Consequently, Shoigu decided to strike at Prigozhin. It is rumored that he might have even intended to eliminate him, which led to the attacks on Wagner.

Prigozhin got scared and, in a desperate situation, attempted to personally reach out to Putin in order to put a stop to it all. Unfortunately, he couldn’t reach Putin, and out of panic, he decided to create a crisis to draw the Kremlin’s attention to his plight. It was a last-ditch effort. And it worked; attention was eventually directed towards him.

In the US, it is believed that Putin and Prigozhin somehow came to an agreement afterwards.

The theory that this was an attempt to remove Shoigu in Russia seems illogical. Other theories are simply fabricated. We believe that Prigozhin’s rebellion is a severe blow to President Putin, his administration, and Russia as a whole. Another blow. When someone is directly labeled as a traitor and accused of everything under the sun, only to have it brushed off later, it appears arbitrary, unlawful, and extremely peculiar. This situation reveals the internal dirty politics of Russia, where mice, rats, and cockroaches roam freely.

To the outside world, it may seem like an attack on Moscow could have been easily executed. Wagner was in close proximity. However, many wonder why the Russian army didn’t stop them immediately. They were already on the doorstep of Moscow, on the verge of a war within the city itself. Numerous similar questions remain unanswered. Hopefully, one day, these questions will be addressed.

Regardless, the power in Russia has been significantly shaken. Their reputation was already at rock bottom, but now it’s plummeted further. However, it’s likely that they don’t care, one can assume. Russia already had a dismal reputation globally, and now it’s even worse. I don’t believe that the war in Ukraine will end quickly unless there is a complete collapse in Russia. Unfortunately, more of the same will continue. Though one never knows what may happen and when. Perhaps something unforeseen will arise that can radically change the situation.

In short, it seems that Prigozhin was attempting to save himself. However, sooner or later, the Russians themselves will likely bring about his demise. That’s the perspective held in the US.

I’d like to draw a parallel with the American company Blackwater. This private military contractor was also dismantled by the US government. Its founder, Erik Prince, was humiliated and scorned. He was accused of every possible wrongdoing. Investigations were conducted into his company’s activities and are still ongoing. Erik Prince came from an extremely wealthy family, billionaires. He was a strong-willed individual, driven, and experienced. Eventually, he grew tired, felt slighted by everyone, and vanished from public view.

When someone becomes the head of a military complex like Wagner, tensions with the authorities immediately arise. Competition emerges, and it becomes too evident. In dictatorships, who would permit someone to become excessively influential? Therefore, I believe that Prigozhin is now in grave danger. It’s an illusion to think that he will find safety in Belarus or anywhere else. When he becomes expendable, he will simply be eliminated.

To advance towards Moscow and then retreat, it’s a peculiar move. I think many Russians don’t comprehend it either. If you are a criminal, that’s one thing. But if you are not regarded as a criminal in the eyes of Russians, then why would you leave?

There’s another crucial point I’d like to highlight. Prigozhin, given his influence as a figure close to Putin, as a billionaire with a substantial army, recently publicly stated that the reasons behind the war with Ukraine were concocted by the Russian authorities! According to him, nobody had any intention to attack Russia, and the primary interest was in providing another star for Shoigu and further enriching themselves at the expense of Ukraine’s resources. What rational individuals had already understood for a long time, Prigozhin emphasized publicly. This statement gained significant attention in the US. Today, it’s being discussed at various levels, from ordinary citizens to the highest levels of the US government. And Prigozhin did not retract his words; he did not admit that he was mistaken or wrong.

I believe that with time, we will learn much more intriguing information. However, this is a significant blow that the Kremlin hasn’t experienced in a long while. To my knowledge, nothing quite like this has ever occurred during the current reign of power in Russia.

YURI VANETIK, lawyer, political strategist and member of the Board of Directors of the international human rights agency WEST SUPPORT (USA)

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