Fog of Prigozhin: His Bizarre and Surely Doomed Military Revolt

It’s very hard to make sense of what Yevgeny Prigozhin thought he was accomplishing with his increasingly erratic behavior, particularly his attacks against senior members of the Russian military like defense chief Sergey Shoigu, where he’s gone from having an arguable basis for his complaints (it did look bad for Russia to pull out of Kharkiv and Kherson even though it was doctrinally sound and preserved Russian lives and materiel) to publishing complete fabrications to try to undermine leaders who controlled most of his resources.

What is even more bizarre is that Putin tolerated this public attack on the bona fides of the regular forces, for what has now been shown to be too long.

To give a very brief and hopefully not oversimplified recap of immediate events, Prigozhin accused the Russian regular forces of killing a lot of Wagner troops. He provided some film that didn’t even amount to evidence in terms of what it showed and even that was quickly dissected on social media as an obvious fake, as recapped even on Russian TV.

Prigozhin then announced his forces (at most 25,000, recall with limited supplies and materiel) were marching on Rostov, which is not only where a military base is located but also a center for conducting Ukraine combat operations. Prigozhin claimed to have taken control. The Western media is dignifying those statements but Twitter is casting a lot of doubt:

The multi-author Rybar blog also raised doubts as to what actually was afoot:

In other words, when you look at what Prigozhin has done, which so far has a high bluster-to-action ratio, it looks like weird form of hostage-taking, perhaps over-relying on the idea that because of his stature and having some men around him, Russian forces won’t engage with him because it will make the bad optics worse and probably kill some people, potentially including civilians.

However, recall also the West has been talking ad nauseam about an uprising versus Putin. So whether by action or design, Prigozhin’s move will serve as a trigger for Ukraine sleeper cells in Russia to swing into action. And again, Rybar suggested the Russian security forces had been put on alert for that type of operation BEFORE the Prigozhin gambit:

So even if the Russian officialdom told themselves Prigozhin could be contained, the rousing of Ukrainian opponents in Russia might be another matter. Even with Prigozhin going rogue, the Western media seemed a bit surprised as to how Russia swung into high alert mode. And Prigozhin was quickly targeted for arrest and almost certain prosecution. Putin also quickly described the uprising as treasonous. The translation of this video sadly is halting:

This gives the essence:

Or even shorter:

Now even if this rebellion is as weak as the tweets above suggest, it still makes for great bad press in the rest of the world, undermining Russia’s efforts to win friends and influence countries.

To keep this post from getting overlong relative to the high dynamism of current events, please see Simplicius the Thinker who catalogues in detail how Prigozhin’s recent rants about betrayal and battlefield failures are utter fabrications. Prigozhin has been so visibly overstating and more recently just making up “failures; that some Russia experts like Mark Sleboda were convinced that this was a big psyops to make Ukraine and the Collective West think Russia was weaker and more divided than it is so as to encourage them to continue to do stupid things like doggedly hold on to positions and even attack Russian lines. And that might even have been the earlier plan but then Prigozhin got the bit in his teeth.

Keep in mind that per Prigozhin, what he is attempting to do narrowly is not a coup. He’s not trying to overthrow Putin (or arguably not at this juncture). He is trying to get major changes in Russian military leadership to among other things advance his position and prevent Wagner from being integrated into the regular Russian force. The deadline for signing new contracts is July 1 and Prigozhin has refused to go along. But as far as Putin is concerned, destabilizing the military during a war might as well be a coup since it jeopardizes Russia, not just him.

And one has to wonder about his conduct in light of this RT story from last month, on the rumors circulating that Prigozhin was in contact with the Ukraine secret service, which were never really denied. Key section from Here are the Zelensky ‘treason’ quotes the Washington Post deleted:

WaPo: The documents indicate that GUR, your intelligence directorate, has back-channel contact with Evgeny Prigozhin that you were aware of, including meeting with Evgeny Prigozhin and GUR officers. Is that true?

Zelensky: This is a matter of [military] intelligence. Do you want me to be convicted of state treason? And so, it’s very interesting, if someone is saying that you have documents, or if someone from our government is speaking about the activities of our intelligence, I would also like to ask you a question: With which sources from Ukraine do you have contact? Who is talking about the activities of our intelligence? Because this is the most severe felony in our country. Which Ukrainians are you talking to?

WaPo: I talked to officials in government, but these documents are not from Ukraine, they are from…

Zelensky: It doesn’t matter where the documents are from. The question is with which Ukrainian official did you talk?…

WaPo: And I can read you what information exactly there is about Prigozhin and the GUR. On February 13, Kirill Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, informed you about a Russian plan to destabilize Moldova with two former Wagner associates. Budanov informed you that he viewed the Russian scheme as a way to incriminate Prigozhin because “we have dealings” with him. You instructed Budanov to inform Moldovan President Maia Sandu, and Budanov told you that the GUR had informed Prigozhin that he would be labeled a traitor who has been working with Ukraine. The document also says that Budanov expected the Russians to use details of Prigozhin’s secret talks with the GUR and meetings with GUR officers in Africa…

Yours truly is not able to unpack this. Reading the entire section, it appears Zelensky was upset that the Post had this information and didn’t try denying its accuracy, and the Post patter made it seem likely these were among the 300 Discord leak documents the Post said it saw, curiously of which not all that many got beyond the Post. However, one might surmise that Prigozhin was trying to be a double agent and it had become way too public.

Again one wonders why Putin waited too long to act. Perhaps he and the military leadership viewed Prigozhin as a self-limiting problem, dependent on Russian logistics and so not capable of much independent action. But not much is far from “not any”. And they did nothing to check his outbursts or try to limit his reach. Maybe they thought his open warfare with and denigration of the regularly military (which BTW is very well paid, hence the continuing high number of enlistments) would unify them. That might be accurate, but if Prigozhin had not been authorized to engage in a monster psy-op, which he decided to repurpose late in them, how could they not see he was becoming wildly unhinged?

Even though Russia had the Chechens and the Donbass militias take the brunt of clearing Mariupol, so they are not the only forces Russia has for close quarters operations, it appears Wagner had a contract for Bakhmut (their lock on that gig was weird) and then that became the focus of Operation Meat Grinder. Prigozhin despite giving lip service to Surovkin, who I have read was the mastermind, was unhappy with the grinding and the resulting high cost to his men and had wanted to move faster. This may account for his regular lashing out at the leadership.

So it was impractical to displace Prigozhin during the Bakhmut operation. Putin may have delegated the leashing and collaring of Prigozhin to senior military and intel officers who overestimated their ability to contain him. Perhaps we’ll find out how this cockup happened. But per above, there will be a press tendency to depict the actions of Ukraine sleeper cells, which were already underway, to Russians. It will also be hard to pick that apart.

The fresh updates indicate that some of what is happening is more psychological than real. From the latest Rybar update:

But there are also reports of private jets departing Moscow and some more serious looking action:

Nevertheless, Simplicius the Thinker’s warning of last night still seems largely operative:

The thing is, despite the actual criminal proceedings being set in motion and various Russian regions going on heightened alert, as of this writing there is no proof at all that Prigozhin is actually marching any “column” of Wagner troops to Rostov or anywhere else. One would think the claimed 50km long column would be visible and documented from a variety of sources at this point.

Ultimately Prigozhin can’t go any distance. But a crazy guy in a mall with a machine gun and a belt of ammo can do a lot of local damage and create considerable trauma before he is subdued.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Paradan

    So a MANPAD misses a helicopter and hits a nearby fuel depot. Russia has crappy luck.

    1. ChrisHafferty

      Ukraine and the UK MI6 set up cells in Moscow over insurrection cells in Moscow over the few months, many were preemptively taken out over the Thursday and Friday. This an attempt by Ukraine and its’ Western sponsors to attempt another Maidan Revolution coup this time in Russia. A major disinformation campaign is underway try to make chaos among the public that the the Putin regime is weak.
      This Western plan has been constructed for over many months.
      Putin has not left Moscow and the military, political class and Russian people support him. Wagner has about 5,000 troops in Russia, this will end badly and soon for them.

    1. Kengferno

      Kinda makes you wonder if maybe some of that western aid money going to Ukraine was funneled to Progozhin? I mean, mercenaries and (lots of) money do tend to attract one another. Sure, the troops may be killed or thrown back in jail, tough luck for them. But Progozhin probably has an escape plan and offshore bank accounts so he’ll be ok. Isn’t that what was implied by the WaPo/Zekensky interview? That someone in Ukraine intelligence was using back channels to chat with Progozhin? And then this ends up happening? Nothing like funding a coup to loosen up those defensive lines

      1. Richard

        Smells to me like not quite an autogolpe, but the same idea, as if Russian security let something develop beyond words to smoke out plotters.

        Hugo Chavez did something like that in his early years as President of Venezuela, around 2000.

        Of course I’m a half-world away, and not in any inner circle.

        We’ll see.

        1. MSH

          For me this makes the most sense. Instead of allowing ukranian/western attempt a social media driven coup in russia and flood misinformation everywhere, the russian gov preempts this, using the opportunity to arrest and eliminate any threats while flooding media with their own controled misinformation. After this, any social media driven coup attempt by ukraine/Nato is even less likely to work. Again, pure armchair speculation :)

          1. E.J.

            I think the comments in this conversation are on to something … there is something more here than meets the eye. Just a for example wild conjecture … The CIA/State Dept bribed Progozhin (maybe $1 Billion) to stage a regime change (the CIA/State Depts favorite program). After all, he is a mercenary. He had to put up an act until securing the $1 Billion somewhere but has no intentions of any “coup”. This guy has to be more wily than the CIA and Ukraine secret service even if he is also unhinged.

        2. Sausage Factory

          indeed, Prigozhin has been given enough rope to hang himself thus no need to remove him at the ire of his loyal men or confusion of the telegram loving pro wagnerites. The only question now is how many peole will die before Prigozhin does.

        3. Vandemonian

          From half a world away, and late to the party, it looks like maskirovka. Left this comment on Craig Murrays’s blog:
          Yes, definitely maskirovka.

          Don’t focus on the immediate actions (theatre) watch the longer term outcomes.

          Ukraine seems to have used these events as a prompt to start actions along the line of contact – sucked in.
          Many Russians whose loyalty to the nation was not strong have come out in support of the ‘revolt’ – traitors exposed.
          Looks like Wagner troops who stayed out of the revolt will be inducted into the Russian armed forces – loyalty test.
          Prighozhin (maybe with part of the Wagner complement) is relocating to Belarus, Kadyrov and the Chechens and other Russian forces have moved west – positioning for the next phase.
          Pro-Western media outlets and likely CIA assets have expressed their support for Prighozhin – fifth columnists rooted out.

          And that’s just a start, in less than 24 hours. Keep watching the outcomes. Nothing in Russia is ever as it seems – remember the matryoshka dolls – layer after layer of hidden secrets.

    1. Current CEO

      I really wish NC had a voting mechanism so that I could register my kudos for making me laugh this morning :)

  2. Anon

    The government and its personalities may have viewed Bakhmut as an opportunity to get their money’s worth, and sober Wagner’s margins (ambitions) in the process.

  3. alfia

    It shows that unfortunately not all is well with the Russian defence force. Fat cats at Russian MOD were lining their pockets for years and continued to do so during the special operation. I am not defending Prigozhin, however more Russian MOD fat cats need to go in order for the Russian defence force machinery to operate more efficiently and cope with the pressures of war…

    1. ambrit

      We can take these events in Russia as a template for what we need to do here. Change “MoD fat cats” to “DoD grifters” and we have a business model.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “Business model,” seems an inapt phrase to apply to an attempt to subjugate supranational corporations to serve some kind of “national interest.” As if that phrase has a prayer of bringing about some kneecapping of the greed-driven MICIMATT and the many other centripetal forces in play in these “United States…”

        1. ambrit

          I’ll contend that “business model” makes perfect sense in a system of Neoliberal Oligarchs. Get one group of like minded “investors” to contend with other groups for control over the ‘Board of Governors of America LLC.’ As such, these events can be described as “business activities.”
          The similarity of “fat cats” with “grifters” depends on the situation, admittedly.

  4. Old Sovietologist

    In political terms, the rebellion hasn’t gathered much momentum. None of the public figures, politicians, officials, security officials have supported Prigozhin inside Russia. Indeed most of them condemned the rebellion and supported Putin. Among the population, judging by the videos from Rostov, the rebels also do not enjoy much support.

    However, in purely military terms, the rebellion is developing. Columns of rebels were seen in the Voronezh and Lipetsk regions.

    The main problem for Putin is where to find enough forces in the rear to cope with, wht is a, a full-fledged well armed rebellious army. Apparently, now the Russian military-political leadership is trying to quickly solve this problem. They report about the movement of the Chechens to Rostov, as well as about military preparations in the Moscow region.

    The further development of events depends, firstly, on Putin’s ability to concentrate enough forces in a short time to keep the rebels out of Moscow and block them in their current locations. Secondly, on how loyal the power structures and army units will remain with the President, third you would expect the Armed Forces of Ukraine will soon try to take advantage of the rebellion in the Russian Federation to step up their offensive.

    1. lambert strether

      > you would expect the Armed Forces of Ukraine will soon try to take advantage of the rebellion in the Russian Federation to step up their offensive.

      The timing sure is odd. I guess Vilnius is all set now, even if Ukraine’s counter-offensive fizzled our?

      1. Willow

        Yes all very odd with Vilnius meeting just around the corner.. Prigozhin‘s antics increase likelihood Poland/Baltic (& UK) will do something really stupid.

        1. paddlingwithoutboats

          A couple of thoughts from Vancouver Island, where there is a naval base. Since Oct before the Special Op in Uki, there have been all day long helicopter “patrols” along the shoreline. Sonetimes they have what I’ve come to think of as surveillance equip hanging down, or mounted on top.

          There was a wildly equiped naval cruiser (?) also swinging its radar all too frequently, and gave me the heebbie jeebies.

          Two days ago up the peninsula, where the main south island airport is, I drove up for an appointment and was creeped out to see a pair of fighter jets in formation, they looked old though (a vintage for giving, perhaps). I’ve never seen that before.

          We have marched a little further than the neighbours south, US, in surveillance and such: there are now sufficient license plate readers that we no longer purchase annual license plate tags, rather-we-are-known.

          Lastly, within only a few months of covid first knocking, federal legislation was passed repressing protest which was described at the time as the “most protest repressive legislation outside of Saudi Arabia”.

      2. Willow

        Wagner being redeployed to Belarus as part of the negotiated outcomes.. getting ready for the next phase and the taking of Kyiv.. Dnipro front is likely too well mined to move forward.

    2. Sausage Factory

      He has no support amongst the military, no one has ‘joined’ the mutiny, he has no political backing other than from the west and the Ukrainians, of course that is anathema to the Russian people. Wagner have been social media PR stars but in reality just very good shock troops prepared to pay a price for their reputaion, they are not well liked amongst rank and file soldiers in the Russian army (perhaps a little jealousy even) He has nowhere to go, no one to support him, it is an embarassment of sorts but my gut feeling having watched this develop over the last 6 months is that Prigozhin has been given enough rope to hang himself thus preventing the need for his removal which could have caused something worse from his men or his ‘crowd’ on social media. It’s clear from Russian telegram channels and chat groups he has zero support other than the miniscule but noisey group of people that think Putin is soft and should have nuked Ukraine a year ago. Only question now is when and where is the denoument and how many people will die in it.

    3. Ignacio

      Latest news: Prigozhin has ordered the return of the Wagners (to Rostov or around i guess) that, it is said, were headed to Moscow. All thanks to the mediation of the president of Belorussia. It is all looking increasingly theatrical.

  5. Stephen

    “Keep in mind that per Prigozhin, what he is attempting to do narrowly is not a coup. He’s not trying to overthrow Putin (or arguably not at this juncture).” I agree 100%, although as you imply these things can get out of hand. Quickly. Unleashing forces that nobody involved foresaw or wanted.

    I saw a video of a Russian civilian man with his bike in Rostov arguing strongly with the armed Wagners. They just took it. Another picture showed a street cleaner clearing the roads around Wagner vehicles. Does have a certain air of unreality about it although I think your comment that you cannot unpack it is the wisest position to take at this stage. Almost an infinite number of options are available for what and who is really driving this.

    I do not yet 100% discount a psy-op to lure Ukraine but this now feels far too elaborate and risky for that. So that has to be a super slim probability. The idea that Prigozhin’s antics started out that way and the actor broke the fourth wall in the process might be more plausible. Some symmetry then with Zelensky, the actor as leader of his country.

    Interestingly too, I have not seen any comparisons yet to January 6!

    1. Anon

      I have not seen any comparisons yet to January 6!

      Because the comedians are still asleep.

    2. Lex

      The random civilians going about Saturday morning errands and the street sweepers just doing their jobs in the middle of an intra-military coup is perhaps the most Russian thing about all this.

    3. hk

      Funny. Jan 6 was THE first thing that came to my mind, except the official authorities apparently handling things better.

      The actual actions had way too much theatricality to be serious: I mean, P himself walking in and talking kinda calmly to the two generals at military headquarters? Passers by and street cleaner acting nonchalantly around armed troops? But it makes no sense for the Russian government have actually “staged” it, especially at this juncture, given all the cost to diplomatic credibility and such? This just makes no sense whatsoever. I suppose the only thing is to wait and see….

  6. Steve H.

    > over-relying on the idea that because of his stature

    Translation from the video of the meeting:

    > P: Who are you to address me by “Ty” (informal “you”)?

    From Shakespeare’s Words:

    > It was usual for you to be used by inferiors to superiors – such as children to parents, or servants to masters; and thou would be used in return… Upper classes used you to each other as a rule, even when they were closely related.

    > Accordingly, changing from thou to you or you to thou in a conversation always conveys a contrast in meaning – a change of attitude or an altered relationship. The potential role of thou as an insult, for example, is made clear by Sir Toby Belch, who advises Andrew Aguecheek to demean his enemy by calling him thou a few times

    Syntactical swordsmanship in riposte. Deadly discussions on diminutives.

    We mustn’t underestimate the folly of pride in all this. Does Prigozhin think of this as a negotiation tactic on a Clausewitz scale? Surovikin’s extraordinary expressiveness in his response, while holding a machine gun to his leg, suggests

    Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end:
    Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend.

    1. begob

      From the trial of Walter Raleigh, as the attorney general accused him of treason: “I thou thee, thou traitor!”

      Another point of similarity is that Raleigh, a devoted enemy of the Spanish, was accused of taking a massive bribe from their king.

    2. Will

      That’s quite interesting. Thanks for sharing. Is there any reason English lost formal pronouns? Still many other language markers to signify hierarchy so it seems odd to me that we’ve lost this one.

      1. Aaron

        It seems that it fell out of use (in and around London, largely, and then expanding from there) in the 17th century. On a brief scan the most visible linguistic consensus is that the invocation of superior/inferior relationships implied by usage of “thee/thou” became harder to navigate with a rising middle class, and the safer of the two options (you) became prevalent as a result.

        1. Steve H.

          My voice teacher Jack Jones made the claim that the transition to Received English was driven by the need for clarity in a time of heads chopped off for misunderstandings.

          Best be cautious.

      2. Kouros

        “Formal”? From what Steve H described, “you” is the formal pronoun, and was democratized. Thou is the insulting form. It seems in the Anglo-Saxon world just money and power counts now only.

        Other languages/cultures have layers of formality built in them and still very active.

        1. ArvidMartensen

          “Thou” and “thee” were used as a matter of course by working people in parts of England as the default pronouns.
          I know this because my coal miner grandfather, after moving to Australia, was advised by a middle class English relative visiting him in his new home to “drop the thees and thous”. This was 100 years ago.
          I am surmising that these pronouns were seen as a mark of lowly status In England, and his relative told him that he should leave all that baggage behind in the new country.

      3. barefoot charley

        It fell away from a distaste for smug Quakers, who thee/thou-ed everyone equally, as God presumably did. Lest anyone suspect one was a Quaker (who were often obnoxious applecart-upsetters), all and sundry opted for You universally, leaving Quakers with their archaic lingo.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Pulling back from Russia and looking to see what effects this mutiny may have elsewhere could be interesting. The professional Ukrainian military may be wary and see this as a trap to have the Ukraine commit its main reserve to an all-out attack on the Russian lines while confusion reigns. Admiral Ackbar confirms this thesis. On the other hand, the neo-Nazi leadership in Kiev and it’s NATO handlers would see this as a fantastic opportunity. That sending the main Ukrainian reserve will bring final victory as the Russian lines break, the Russians themselves flee in panic, and the Ukrainian military advances to the Crimea cutting the Russian western front off. Now is the time to act!

    But the real action will be NATO itslef which is due to meet in Lithuania in about two and a half weeks. Already one guy on the news tonight was saying that this may lead to an all out civil war causing the break-up of Russia. And that because of Russia’s nukes, that it will be necessary to send in troops to secure them i.e. NATO troops. Yeah, this is just one nut-job but you just know that this is what some of those NATO nations will be thinking. At last, the golden prize is within reach. Now is the time to send every single piece of military gear, long range missiles to hit Russia, F-16s taking off from Romania, just everything to make it happen. As Big H said just before Operation Barbarossa ‘We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down.’

    1. Willow

      With Prigozhin, Putin is creating an illusion of weakness which the hardcore Russia hating nutters won’t be able to help themselves in trying to exploit. If France is worried about Vilnius, Macron will likely step attempts for a face to face with Putin. Has been trying to attend BRICS meeting but no success.

    2. Sausage Factory

      ah the west taunts itself with wet dreams again. There is simply no support for Prigozhin amongst the people nor the military and certainly no political support inside Russia. His large ego and big mouth have put the rope around his neck, now he can only choose the place of hanging. Mutiny is just that, not a coup, just a mutiny. He has been living on borrowed time for a while and I think he got wind of his own demise hence yesterdays show, he did the only thing he knows how to do and created a stink with accusations, false information and lies. It risks becoming a farce but not a coup. He has besmirched Wagners reputation and ended his empire. At the front the war continues and if last nights bombing raids are anything to go by this will have little or no effect on what is happening there. It wouldn’t be Russia without some internal strife would it!

    3. digi_owl

      Maybe one nut job, but a nut that seem to be echoing US state department plans.

      Wasn’t it mentioned months ago that they had already drawn up maps for how to partition Russia, kinda like how UK and France divided the Ottoman empire between them? and humanity is still struggling with the result of that folly.

      Basically Wall Street wants a return to the 90s, but with Putin strung up and Russia broken into a million pieces so that nobody can again rise up against them.

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            Well, if there was ever one they’d like to delete, it’d be “Yanks To The Rescue.”

  8. SocalJimObjects

    To me, it’s just so surreal watching how war plays out in the age of social media. You have all these big names and even regular soldiers shooting videos left and right, as if they are staging a performance. In the future, when the US goes to war again, every company, every battalion, every brigade will have its own Twitter and Youtube channel, and an associated GoFundMe page, and just like in the Hunger Games, you can send funds to your favorite soldiers and generals, and heck perhaps you can send an RPG or two using drones to your favorite soldiers.

    As to what Prigozhin has been thinking, sounds like he just wanted to be named Field Marshall of the Russian Army, but if this is not an act, he’ll probably “join” his Wagner guys in the front line for the next Bakhmut, this time as a combatant.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      SocalJimObjects: I agree with your first paragraph. It seems like the rot produced by social media. Just as Ukraine’s government thinks that the war is going to be won by clever memes, so Prigozhin is fighting a private, confidential battle in public.

      The history of Russia is a history of putting down rebellions, some of which were quite bloody. He doesn’t have the troops to accomplishing anything, and he doesn’t have a strategy.

      But the whole war, particularly the US NATO component, seems to consist of an absent strategy supported by clownish yet gratuitously stupid tactics.

      1. Bsn

        I think you’re both right. Soon we will have videos kicked out on social media about something very extreme that will incite extreme responses that can’t be rescinded before the posts are shown as fakes. I imagine American phones and screens awash with films of Russian nuclear missiles being launched, Putin running into a bunker (etc.) and the US “responding” in kind …… if anyone’s left to confirm it was a series of faked videos I’d be surprised. Scary times brought on by our love of shiny new technology.

    2. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

      A GoPro on every helmet – they’ve got the attachment points, after all.

      Then squad/platoon/company/battalion/brigade/division/corps/army level editing departments to pull stories together and get ’em up on various social media platforms.

      Oooooh….and copyright issues….gonna need a LOT more JAG officers….

  9. Samuel Conner

    I’ve no idea what these events mean, but in recent days as the U attempts to break through the “gray zone” have failed (and tactics have been adjusted to try to limit equipment losses), I’ve wondered whether the Rs might plan to intentionally let an attack — on an axis for which the U forces have a substantial mobile exploitation force readied — through in hope that a large multi-brigade force would follow and then find itself stalled at the first major line of defenses. A classic “Eastern Front” battle of encirclement and annihilation, a ‘mini-Kursk’ turned into a ‘mini-Stalingrad’, would ensue.

    My understanding of R practice is that “deception” is a big part of preparation for operations. Western media seem gullible and easily manipulated. These events appear perfectly aligned with Western imaginations about how to defeat Russia. George Smiley would be suspicious.

    1. Skip Intro

      I am also on the skeptical side. I have viewed Prigozhin’s antics as circus aimed primarily at the west, and our media’s focus on personality over policy. I suspect this is a feigned opportunity, that will bring more rear-echelon AFU materiel out of hiding and into artillery range, and possibly activate sleeper cells inside Russia as well.

  10. Louis Fyne

    As I generally roll my ideas at hypotheses of 4-D chess to explaim events, I seriously wonder if Prigozhin started taking amphetemines/stimulants during the war to keep his energy up and developed an addiction, leading us here.

    And/or his ego + promises of lots of CIA-MI6 money.

    1. Benny Profane

      And, as an old roommate always said, when somebody in public life went off the deep end, f******g cocaine.

    2. Sibiriak

      “Prigozhin …amphetemines … his ego + promises of lots of CIA-MI6 money.”

      That may actually be a pretty accurate summary.

      One critical fact to consider: Prigozhin’s diatribes have gone way beyond attacks just on the Russian military leadership’s corruption and ineptness, not providing enough ammunition etc.—he has attacked the entire SMO, top to bottom. He’s claimed that:

      Ukraine had not been shelling the Donbass for 8 years.

      Since 2014 the Donbass republics have been run by corrupt leaders who, together with Russian military leaders, oligarchs and the FSB, have siphoned off huge amounts of money.

      In the weeks before February 24th, there was no particular escalation of Ukrainian attacks or threats.

      Ukraine and NATO were never going to invade anywhere.

      Zelensky wanted to negotiate, but Russia refused.

      The official justifications for the SMO are all false.

      The Russian government and military leadership are full of traitors (Putin excluded—he is never attacked directly.)

      The Russian MOD has been lying about Russian causalities—they are ten times what the people are being led to believe.

      The Ukrainian military is now much stronger, not weaker, as a result of the SMO.

      All those attacks look very much like Neocon/Ukrainian talking points designed to appeal to a wide spectrum of opposition groups, from liberal anti-war to nationalist ultra-patriotic, with the aim of fomenting regime change.

      And, btw, they are actually very similar to the stuff Navalny’s group has been putting out since the beginning of the war.

      1. Polar Socialist

        The weirdest part is that he managed to get at least several hundred of his mercenaries to join his mad crusade. They should be clever enough to realize there’s no scenario where this ends well for them.

        Unless they surrender unconditionally in the next few hours.

        1. JonnyJames

          Yeah, it is weird. One can only guess that the power of relatively large amounts of cash has over people overrides reason. Greed is irrational..

        2. Piotr Berman

          Not weird at all. To give a small example, I had some experience with hitch hiking in CA in 1982, and some the people giving rides were quite colorful. E.g. I learned that it is possible for a dexterous person to drive with a can of of beer in one hand and rolling a joint with the other. A daring personality.

          And among people who volunteer for bloody battles, months of urban warfare, the percentage of daring personalities is bound to be higher. Add PTSD.

    3. David in Friday Harbor

      Count me in on the methamphetamine crack-up theory.

      The latest photo posts of Prigozhin and his half-wit convict “fighters” look like posters for the developmental effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome — widespread during the Soviet collapse.

      Both sides in this fratricidal civil war appear to have been sending their “undesirables” into the meat-grinder. The Wagners finally got the memo that they’re considered expendable by the military leadership. I’m surprised that there haven’t been more mutinies all around, but the FSB seems to keep their side sufficiently terrorized.

      What a mess — with tactical nukes on standby!

      1. Ignacio

        Mix that with the trauma of war. A powerful mix that can push for the most idiotic actions.

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        Yes, and it’s almost enough to make political leaders question the wisdom of creating semi-autonomous private armies…

    4. Arkady Bogdanov

      I’ve gotten to thinking about this- Imagine if the Ukrainian offensive had been more successful, and they broke through the Russian lines, and were headed toward Melitopol. Now imagine Prigozhin’s actions through that lens. Things then make a lot more sense. Prigozhin was waging an information war prior to the start of this, even including saying that the Ukrainian offensive was taking territory.
      Supposedly he came under investigation recently.
      It also seems clear that these events had some planning behind them.
      Not much of a leap to then consider that a connection to the west might have been in existence, and that this was coordinated to time with the offensive. Shoigu/Gerasimov would indeed be seen as incompetent by the populace if the Ukrainian offensive had some legs- things fit much more neatly.
      If the FSB or GRU got wind of such a plan and were investigating it, that would explain why Prigozhin felt the need to pull the trigger regardless of the status of the offensive.
      This is all speculative, but man it makes more sense from a standpoint of a possibility of succeeding under those circumstances associated with a more successful offensive.
      I dunno- this is all really weird and I am just trying to make sense of it.

  11. Irrational

    It’s very odd that this occurs right as NATO’s Air Defender exercise is ending – or maybe I should make that “convenient”.

    1. Steve H.

      Yeah, DefCon Day. About the only thing I can be sure of is amygdalas-a-firin’ in the Kremlin.

  12. Benny Profane

    One can say that mercenaries, like sanctions, don’t work, but, they did a hell of a job on Bahkmut, saving the lives of many regular Russian soldiers. Oh well, should have quit when he was on top. Now we’ll see him ranting and raving inside one of those glass defendant boxes at his trial.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Doctorow has no news on the ground and is reacting to the security response, which as Rybar stressed, started BEFORE Prigozhin went into revolt mode, apparently due to chatter about Ukraine sleeper cells going into action. Doctorow is good on his local report and media watch, but the military stuff is not his strength. He’s overreacted on that front before. But it does suggest citizens are so blindsided that they are flipping out too.

      1. Willow

        Question is why Ukrainian/Western sleeper cells activating now just before Vilnius meeting.. suggests something big is in play & not solely restricted to Ukraine.

    1. ambrit

      A quibble. Properly speaking in Neo-lib Speak, “R2P” stands for “Right to Predate.” The UN, considering it’s recent advocacy of a Transnational Panopticon, is the perfect place to Beta test this policy.
      Stay safe. Think only “Goodthought.” The World depends on You! [Brought to you by the Trilateral Commission and it’s Partners in Progress.]
      A Mini-report on the Excrementalism of Google. I tried to double check my spelling of the word “brought.” I typed that word in the search line. Two plus pages of links to items about the game Diablo 4 came up, no kidding. the search was hijacked by a forcing algorithm. Yikes, stripes!

      1. Ignacio

        Urrrrsula von der Leyen is “consulting the G7”. Imporrrrrtant! Were they the R2P developers?

      1. digi_owl

        Note that Putin invoked 1917 in his speech. That is the year when first the Tsar abdicated in February, and then the Bolsheviks took power in October.

        the latter leading to the Russian civil war, where UK, Japan, USA and France sent expeditionary forces.

        I’m sure Nuland et al is salivating at the thought of pulling a Syria, so that if nothing else USA can park some USMCs on the biggest oil wells.

        1. JonnyJames

          Yes I saw that on RT. The “Allied Intervention” (invasion forces 1918-1922) was a failure, of course. But these folks (the cowardly Neocons and American Exceptionalists) still believe in the “End of History”. They live in an ivory tower of self-delusion.

        2. Bruno

          In this little diatribe, Putin has defined himself as a worthy successor to Nicholas II. It seemed it was “intrigues” by the likes of the villianous bolsheviks Lenin and Trotsky and everybody’s favorite scapegoat Rasputin (the only figure in that entire regime who realized the idiotic folly of the war) that deprived the Empire of “victory” in the stupid and criminal imperialist war. Without using precisely those words he portayed his regime as one of Absolutism-Autocracy-Patriotism. He and Zelensky are indeed worthy of one another.

          1. JonnyJames

            Yeah, I’m sure glad that the US and UK are democracies and respect the rule of law. How’s old Tony Blair doing ? I hear Julian Assange not doing so well, despite being treated like a King at HMP Belmarsh. I think that bit about SCOTUS judges taking bribes is Russian Propaganda.

    2. ChrisFromGA

      Be careful what you wish for. The flip side of that is a bunch of smoldering NATO bases with casualties in the thousands and sunken aircraft carriers, with “rogue elements of the Russian military” blamed for plausible deniability.

      If you’re being sarcastic, I hope, then never mind.

  13. britzklieg

    Here’s a lively and “live” discussion featuring Brian Berletic and also Carl Zha (in Moscow). He has stated that despite the optics running rampant on western msm there is little chance that Russia and Putin are in any danger of being deposed. This panel does not buy it…

  14. Stephen

    Ordinary Russians seem to be on the streets of Rostov to show support for the government, and the coup / rebellion / protest seems not to have found support elsewhere.

    In the short run, this will hurt Russia. As the article rightfully states.

    But the ultimate impact of this rebellion being faced down with popular support may well be that the Russian government is strengthened and achieves even greater legitimacy. The government also seems to be acting proportionately and sensibly. That will also win kudos from objective observers.

    Obviously, the west will have a media field day but they do that anyway. Either from real news or made up news.

  15. TomW

    “Now even if this rebellion is as weak as the tweets above suggest, it still makes for great bad press in the rest of the world, undermining Russia’s efforts to win friends and influence countries.”

    Russia decisively lost the info war in the Western press before the war even started. Optics of this in the West are irrelevant to Russia. And the rest of the world…lets just consider India as representative…want to take advantage of this a an opportunity.

    What the neocons say they want (splitting up Russia) … is highly destabilizing to everyone in the area. Russia … the country or the myth … is the only rationale for NATO. Without a common enemy, the 30 NATO countries have nothing unifying them. And the real rationale for NATO was to prevent security competition between European countries…or the repeat of WW 2 following WW 1. Without NATO and the EU, more European conflict would have proven inevitable. And Russia has proven essential to the US led European project.. OK…maybe too obvious, but people forget. The biggest threat to European peace has always been Europe.

    Meanwhile, I’m happy to read speculation regarding the details of this bizarre incident. But don’t need to know the details immediately. Western media is also unsure about everything other than anything bad for Putin is good. But it is obvious to me that a neutral Ukraine prior to 2014 was more than good enough…and that the detail of any likely settlement of this war will also be good enough. Has the border between Virginia and West Virginia ever mattered to anyone in the last 100 years?

    The blob is already promoting China as the next “biggest thing ever”. And the US is in no position to actually involve itself militarily. There is no reason not to simply treat China as economic competition, without hectoring it to the extent of military engagement. The US national security lobbies do best when simply hoovering up resources for some distant hypothetical war. The less fighting, the better. The US “won” WW 2 by avoiding the first three years of it.

    1. JonnyJames

      Yes, and the Red Army had already destroyed over 75% of the Wehrmacht before D day even began.

      1. redleg

        And a significant number of “Germans” defending Normandy in June ’44 were Ukrainians.

        1. JonnyJames

          Oh, but there were no, and there are no Ukrainian Nazis, Stepan Bandera was a great man and any suggestion of Ukrainian Nazis is just “Russian Propaganda”. We don’t need no stinkin history…lol ;-)

        2. Piotr Berman

          I read Wikipedia on Halychyna, and toward the end of the war they were deployed against partizans, first in Slovakia, then in Croatia.

  16. John R Moffett

    This smells of a CIA operation with lots of bribe money, and there were reports of boxes of Russian money being confiscated from one of Prigozhin’s offices. No idea if that is true, but I saw several reports on it. The other option is that Prigozhin, who had already been indicted, was desperate to avoid arrest and staged the fake attack to get his PMC to follow him to Rostov. The third option is a Russian ploy to make the SMO seem out of control, but that one seems very unlikely based on what has happened so far. I am thinking options 1 or 2 are the most likely.

    1. Sibiriak

      Large amounts of cash were found during a raid on Prigozhin’s office, he has reportedly confirmed. Russian media had reported that money was found at the St Petersburg address, something Prigozhin has now confirmed according to Reuters. He has said the money was for Wagner expenses, they report.”

      –The Guardian

    2. Robert Hahl

      Presumably the insurrection was planned to happen during the early phases of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, but that became an obvious failure so quickly that it was difficult to pull the trigger. During this delay, Russian intelligence was tipped off. The sleepers were being rolled up, and Pregozian was forced to launch his mission anyway as a last desperate move.

    3. Louis Fyne

      Smells a lot like the recent Turkish coup against Erdogan.

      The stench of the CIA (via presumed control of a few important, but secondary, actors ) + complete misreading of the loyalties of the rank-and-file who have no desire to mutiny + farcical logistics and farcical attempts at controlling the levers of power (media, seat of government, support of other army units, etc)

      1. digi_owl

        Again and again it seems like DC thinks this is still the 60s, and that the School of Americas and Chicago boys have massive pull.

    4. ChrisFromGA

      If the CIA is behind it, it is curious timing.

      The time to have initiated such a thing would have been right before “Ye Olde Greateste Counteroffensive” started, now three weeks ago.

      Instead, we had 3 weeks of massive failure and attrition, with some commenters estimating ~ 13k dead Ukrainian soldiers.

      Seems like poor timing, or really bad planning – “hey, let’s let 13k Ukrainians get slaughtered … and THEN try the coup thingy!”

      Unless the coup was Plan B if Ye Olde Counteroffensive did Ye Olde Belly Flop, which it appears to have.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Beg to differ.

        1. Ukraine has only committed about 1/3 of its available counteroffensive resources to the offensive so far. The plan apparently was to wheel up the main forces, when the campaign got through or at least to the Russian lines of defense. That was guesstimated at 10 days to three weeks in. So regardless, an attack at the start of the counteroffensive would have been seen as suboptimal. Better to wait until Ukraine had made its assumed gains and the MoD and Putin were looking less secure.

        2. Prigozhin had his own timetable, the July 1 turnover of his forces to MoD command. He had to act before then.

  17. Andrey Subbotin

    The thing is, Prigozhin lost the PR battle but seems to be succeeding militarily so far. His columns are 3-4 hours from Moscow, nobody seriously tries to stop him, apparently there will apparently be some attempt to stop him over Oka river bridges. If that fails, he’ll reach Moscow. And after Putin named him criminal, he has very little to lose.

    Meanwhile in Rostov ethnic Chechen militia is going to fight Wagner rearguard. If they win, they are going to become the next problem. Hard to look at that all and argue that Shoigu and Putin are competent

        1. JonnyJames

          LOL, If the traffic in Moscow is as bad or worse than Hell-A (Los Angeles) than it will be a big problem.

        2. Maxwell Johnston

          The distance from Rostov on Don to Moscow is over 1000 km. No tank on this planet will travel that distance without breaking down at least once. And I doubt the RU military is about to provide repair and spare parts service to Wagner.

          1. LifelongLib

            I’m wondering about fuel too. Do Russian tanks e.g. use the same diesel that semis use? Can these “columns” get enough fuel to keep going or will they run out at some point?

    1. ambrit

      The Ukraine Front has shown the Russian military to be extremely competent in destroying armour and vehicles at distance. The Wagner column is running on a main highway, out in the open, with no air cover. Expect the same outcome as has happened to the Ukraine armoured units in the Counteroffensive.
      Wagner will not reach Moscow.

  18. JonnyJames

    I have been wary of the Wagner group from day one. One would think that Putin would know better. Giving a private military organization such power was a big mistake, obviously. History should be a guide and lesson. This is what happens.

    The political convenience must have overridden any concerns over private armies.

  19. Lex

    There’s no way this is a psyop at this point. Far too dangerous. I also don’t think it’s an intentional smoking out of traitors, though it can and will be used for that purpose. Most likely MoD was muzzling Wagner and between Prigozhin’s mental breakdown and his delusions of grandeur, he was at a now or never moment. I do see a possibility that western intelligence leveraged the moment but a full buyout seems unlikely. I agree with Russian sources saying this was not a spur of the moment reaction but planned and that speaks to the 7/1 issue.

    The big question is how much of Wagner is behind Prigozhin? I haven’t seen anything that looks like 25,000+ involved. If he has a core of a few hundred serious guys and a small army of zeks, this fizzles. If he has the whole thing, including all the “ex-GRU” commanders this is a major event that looks like a serious power play for internal state control. I have heard rumors that some of the oldest members already agreed to MoD conditions before this, which would suggest he was losing his internal control too.

    Russia’s state response is pretty muted for it being a GRU rebellion and Alekseeyev being on the government side also suggests that it isn’t. Watch the body language in the meeting clip. Both officers are treating him, all kitted up for battle, like he’s talking nonsense but they have to hear him out. Prigozhin has also eliminated any real hope that his goals can be achieved (assuming they are the dismissal of Shoigu in particular). Putin can’t do that now. Maybe very delicately when this calms down. Not being able to see that suggests to me that Priggy went full Colonel Kurtz. He should know better than anyone that the one thing Putin won’t tolerate is betrayal and that’s what he’s done.

  20. redleg

    These events are taking place within Russia. Any “columns” or mass concentrations of mutinous Wagner forces would get obliterated in their tracks by aircraft if the Russians decide to do so. Wagner (or any PMO) does not have the resources to avoid this outcome, especially over time.
    Keep that in mind as events develop.

    1. britzklieg

      And, as pointed out by others across the ether, the irony that Zelensky and Co. are now cheering on Wagner is hard to miss.

  21. IEL

    A column of armored vehicles is moving on the M4, and not a single jet has struck the head or rear of the convoy? That is telling.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Russians are already slaughtering Ukrainians for The West, I guess they’re not too exited to start killing Russians, too.

      Although the were earlier several videos of allegedly Kamovs pummeling the Wagner convoy on M4.

  22. JonnyJames

    I’m on Pacific time, most of you have been awake for hours (or are insomniac, or require very little sleep)
    I just checked Moon of Alabama and the classic Machiavelli is quoted. The point I made earlier

    “…Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous…” You can read the rest of the passage, this sums it up.

    Sun Tzu has a similar warning

    1. tevhatch

      Hardly useless considering the work they’ve done in Syria, Africa, and even in Ukraine, work that would not be allowed under the Russian Constitution as it now stands.

      My take is either he went nuts over the over-abuse of the men, while the rest of Russia goes on as if they were not facing an existential threat**, or this is a really deep version of Mao’s Hundred Flowers Bloom campaign, a way to (hopefully) flush out deep agents by seeing who does what as this hit. Moscow is deeply penetrated by agents of various actors.

      ** Ukrainians know they die for a corrupt government, so discos 24/7 in Kiev are understood. Russia trying to maintain life is normal while men die in not small numbers is not a good idea, some sacrifice of normalcy would be good for the men at the front to see.

      1. JonnyJames

        Of course, in some circumstances, mercs can achieve short-term, limited goals. In the long run, history supports Machiavelli’s claims. That much should be clear. The success of mercs in Syria is debatable, and I’m not sure if I would say the use of neo-Nazi mercs in Ukraine has been a success either.

        But in this case, it was obvious folly. There are numerous plausible speculations being offered by the always interesting comments here. You bring up some good points

    2. steven t johnson

      Bernhard is correct in citing Machiavelli. The problem for Moon of Alabama fans and commentariat is, Putin was wrong in relying on Wagner in the first place (Putin is wrong in relying on the quasi-independent Kadyrov, too.) And keeping the Donetsk and Lugansk militias, who are effectively the “native’ Ukrainian allies in the Ukrainian civil war leashed when the Ukrainian military split in 2014. They are so far as I can tell still separate despite the official annexation! Divided command was never wise. The systematic way Putin also chose to invest inadequate forces that couldn’t possibly attain the alleged goas was another sign Putin was always wrong.

      (No, the partial mobilization is still nowhere near enough to defeat and occupy even temporarily Ukraine. The relevant example is Gen. Shinseki getting canned for admitting how many soldiers would really be needed to pacify Iraq…and how Iraq sure enough couldn’t really be pacified.)

      The real problem being highlighted by Prigozhin is the dubious connection between Putin’s actions, their alleged goals and rationality in general. It makes as much sense to say that Prigozhin was pressuring Putin to come to his senses. And Prigozhin wasn’t afraid because nobody at the top really wants to win and isn’t prepared to fight to win. Ukrainian sleeper cells? I’m not sure they’re called for, the force most likely to accept a rotten peace in Ukraine is as it has always been Vladimir Putin. (Well, technically Navalny would cave even worse, but he’s not really a force.)

      1. pretzelattack

        quoting NATO talking points is convincing Putin to “come to his senses”? I think this was part of a plan, intended to coincide with the Ukrainian counteroffensive. the neocons never let reality disrupt their plans.

        1. steven t johnson

          Prigozhin indirectly advocating for a deal with the US, while blustering about “we wuz stabbed in the back!” as an excuse. Oh, yeah, quoting NATO talking points could be a part of it.

          But what I mean by saying Prigozhin “highlights” the real problem is Putin’s divided command structure, perpetually inadequate force commitment, poor economic mobilization (war planning is a necessity in real wars for survival, but not in adventures) and secret political goals, part of a generally right-wing refusal to engage deep popular support. If Putin has an endgame he’s never shared it with even the Russian public. None of Prigozhin’s words effectively criticize Putin, his shenanigans do.

          On Lukashenko? I think it would be a mistake to exaggerate Lukashenko’s retention of elements of socialism in Belarus. His alternative was to turn Belarus into a hellhole like Ukraine. Putin as a bestial but sober Yeltsin has nothing good to offer the masses of Ukraine. Thus, Lukashenko has always wanted to somehow balance between Putin who would do to Belarus what his master Yeltsin did to Russia, and a whole-hearted theft of public property like the parade of thugs in Kyiv. Lukashenko’s intervention seems very much the same thing. Of course, time is wearing down what’s left in Belarus and age is wearing down Lukashenko.

          All central European nationalists committed to capitalism are fascist-affiliated. The USSR liberated central Europe from the Nazis. Inevitably when the Communist end of the seesaw went down, the fascist end went up. That’s why liberals have come around to openly regretting the defeat of Nazi Germany by the USSR. That’s why fascism in Ukraine is perfectly acceptable (God knows what atrocities are being carried out by the fascists in Ukraine, but the horror stories won’t be allowed out for years I expect.) The most self-righteous of liberals who regard themselves as woke, people like Bret Devereaux wish the US had continued WWII to destroy the USSR (which is to say, ally with the remnant Nazis, no matter what this ilk would pretend.) Even would-be socialists have drifted so far right they think they can be neutral against fascists!

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Your information is dodgy. It is the West that has been unable to mobilize for this war, and Russia has solved its manpower issue. It has a bare minimum of 600,000 men in service and more enlisting every month. Its troops levels are more than adequate for the current scale of conflict, including allowing for regular rotations. The word from the latest Security Council meeting is Russia will need more forces only if it decides to take Kiev, a sprawling city of 3 million before the war, and that is not currently planned.

  23. truly

    The events surrounding Prighozin put to rest the idea that Putin or his inner circle do not tolerate any dissent. When I point out to Russia phobic people that Putin has over 70% approval rating amongst his countrymen the reply I often get is that “sure, that’s because Putin would immediately eliminate anyone who dissented”.
    I have wondered for several months now if this is one big psyops/troll on the west. U.S. claims to be a FREE country while we imprison journalists, whistleblowers and truth tellers. In the meantime RU actually lets issues play out in a (dare I say) rather democratic way.
    It seems a little 12D chess, but I also think Sleboda has a point. Keep the west thinking this conflict might turn the corner any moment. Keep committing troops and equipment until it is way too late.

    Though on the flip side, if P has been flipped, this is a brilliant “pinning operation”, force RU forces to expend energy and time that could be used more productively.
    Speaking of pinning operations, the rumor of lots more military activity within the US? Is it possible that RU leaked some ideas to US of an invasion. Just enough to force US to keep more personnel and equipment devoted to homeland defense rather than overseas adventures.
    I live in a bit more upscale type neighborhood. And the other day, for possibly the first time ever, I saw a uniformed camo military person walking in to a local business to grab some lunch. I know this is very common in certain communities. But I had never seen it here before.

  24. Lex

    On Russian forces fighting against Wagner:

    I think the Kremlin is trying to avoid that. Extra dangerous to ask regular military to fire on guys who were the next trench over (so to speak) very recently. That’s the way this could spread. Likely the Kremlin hopes it fizzles and there’s circumstantial evidence that the process is happening. Interactions between citizens and bored Wagnerites in Rostov, chats between regular army units and wagnerites, etc. the Wagner guys have been outside of civilian life for a while now. The reality of talking to the people they’re defending / fighting for is powerful stuff.

    Sending the Chechens to Rostov was quite possibly a grave mistake. Too much bad blood, too much potential for ethnic conflict and serious violence.

    1. ArvidMartensen

      Putin has never been a fan of Russians fighting Russians. He went soft into Ukraine so as not to slaughter Russian brothers. He could easily have done the US thing of shock and awe and just slaughtered anyone and everyone but he didn’t.
      IMO, he is treating Prigozhin the same way. These are Russian brothers, misguided as they are, and he probably thinks not only that, but the optics of the Russian forces under his command slaughtering the “brave men who captured Bakmut” might not play out well amongst his international allies and would be allies.
      As far as what is a psyop run by whom, how would we ever know, although some of it might come out over the next few months.
      Putin plays the long game. Prigozhin might think he is safe in Belorus, but I imagine the FSB have a hundred ways of making his life less comfortable than he thought it would be. And if Prig has a dexie problem, then they will cut off his supply and bring him to his senses with a big mea culpa to come later. So this story has sometime to run yet.

    1. JonnyJames

      He is pretty adamant about it too, especially MI6. The Yanks always get the limelight, but the Brits always have their hands bloody as well. ;-)

      Thanks for the link

    1. Polar Socialist

      Seems like Prigozhin finally understood the folly. Several channels are reporting he has ordered Wagner troops back to camps to “avoid spilling blood”.

      Several channels also seem to think Russia should end the moratorium on capital punishment so that “the traitor” could get a deserved punishment.

      1. Sibiriak

        Turns out it was really only a “March of Justice”!!

        Prigozhin:”They wanted to disband Wagner. We set out on June 23 for the “March of Justice”. In a day we marched just short of 200 km from Moscow. During this time, we have not shed a single drop of the blood of our fighters. Now is the moment when blood can be shed.…”

        –The Guardian

        1. Ignacio

          “just short of 200 km from Moscow”. Did they have enough gas to ever reach Moscow?

      2. Lex

        He backed down (apparently) but he’s been outed as a traitor now. The general mood I see on Russian TG is that even people who were strongly critical of the MoD leadership saw this as way too far. I’ve seen people who previously thought shooting Shoigu was appropriate turn hard against Prigozhin. That’s not to say they think Shoigu is now a good guy. Same seems to be true for enlisted and officers in the army. All of them from every country in every war will complain bitterly about the generals at the top (quite probably with good reason), but an intra-military coup is different.

      1. Lex

        Yes. But the wild card is Prigozhin himself who has become increasingly theatrical over the last few months. The Russian state side of it is very understated.

        1. Ignacio

          Don’t know but how is it that Lukashenko had to mediate? Or is it well known that Lukashenko has some special relationship with Prigozhin?

          1. Sibiriak

            Prigozhin will “go to Belarus,” Dmitry Peskov says

            The criminal case, launched this weekend, against Wagner Private Military Company founder Evgeniy Prigozhin will be dropped and he will leave Russia, the Kremlin announced on Saturday evening.

            –RT News

          2. Piotr Berman

            If true, one could find many reasons. Lukashenka is (a) not personally involved (b) has a personality closer to Prigozhin, elements of common sense, but also a penchant for conflicts with Moscow (until the West boxed him in with super-sanctions), telling tall stories etc. Worst come to worse for Prigozhin, he may get asylum in Belarus.

          3. Sibiriak

            Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Lukashenko had offered to mediate, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement, because he had known Prigozhin personally for around 20 years.

            –The Guardian

        2. Michaelmas

          Sibiriak: Okay, who staged it? How? Why? And how does it end?

          Oh. For instance, the CIA contacts Prigozhin and says, ‘your days before it’s back to catering or prison are numbered, chum, here’s a billion dollars to stage an insurrection.’ Prigozhin says to the CIA, ‘Soon as you wire that billion into a bank account, it’s a deal,’ then calls Putin and says, ‘the CIA are going to wire me a billion.’ Putin says, ‘Nice. I’ll make a show of it by setting up a couple of helicopter fly-bys and 18-wheelers for you to smash through, then we’ll split the money.’

          No, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe anything. Unlike poor Yves, I’m not constrained to have to construct any coherent theory about all this while it’s happening.

          As Maxwell Johnston says further down the thread, it’s ludicrous even by Russian standards.
          The last time the anglo nations had anything remotely like this was MacArthur — who Truman immediately sh*tcanned and put on the next plane back to the US — and a little latter Curtis LeMay, who didn’t matter by then and got kicked upstairs to the Joint Chiefs.

          1. Stephen

            January 6 was allegedly an insurrection. They even “invaded” Congress. This got nowhere near the Duma.

            Ah, but the 6 January “insurrectionists” were not pardoned. Putin seems to have given that deal.

            Not sure if the west is “better” than Russia. We sure have plenty of “ludicrous” too.

            1. Michaelmas

              We sure have plenty of “ludicrous” too.

              Not in terms of private military or state military actors going overtly mad dog, we don’t.

              As regards the US deep state and Jan 6 and Washington, etcetera, sure, that’s ludicrous. It’s a collapsing empire.

              As regards the deep state in the UK, it’s what it always was, doing what’s been its job from time immemorial — on the surmise that Six (SIS) had a hand re. Prigozhin/Russia — whether we like it or not.

              Anyway, I now note that the precise term Maxwell Johnston used was ‘surreal.’ Let’s settle for that — the Prighozin ‘mutiny’ has been ‘surreal’ in a way that BoJo or Truss weren’t

              1. Richard

                “Not in terms of private military or state military actors going overtly mad dog, we don’t.”
                Right. We have Biden and Nuland for that.

  25. LawnDart

    My first thoughts are that if there is any, however remote, inkling or suspicion that western intelligence agencies have involvement in this then it will get real ugly in a hurry… short of ICBMs enroute to the Motherland, it would be difficult to interpret this as other than an act of war.

    As a note, all American embassies have been instructed not to comment on the matter.

    1. Cat Burglar

      If you wanted to cover the Belarusian mobilization and Russian troop movements under an excuse of putting a Wagner revolt down, as well as a political strategy of tension domestically, along with perhaps convincing Ukraine to strike prematurely, all this is what you’d do. Pure speculation, though.

      1. Skip Intro

        It would be irresponsible not to speculate, or at least throw out some unconnected dots:

        – Belarus has been openly threatened by a paramilitary of failed color revolutionaries being trained in Poland

        – MilitarySummary reported the creation of a large special-ops force

        – The transformation of the SMO to a counter-terrorism operation (CTO), is a big step that would otherwise need substantial justification or give the appearance of panic, when it wasn’t productive.

        – The ‘Moderate rebel’ militia NATO has set up stepped up to support Prigozhin, did they offer any resources? To whom?

        – Movement of Chechen and Wagner units may be obscured by the histrionics of their leaders.

        – Apparently Putin did not mention Prigozhin or Wagner by name in his address about traitors.

      2. hk

        Maybe a big sting operation to expose Western intel attempt at bribing Prigozhin? I mean, at least according to Larry Johnson (I think it was him), Prigozhin has been a Russian intel asset since or before the rise of Putin in national politics. On the other hand, he has no real control over Wagner, since Wagner is really a cover for Russian intel operations where they need plausible deniability. So it doesn’t seem too implausible that he is part of some bigger clandestine operation, but almost any motive that I can come up with belongs to the space alien level of plausibility.

  26. ThirtyOne

    I just reloaded a page on Cassad’s site and was greeted with this:

    Suspended Entry

    This entry has been suspended and is not available for reading.
    The reason for this suspension: This entrу was suspended in accordance with the requirement from The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roscomnadzor) based on the article 10.6 of Federal Law “On amending the Federal Law “On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information”.

  27. EssCetera

    Bear in mind, we’ve been seeing AI generated versions of Budanov lately, so anything video related is now questionable, this seems to be a new weapon.

    So I think what has happened is the West has been looking for a way to exploit Prigozhin being a loose cannon, is faking this, and possibly we and Putin are falling for it, this is information warfare.

    For all we know, Prigozhin has no idea any of this is even happening, is in a hot tub somewhere.

    I’m with Sibiriak and John R Moffett above, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a march on Moscow by Wagner, the statements attributed to Prighozin are very suspiciously Ukrainian talking points.

    Also, I would note that a common interrogation tactic is to simply say things which are false, there’s a human inclination to correct false statements, and we appear to be seeing Russian forces posting video attempts to dispute Prighozin claims, possibly compromising themselves in the process – these video denials are intelligence for the Ukrainian side.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Putin was not going to dignify Prigozhin by negotiating with him. Implies they are equals. Putin hadn’t even deigned to call Prigozhin into his office to rip Prigozhin a new orifice over his recent antics, which is the sort of attention and elevation of status Prigozhin was hoping to get. With the benefit of hindsight, Putin should have tasked Surovkin to that. But if Prigozhin was working with Western spooks, nothing short of incarcerating him would have done. Per the RT on the Discord leaks, Russia no doubt had suspicions but likely also didn’t yet have the smoking gun for them to arrest him without it looking political as opposed to justified.

      Putin designed Prigozhin a traitor and set criminal prosecution in motion.

      Also it turns out Lukashenko has known Prigozhin for 20 years.

  28. Keith Newman

    As a practitioner of “dietrismo”* I wonder less about what we are being told and more about why we are being told it, and why now.
    What we are being told: Russia is weak and confused and can be defeated.
    Why now: distract from Ukraine’s disastrous offensive and likely demoralisation a couple of weeks before a NATO meeting at which rousing speeches of victory can now be given.
    My guess is that the US has activated (some of) its Russian based assets as it has done many times before in many countries (colour revolutions, etc.). In my opinion this will not go far but will make Russia look bad, so a limited plus for the US.
    *c.f. Wolfgang Streeck,

  29. Maxwell Johnston

    This episode is surreal even by Russian standards. It’s partly Night of the Long Knives (1934), partly Kornilov Affair (1917), and partly Wag the Dog (1997). My best guess is that it’s ultimately about money (as is usually the case in post-Soviet Russia). Wagner troops were supposed to transfer over to the formal Russian military structure as of 1 July, which means that vast sums of money will no longer be passing through Prigozhin’s hands. Of course he’s not happy about this, so as 1 July approaches he is using this episode to negotiate a better deal. Another commenter above noted correctly that Russian military is not about to fire upon Wagner troops unless things get really out of control, as they’ve been fighting side-by-side for months. A negotiated solution will be found, things will calm down, and what remains of the UKR military will continue to be pounded. But it will be interesting to see how Putin handles this one. He will need to tread carefully, as Prigozhin does enjoy a certain popularity, especially among younger Russians.

    Some of what passes for journalistic coverage in the anglo-american MSM has been hilarious. Here’s a breathless piece I just read from Reuters: “Mutinous Russian mercenary fighters barreled towards Moscow on Saturday after seizing a southern city overnight, with Russia’s military firing on them from the air but seemingly incapable of slowing their lightning advance.” Actually, they are driving up the M4 highway in wheeled vehicles, sitting ducks in the event that Russian aviation gets the order to whack them. And Rostov is a tad over 1000 km from Moscow. I saw videos and photos from Rostov which seemed to show life going on pretty much calmly. In Moscow, two people there told me today that everything is normal. It looks to me more like a media circus than an attempted coup.

    1. hk

      Quite a few people were totally convinced that this is all some kind of huge psyop, fwiw.

      Given all these, it does appear that all these have to have been staged in some fashion, with eveyrone who’s anyone in the know. Too farcical to have been serious, especially the way everything seems to have wound up. P seems set on proving himself the Second Zelensky of Russia (Second b/c, again (even less seriously) I do wonder if Zelensky is a deep cover Russian agent given his insane antics.) I am at total loss, though, as to what purpose this sort of nonsense would serve….

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Not true no blood shed. Wagner allegedly shot down some helicopters and killed their pilots. Given that, it does look bad for Prigozhin to go unpunished.

      1. begob

        Yes, allegedly. Dima had video of the truck that exploded on the highway, reportedly hit by the Russians, but noted no sign of incoming fire. I haven’t seen any video to corroborate the hits on Russian aircraft and helicopters – or at least nothing that couldn’t be explained as vague stuff clipped from footage of attacks in Ukraine over the course of the invasion.

        Larry Johnson has an interesting note on the activation of a ‘sleeper’ channel set up by Khodorkovsky, which made its first post during Prigozhin’s thrust – the note is in the comments section:

        Mikael Khodorkovsky was so excited about this that he published the one and only video on the channel, and a live one at that, praising Prigozhin and stressing support of his mutiny on his Telegram channel. The channel was opened back in January, and never used until 1:28 PM CDT 24 June. Obviously, the channel was activated in the expectation of opening up Telegram communications with whatever 5th columnists got activated.

        I did auto-translate into English and it’s obvious that Khodorkovsky expected some major stuff to happen. This Telegram was reserved for something special

        Perhaps Russia’s method is to force NATO’s hand by generating hysteria in western media with mock-heroics – the kind that goes down in an anticipated history that will never be written, since Putin’s reservations and reserves are enough to smother any resulting opportunism. If it can’t win the information war in Europe, maybe it can pervert the perverted to its own ends.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is pretty consistent with Ritter’s thesis, that Prigozhin was told factions of the army and oligarchs against the war, as in Western sympathetic, would rise up and support him, aided by Ukraine operatives in Moscow. Ritter also points out that when Prigozhin started, he appears to have had only 4,000-5,000 men, not enough to do anything that would stick without a LOT of internal support. He further posits that many were misled and told this was an operation v. a Ukraine incursion and when they realized what it was about, they disengaged.

          Note that the claim that Prigozhin took anything at Rostow also appears exaggerated. His forces circled some of the city center and supposedly the area that contains the Ukraine ops center, but he never seriously asserted control so no one seriously resisted, as shown by attempts of the officers and citizens there to talk him and the troops out of that. That is NOT an armed engagement. It was when Wagner forces started to move north to Moscow that more action seemed to happen…including per Dima the Russian military circling Rostov and effectively trapping Prigozhin.

          We’ll probably get better info at some point. Lotta images that may not be real. I need to read Rybar’s latest, they are pretty good about separating wheat from chaff.

  30. TomW

    Per NYT

    Russian Paramilitary Chief Says His Forces Will Turn Around
    June 24, 2023, 2:12 p.m. ET2m ago
    2M AGO
    They Were Believed to Be Headed to Moscow in Revolt Threatening Putin
    The announcement offered the possibility that the rapidly evolving crisis embroiling President Vladimir Putin could be resolved without armed fighting.
    Mr. Prigozhin said his forces were turning around after they were believed to be on their way to Moscow. His claim could not yet be verified.

    1. Will

      BREAKING: Guaidó challenges Zelensky to cage match for control of seized Russian assets. Will be undercard to Musk v Zuckerberg.

      BREAKING: Saudi Arabia announces launch of Overlords Cage Match League in bid to replace the UN as forum for settling beefs. Anonymous intelligence source reveals Biden v Trump match to replace 2024 Election.

      1. JonnyJames

        Great news! This will also generate huge revenue for whoever gets the broadcast rights.
        Biden vs. Trump wouldn’t last very long: we can take side bets on who keels over first: the obese speed freak or the senile stumbler.

  31. The Heretic

    With every crisis there is opportunity… (I don’t recall who said that)
    When weak appear strong, when strong appear weak.. Sun Tzu

    The Russians present operational goal is attrition warfare; if this situation excites the Ukrainians too much, this might be an alluring time for Ukrainians to press the attack; into the face of russian artillery bombardment. And if the Ukrainians attack and are thereafter broken, this serves the strategic goal of demoralizing the Ukrainians and breaking the will to fight.

    Concerning the sleeper cells, if they activate and conduct terrorist attacks, they also reveal themselves. Thus they can be liquidated. Their will be Russian casualties and damaged infrastructure; but nothing angers and united a people behind their leader than terrorist attacks… must clearly demonstrated post Sept 11, 2001. As long as Russia has a strong internal police force and FSB to tackle the terrorists; this should be an excessively troublesome event.

    As for Prigozhin; he is going to get leashed and muzzled. Perhaps he is a man with some degree of human conscience and empathy for his troops; hence after suffering 20000 + casualties taking Bakhmut (and putting his troops in the worst fight of the front) he is suffering some sort of PTSD or crisis…or maybe he is taking money from the Ukrainians… Or maybe this is the Ultimate Russian Masirkova operation…. Only time will tell.

    Let us see how this develops. But war is always hell; enormous human suffering; if the side one chooses is winning, the humane person should take too much pleasure in this…

  32. ThirtyOne

    Arguably the worst aspect of this passion play is the ongoing weeks of Putinologists and Kremlinologists pressing air out of their faces on TV.

    I did get a chuckle out of this though.
    Saint Ronnie would be proud.

  33. ChrisFromGA

    Just watched Dina’s latest video. He thinks the whole thing was a ploy to get NATO to reveal its plans for Belarus, and it was a success

  34. BillS

    I am not discounting the possibility that Prigozhin’s antics are not part of an elaborate маскировка to lure the Ukies and their western backers to show their final hand.

    1. BillS

      TV pundits are having orgasms on the air over the idea that Russia is near collapse and the evil Putin will be overthrown. I can’t help but feel that this is a setup for the end game. I could be wrong, of course.

    1. Carolinian

      He speculates this was all part of the counteroffensive which was supposed to be breaking through by now.

      Recall that Lindsey expressed delight with the plan for the offensive and promised “surprises” after his meeting with Z. And Lindsey’s theory of the war is that it is about overthrowing Putin.

      As always we in SC apologize for not overthrowing Lindsey. Maybe next time.

  35. Fazal Majid

    Reminds me of what is going on in Sudan. Polybius’ Histories are also relevant, on the Mercenary War (when mercenaries fighting for the Carthaginians revolted over pay, leading to a bloody conflict that weakened Carthage enough that it fell to the Romans).

    I doubt this was orchestrated by Putin. A lot of how power works in countries with weak institutions is a form of suspension of disbelief, and anything that punctures the illusion of omnipotence can be fatal.

  36. The Rev Kev

    Just came across this tweet and have no idea how true it is-

    BREAKING: US officials knew of the plans from the Wagner Group to lead a rebellion against Russia, and intelligence officials briefed some members of congress earlier this week.

    Apparently intelligence officials have known for some time of the coming rebellion, and may have even had a part in in(unconfirmed). The leader of the Group claims his march was about an attack on his men in a military camp in Ukraine.’

    Can’t help feeling that somebody got played bad with this mutiny-slash-union strike.

    1. EssCetera

      Yep, Prighozin for sure (if he really did say and believe what has been attributed to him), possibly Putin (if he didn’t immediately suspect a ruse), definitely the Russians as a whole (if they truly believed there was an internal uprising). All are now realizing the duplicity, all are likely thinking CIA. The post-mortem is going to be quite interesting.

  37. Not Qualified to Comment

    During WW2 Field Marshall Montgomery is reported to have remarked that the first rule of war is not to march on Moscow. How the Hell did Prigozhin talk a few thousand of his grunts into attempting it? What incentive did they have to commit suicide on his behalf? At the outset of the SMO, in February ’22, a sizeable Russian army reached the outskirts of Kiev – I believe as a threat and bluff to Zelensky to negotiate – and when their bluff was called they withdrew because they were nowhere near enough to actually attack and hold a city the size of Kiev without flattening it. What on earth did these few lightly-armed Wagner characters think they would do if they actually reached Moscow? And what was in it for them?

    The story that the Russians were shelling Wagner as it rested after Bakhmut always baffled me. I could think of no reason why they would. But I can imagine the Wagner people might be a little resentful at the way they were thrown in to the fight there to absorb the casualties, and perhaps some ‘false-flag’ shelling by Prigozhin-stooges hardened that resentment. But to actually declare war on Russia in revenge? You only need three brain-cells to rub together to know you weren’t going to win that one.

    There’s talk Progozhin was corrupt and creaming the top of the monies Wagner was being paid so perhaps he was hoping to dodge an arrest that was in the pipeline. Perhaps he believed there was an appetite in Russia for an overthrow of Putin, or at least managed to persuade his people of that. Time, I suppose, will tell.

    Dilmar at the Military Summary Channel says its all over. Lukashenko of Belarus has negotiated a settlement with Prigozhin agreed by Putin of no action against the Wagnerians, despite their having, it’s claimed, shot down several Russian aircraft and presumably killing the crews, and Prigozhin can ‘retire’ to Africa, in exchange for the dismissal of Shoigu. Plus Wagner moving into Belerus to fend off an attack by a pro-Unkrainian Belarussian force in Ukraine that is calling for an uprising against Lukashenko. Given Putin’s furious speech of just a few hours ago it will certainly be a highly damaging climb-down by him if it’s true, and I can’t imagine the Russian military will be impressed.

    We shall see.

    1. EssCetera

      Prigozhin isn’t military trained, appears to have been a jock in high school, was into sports. So he’s not going to know about the difficulties of marching on Moscow. And, come to think of it, for this very reason you can easily throw him into impossible situations, he won’t know better.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      I suspect he just felt cornered and figured he’d give it a go. Maybe people join in and he wins big, maybe not… and even though very few have joined him, it was still enough to let him leave without immediate retaliation. For that matter, he is on record as not being afraid of death or laws, and given his actions I’m kinda inclined to believe him.

      As for why some people in Wagner followed him – well, that is something I truly don’t know. But it’s not surprising either. You can find some people who’d be up for anything anywhere, and moreso among mercenaries. I will say he was good at cultivating loyalty as well – for instance, always butting heads with the authorities on Wagner’s behalf over stuff like burials or payments to widows and orphans. They may well have actually liked him, and felt willing to share in his gamble.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Prigozhin thought he was crossing the Rubicon – but it turned out to be S*** Creek. Prigozhin was always an unstable sort of character and it may be that the Russian authorities simply gave him enough rope to hang himself with. He is now out of Wagner and it appears that their formations in Russia at least will be folded up into the Russian Army. It will be interesting to see in the next few years if he tries to do a runner to the West. I would not put it past him.

  38. Not Qualified to Comment

    Mercouris of the Duran suggested a while back that Wagner under Prigozhin exceeded their brief at Bakhmut by actually taking the place instead of holding back and drawing Ukrainian forces into defending it as another meat-grinder, and Prigozhin’s unmet demands for ammunition to do it with, which triggered the bad blood with Shoigu and the Russian MoD, was actually the Russians telling him just to do his job and giving him enough for that.

    So yes, Prigozhin may well have not understood the need for military discipline in playing a part in a bigger picture – to his ego (and the PR) it was all about winning – but as you say he left the actual command of Wagner to professionals who would understand what they were getting into trying a march on Moscow, legally as well as militarily, yet they (or enough of them) were still prepared to do it and I simply cannot understand what they thought they could achieve.

  39. Irrational

    Larry Johnson over on thinks the entire thing was maskirovka. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

    1. Not Qualified to Comment

      It can’t have been maskirovka if the stories, and videos, of Wagner shooting down Russian helicopters is true. If they’re not it seems an unnecessary and damaging elaboration to the plot.

      I can imagine Prigozhin losing his mind given what he experienced personally with ‘his’ troops in Bakhmut – especially coming to it ‘green’ as it were – but that any of the Wagner people would put themselves up against Russia baffles me, both as a betrayal of their undoubted patriotism and sheer common military sense.

Comments are closed.