From Pugachev To Lebed – The Muzhik Rebellion Fizzles Out Without Bloodshed, Prigozhin to Exile

Yves here. I noted a surprising lack of updates in my inbox. It appears that the Prigozhin revolt was a big flash in the pan and is on it way to being tamped out. Note also this was the West’s best shot at their much ballyhooed revolt against Putin and no one in Russian leadership, and apparently per Helmer not even any of the Wagner officers, supported it.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Without the public support of any political figure in Russia, military or police unit, regional governor, or the officers of his Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his thousand rank-and-filers have agreed to return to their base camps on terms negotiated late on Saturday afternoon between Prigozhin and Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus President./

The one-armed rebellion has failed with recriminations, immunity from prosecution, and  almost no bloodshed. The Kremlin solution has followed the precedent of General Alexander Lebed’s (lead image, centre) rebellion against President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, not the violent end of the rebellion of Yemelyan Pugachev (left) of 1773-75.

Dmitry Rogozin, who was one of the strategists of Lebed’s campaign for the presidency and later became a deputy prime minister under President Vladimir Putin,  made the difference clear in a statement he issued early on Saturday, before Putin spoke at 10 o’clock. “I know the situation at the front as well as Prigozhin and I have never hidden my position, but whatever the explanation for an armed rebellion, it is still an armed rebellion in the rear of a belligerent army. In a war, you have to shove your political ambitions up your ass and support the front with all your might. Any attempts to weaken it are nothing but aiding the enemy.”

Another of Lebed’s comrades of 27 years ago, Sergei Glazyev, followed with a repudiation of Prigozhin of his own. None of the well-known critics of Putin on domestic policy, nor the military bloggers who have attacked the tactical management and strategic priorities of the Special Military Operation, supported Prigozhin.

The rebellion, according to sources speaking on Saturday evening, involved advance planning by Prigozhin and several hundred of the lowest ranks of his military group. There was no support among the Wagner officers. After they had moved on Rostov, then took the road to Voronezh and on towards Moscow, the road columns numbered several hundred, with a total across the southwest of no more than four thousand.

A statement issued by Lukashenko’s office in Minsk at 8 in the evening said the rebellion was at an end.  “This morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed his Belarusian counterpart about the situation in the south of Russia with the private military company Wagner. The heads of State agreed on joint actions. As a follow-up to the agreements, the President of Belarus, having further clarified the situation through his own channels, in coordination with the President of Russia, held talks with the head of the Wagner PMCS [private military companies], Yevgeny Prigozhin.”

“The negotiations lasted throughout the day. As a result, we came to an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloody massacre on the territory of Russia. Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company on the territory of Russia and further steps to de-escalate tension. At the moment, there is an absolutely profitable and acceptable solution to the situation on the table, with security guarantees for the fighters of the Wagner PMCs.”

A well-informed Moscow source says:  “The whole thing was planned for several weeks. Soldiers and unit sergeants might be on board. Officers, obviously not. That makes it a mutiny against commanders. I do not think Prigozhin he will go quietly. He will try and romanticize himself as a Pugachev and his assassins as peasants defending Russia from oligarchs. Questions will be asked when and which men were already inside of Rostov Military HQ. Perhaps some advance parties were inside.”

There is no publication yet of Lukashenko’s terms which Prigozhin has accepted for himself. Unconfirmed reports in Moscow indicate he will leave the country for Africa with one of the Wagner units operating there. His media, communications, and internet networks have been blocked.

The War of the Worlds weekly broadcast went to air at 12 noon Moscow time. At the time there was considerable uncertainty in the Russian source reporting from Rostov and Voronezh; disinformation, faked videos, and panic reports, produced in Kiev, were circulating in the western media.

Listen to the analysis here.


The official criminal charge against Prigozhin is the armed rebellion provision of the Russian Criminal Code, Article 279:


Before the radio broadcast began, Putin made his 5 minute, 34 second speech to the country at 10 am. Unusually,  he addressed the camera on his feet. Read the speech in full here.

There have been no personal statements from either Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, the targets of Prigozhin’s public attacks.

During the hours of the rebellion on Friday and Saturday, along the line of contact in the Ukraine there appears to have been no breakthrough by Ukrainian forces. Instead, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported: “Tonight, the Russian Aerospace Forces launched a group strike with high-precision long-range weapons at the centres of radio intelligence and aviation equipment of the Ukrainian Air Forces at the Kanatovo airfields in the Kirovograd region, as well as the Dnipro.  All assigned objects are hit. The target of the strike has been achieved.”

“In addition, on June 23, in response to a strike on a road bridge across the Chongar Strait, a warehouse with Storm Shadow cruise missiles was destroyed at a Ukrainian airbase near the settlement of Starokonstantinov in the Khmelnitsky region. During the day, the armed forces of Ukraine continued unsuccessful attempts of offensive actions in the South Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Krasno-Limansk directions.”

A total of 515 Ukrainian forces were reported killed in action. French Caesar howitzer and US M-777 howitzer units were reported hit.

A second, companion piece for the broadcast will follow on Sunday morning.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Tempestteacup

    I have always been inclined to agree with Alexander Mercouris when he has described Wagner as a creation of Russian military intelligence/GRU, with Prigozhin acting as a frontman. A frontman with delusions of grandeur – perhaps. A frontman with utility insofar as he spreads disinformation to Ukraine and the West, whose media developed an obsession with his every Telegram rant – very possibly. A frontman who nonetheless had his own relationship with Wagner troops, forged in the Bakhmut meat grinder, and very real (even legitimate) beef with the Russia MoD and their supply of materiel – so it would seem.

    But if Wagner, with its opaque command structure and powerful internal esprit de corps, wasn’t under the direct control of Prigozhin – how to explain what just happened? Perhaps this was an explosion into the open of very real disagreements within the intel/military brass. Perhaps it is a power-play against a handful of individuals – above all Shoigu – who has more enemies than merely Prigozhin himself.

    And yet…that doesn’t explain the fact that in his most recent rants, Prigozhin went so far as to call into question the whole premise of the SMO. With every significant figure involved in the SMO, from Surovikin to Kadyrov, are rallying round Putin and expressing outrage at any moves to settle personal scores in the middle of war with a foreign power, I find it hard to believe that the GRU would have been behind it.

    So we are back with Prigozhin and his festering feud with Shoigu, with the added accelerant of the impending deadline for Wagner being folded under the wing of the MoD. And then we have the last few hours, and Lukashenko’s negotiated settlement, reportedly with Prigozhin skeedaddling to Belarus and Wagner presumably joining the RuAF. Rather a lot of drama for that.

    And then you have the apparent destruction of 5 Russian helicopters, including 3 very valuable EW Mi-8s. That’s 11 pilots and 8 other crewmembers total. Can the Russian military brass, and Putin himself, really let that slide because a valued but unpredictable mercenary leader had a hissy-fit over supplies and treatment of his men? (Another entirely possible reason for Prigozhin’s attitude could be that the MoD was far more cavalier in their disposal of Wagner lives than their own consistently cautious shepherding of their own professional forces…9 months of bitter fighting as a kind of PMC Dirty Dozen/Suicide Squad followed by not receiving the cash/garlands/ticker tape parades he felt were his and his men’s due may have pushed an already unstable Prigozhin over the edge)…

    After entertaining the possibility this was an elaborate diversion in keeping with some of the earlier inflammatory, obfuscatory rants Prigozhin had let loose, I don’t see that as being likely now. Not remotely likely, in fact – no government self-inflicts such wounds for purposes of disinformation campaigning.

    Maybe Putin and his circle simply tolerated Prigozhin because of Wagner’s undoubted value in the field (remember the recent footage of a Ukr officer encouraging his men by telling them Wagner had left their sector?) – turning an incautious blind eye to the clear signs he was getting too big for his boots and obsessively dwelling on personal grievances at a time of war. That still doesn’t explain any potential GRU connection, but frankly at this point I’m not sure what to think – and I’m not even sure things will clear up entirely over the coming days.

    One thing is certain – this is not good for Putin, Russia, its standing with its allies, or the SMO. Self-inflicted or otherwise, it makes them look weak and unable to manage dissenting figures or voices. Having killed actual Russian servicemen, I can scarcely believe Prigozhin will be allowed simply to bugger off to a Belorussian exile. But then I didn’t think Wagner would ‘rise up’ against the Russian state, either!

    (With apologies if this post doesn’t reach even a tentative conclusion – I just wanted to share my thoughts and reflections, and welcome those of everyone else, in one of the few places where serious debate is possible without the distorting lens of pro/anti nonsense!)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think once Prigozhin is out of Russia he will be assassinated. Only question is if very pronto or within say a year. He’s too crazy to be out and about.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I have thought for a long time that he would end his days in an insane asylum. He may still.

      2. Tempestteacup

        Agreed – assassination was my first thought too. Maybe they are giving a chance for him to ‘retire’, keep his nose clean and mouth shut? Not that I think that is very likely. And, of course, this was not a bloodless temporary insanity. He now has blood on his hands. I don’t see how Putin can leave that unavenged, for the sake of his own status and not to encourager les autres if nothing else! All of which makes Prigozhin’s move more and not less mystifying, but there’s so much mystifying about this all already…

        Regarding assassination, I think of the fate of quite a few uppity commanders who came to prominence around 2014 leading irregular militia in Donbass. I’m sure many, like Givi, were assassinated by Ukr spooks (probably with some Western help). But it’s entirely possible that others were taken out by Russian intelligence – Prigozhin would certainly not be the first, and you don’t even need to subscribe to the Skripal/novichok madness if Western media warmongers according to which every Russin that doesn’t die aged 90 with a glass of vintage wine in hand and a smile across the face as the work of the Russian President!

        1. .Tom

          Putin’s public statement about the affair was long, very strongly worded and included promises of justice. If Prigozhin gets to retire to Belarus, or is given new assignments after a break then Putin will look very weak. If Prigozhin continues to make critical public statements then Putin will have to do something.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I am relying on Simplicius the Thinker: “he destroyed a confirmed 7 total Russian aircraft with the initial reports stating that all pilots died:.”

          Lambert and I have grumbled he’s not great about sourcing. He just has a rando screenshot of helicopters and then text below. See:

          Dima has some similar findings of the “some sources claim” sort with some short video clips and I would take Lambert’s skepticism about video evidence to heart:

          1. Ignacio

            Yep. Dima’s reporting yesterday was very confused in part, probably, because he has always appeared to be a keen Prigozhin supporter or at least this has been my impression all along. Skepticism is granted.

          2. Ump

            The helo claims require extraordinary proof because the claims are extraordinary…

            1. Look how little success the UAF have had against the same platforms.

            2. If 7 helos were destroyed then more were committed. Which should mean a hell of a lot of damage done on the ground. Where is it?

            Common sense says this is bs.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              The report is most (IIRC all but one) of the helicopters were unarmed, as in just casing what Prigozhin was doing. This is on both Rybar and Slavyangrad, which regularly have sources in the military. So they weren’t there in combat mode.

    2. tevhatch

      Must be lots of corruption in the MID(GRU) if they allowed him to stay in place for so long. The first bullet may be for some of them, not Prigozhin. As you noted, without bloodshed is wrong, and I expect it will continue. This may be a grand opportunity for Putin to clean house, if his team build up a sufficient CV database. if not, then his opponents will not let this opportunity go by unused.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        First, he could not really be dispatched during the Bakhmut operation. Second, they might have thought there was value in monitoring his commns, that they were learning enough to justify the risk. Third, the Wagners were celebrated enough after Bakhmut that the MoD and intel services would have needed very solid info to arrest him.

        1. tevhatch

          I was thinking more about pre-2022. His issues should have been clear to any reasonably skilled Intelligence Officer, not to mention his history of conflict with MOD in Syria that has surfaced. One trick to root out corruption is to rotate staff, and his dogged stickyness to front line logistics away from his official ceo duty is alarm bell stuff. Someone was protecting their interests by protecting him.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Fair point but per Wikipedia, there were only 5,000 Wagner forces in Syria. And there’s a council of some sort of top military types who direct the operations. So back then Prigozhin was probably seen as an anke-biter. The circumstances where Wagner would balloon and be so close to Russia was not forseen.

        2. Bart Hansen

          Given what the Wagner troops have accomplished and their gung ho levels, it would not be advisable to assassinate him before the war is over.

    3. EssCetera

      I tend to think, on the contrary, this *is* a good outcome for Putin. Now all of Russia will be wary of any similar attempts and will immediately link this and further such to the CIA. The odds of a coup are now even more remote than they were. And any findings around this will surely be paraded before the world – a world which has witnessed Nord Stream, Khakhova Dam, Crimean Bridge, the Dugina assasination attempt. We can now add the Prigozhin Incident to the growing list. Where, on the other hand, is the list of incidents of Russian underhanded duplicities? Outside of the Collective West, who are people more likely to trust now?

      1. Boomheist

        So for a damn long time Saturday – remember the sun rises at 3.30 am this time of year in Moscow, slightly later to the south – while the column of Wagner troops and vehicles sped north – in fact for the entire time except for one or two videos which MIGHT be showing air attacks – while all around the world everyone knew some kind of rebellion was in progress – the Russian military air force, the fighters, helicopters and bombers (except for a few unconfirmed videos of some helicopters and one plane being shot down) stayed on the ground and did NOT vaporize those highly exposed columns. Sure, you can argue that much of the Russian army is in Ukraine (though this totally fails to recognize that at least 300,000 Russian troops were called up this year and were staged somewhere in the rear – ie closer to the M4 highway than Ukraine) but, still, here we have a highly watched and filmed spectacle of a supposed rebellion whereby the invaders are untouched, and then, almost a miracle, they stand down, their leader is allowed to leave the country, charges are dropped, and the members are supposedly welcomed into the fold of the military….

        Either a) Putin and his military are entirely inept, confused, and extremely weak and have barely escaped the fire, and will soon fall, their weakness now revealed, and maybe this thing was a Western operation after turning Perggo; or, b) this was a performance to root out internal traitors and relocate army units prior to an enormous counter offensive to the failing Uke counteroffensive….

        Time will tell…..My personal guess is this was staged, totally….

    4. Ump

      Let’s try to cut through the massive number of possibilities here using elimination. To start with, it’s very hard to reconcile P’s statements that the Russians are losing with anything other than Western backing. And it’s almost as hard to believe that he thought this maneuver had a chance of success. Putting those two things together suggests that this was the fizzle of a more ambitious operation, that P committed to a real coup that failed to gain traction and then had to go ahead with a much less ambitious operation to embarrass Putin because of pressure from his handlers.

      Of course this is probably wrong, but at least it fits the more salient facts.

    1. Ignacio

      Combine that with war trauma. When I see the reaction of the press in the West to the tune that “this shows the weakness of Putin” you can see how much they are detached to war reality. West cowards, waging a proxy war don’t know anything about the trauma, sacrifices etc but they feel confident to describe the affair as weakness.

      1. .Tom

        I agree that the western press is weird but I think these events must be making the leadership in countries that do strategic business with Russia review their assessments of the competence and stability of Putin’s control of Russia’s affairs. It remains to be seen if anything will change in those foreign relations.

        How to reconcile the news today of the negotiated settlement with Putin’s previous statement on the rebellion? On the face of it, that kinda looks weak to me, at least relative to before this weirdness, so likely it does to others.

  2. Joe Well

    I know we have a number of Byzantium fans in the commentariat. Anyone else reminded of all the feckless usurping generals? This guy could be a Komnenian second cousin. At least he wasn’t blinded.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Prigozhin certainly is an unstable sort of guy in any case and staging a mutiny in the middle of a war is not something that can be easily forgiven. No country would be happy to see this happen at home and more than a few countries in the Global Majority would recognize it. What I find remarkable was the stooges that they had on morning TV here saying that this is the end of Putin, that his whole regime has been de-stabilized, that the morale of the Russian army has suffered badly, that this is a great chance for the Ukrainians. They even managed to mention that Putin is ex-KGB though they begrudgingly mention that it is the FSB now. You can always find these security wonks/muppets that can be found to go on TV to spout this garbage. The thing to watch for between now that that July meeting of NATO heads in Lithuania is how many of them actually believe it. They can almost taste the regime change that they so desperately want to happen. If it did, then everything that they have done the past year and a half would be justified – the untold tens of billions sent to the Ukraine, the wrecking of their own economies, the stripping of their own military’s armouries – and then would come the big payout as their dreams of a Russian Federation collapse followed by an epic looting would come true. To which I say- pull the other one, it plays jingle bells.

    1. Liebowitz

      The funny thing is a Putin ouster would only bring in a hardliner who might take the war to Europe, and would certainly go harder in Ukraine. Getting Putin out, in the climate we’ve created in Russia, would not work out the way they fantasize it would. Not at all.

  4. TomW

    The more intelligent Western commenters have some sense that instability experienced by a global nuclear power isnt a great idea.

    But wrapping it up today, relatively bloodlessly was a best case outcome for Putin. Russia keeps the Wagner Group. A shooting rebellion has enormous potential for bad outcomes. And was called off.

    The Western infowar has speculated that this is bad for Putin in every possible way. Why…because the long ark of history, because Russia is evil…because.

    Bona fide rebellions dont get called off before a shot is fired. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel that serious.

    1. timbers

      I have to say while cleaning my kitchen and listening to Military Summary….I heard heavy accented English “planned for months” then “Russian troops moved north to Kharkov” then “Russian Kharkov offensive.” That is probably not an accurate interpretation but if Russia did American style propaganda you can plausibly connect the dots and say it was a Russian/Putin 11th dimensional plan to distract The West while Russia moves troops north to attack Kiev/Kharkov. Which I do not believe but think of the possibilities if Russia did propaganda like America.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        At least for some, “this was a Russian scheme” is copium, since the alternative, that the West’s best shot as a coup was over in about 24 hours, is an offense to their belief that Putin is isolated and weak plus suffering from just about every type of cancer imaginable.

          1. jsn

            Yes, and I continue to abide by Yves’ and Lambert’s suspicion of Simplicius.

            Too foggy to judge just yet.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We did provide bread crumbs along those lines, with the WaPo confronting Zelensky with documents, likely from the Discord leaks, showing Prigozhin was being fed intel by Ukraine’s GUR to lead Prigozhin to believe the MoD was setting him up as a traitor. Zelensky seemed flipped out that the Post had the info and the Post quickly removed that part of the interview. Prigozhin was at best trying to a double agent.

      If the Russian intel services knew Prigozhin was talking to the GUR, and that seems a certainty after the WaPo story, they would have been monitoring his comms. So the mobilization that Rybar pointed to before his rebellion may have been that they got wind it was coming and used the acting up of sleeper cells, which could be assumed to happen in concert, as cover.

    2. EssCetera

      It does seem as if Prigozhin was acting from a script which assumed Ukrainian counteroffensive success without realizing it had failed. For me this is the first thing anyone has said which rather makes all the pieces fit. It no longer seems like he’s having a bizarre unhinged psychotic break, he’s saying what he’s supposed to say, following the plan, as if everything he was saying were true, only he doesn’t yet realize it’s not.

      Wow, there must have been a lot of uncomfortable squirming at Langely and Vauxhall.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, about now would be the point when if there has been any success in getting through or at least to the lines of defense in the south, the (supposedly) big Ukraine reserves would have been brought to bear. That would also fit with the political timetable of needing to show progress by Vilnius. I suspect Ukraine was particularly pressured not to delay its counteroffensive any longer because Vilnius.

      2. Ignacio

        But given the counteroffensive had been so far an utter failure why still trying to go on with the second part of the plan? Prigozhin should know he would risk too much. I stick with the psycothic break as the only explanation for such a decision by the madman (Prigozhin). He might have found some support if things were going wrong for Russians in Zaporizhzhia (why zhzh?).

        1. Ignacio

          Simplicius’ idea that this was ‘last chance’ for Russian ex-oligarchs possibly with West support to get rid of Putin has merit. All this has had the theatrical look of political stuff and Prigozhin had shown to have political intentions with his messages. If so, they have shown to be delusional on the support that Prigozhin might have had in Russia for a coup starting with Wagner troops. Wars are waged in all possible ways and stunts are tried in all directions. If so, this will probably have little effect on the war even if the immediate optics aren’t good for Russia. On the other hand it seems that Russian’s unity stays firm and this might reinforce their determination. Prigozhin’s rogue behaviour and lies will help to clear the narrative and, yes, he doesn’t have a bright future on sight.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I imagine it’s mostly Prigozhin being nuts, but from the perspective of West aligned oligarchs and the West, the Great White Hope is Navalny. Guaido and Pete Buttigieg’s future putsch have more credibility than that guy.

            Western elites are as much targets of their own propaganda as average citizens, and once, Obama lifted the ban the news just went nuts turning into Voice of America nonsense. This likely explains the UFO nonsense. It’s not so much an Airforce psyops as the propaganda boys having no restrictions.

        2. Samuel Conner

          re: the place name spelling, me thinks the penultimate syllable may end with the consonant “zh” and the final syllable begins with the same consonant. I’ve never heard the name pronounced by a native speaker, so don’t know whether the two sibilants, when pronounced back to back, sound different — perhaps longer, or a pause between the syllables, than a single consonant.

          Russian names seem to give USians some trouble.

          I recall the 2016 incident when HRC had difficulty pronounced the name Myedvyedyev (phonetic spelling). HRC left out the “y”s

          1. Polar Socialist

            It’s much easier in Russian: Zaporozhye. Etymologically from “za porogi”, “behind/close to rapids”.

            I really don’t know why Ukrainians insist on repeating the last part – maybe they took the Russian name and turned it in to a placename by repeating the ending….

            1. Sibiriak

              There aren’t too many Russian words with жж. Onomatopoeic жужжать, to buzz, (жужжание, жужжащий etc.) is fun.

              Go here for more.

  5. tevhatch

    “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
    Other times I can barely see
    Lately it occurs to me
    What a long, strange trip it’s been”

    or to borrow a line from the character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

  6. Alan Roxdale

    This all seems like a staged piece of political theatre.
    The purpose is likely the dismantlement of the Wagner group, and the decommissioning/re-imprisonment of its soliders and unfavoured officers. Prigozhin’s performance to earn him a comfortable retirement.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Methinks you’ve seen too many action movies.

      Not with the loss of helicopters and a plane.

      You seem to have missed a point we (and many others) have made, that this revolt looks to have been triggered by the MoD bringing Wagner under the MoD as of July 1. It was already being disbanded, or at best reduced to being a special unit.

      1. John R Moffett

        We will see if there was any Maskirovka involved. Prigozhin was literally screaming obviously crazy, unhinged things, and then signed a deal the instant one was offered. For Maskirovka to work, it needs to be convincing, so many of the Wagner forces may not have been told it was fake and hence the unanticipated loss of aircraft. Now all the forces are much closer to Kharkiv, which is the next obvious point of attack for Russia. The men and equipment movement to the north was completely disguised as a coup attempt rather than a repositioning for an assault from the north while the Ukrainian army is held up in the south and east. I am not saying this is what happened, of course Prigozhin could have just lost his mind. I am just saying I am not so sure that there was no set up and acting here. The Russians could have been using the western media’s own propaganda and biases against them as everyone in the west was glued to their TV sets and not paying attention to the fact that a lot of Russian forces were now near Kharkiv. If there is an assault on Kharkiv soon, then I suggest it was a setup that had some unintended negative consequences. Dima is not always right, but he suggested as much.

        1. Skip Intro

          I remain very skeptical about reports of downed aircraft. A big empty convoy making a lot of noise seems like a great way to obscure troop movement.

  7. ALM

    None of this makes much sense. A couple of twitter posters who take themselves very seriously and weigh in on Russia/Ukraine for a living, or so it seems, speculate that the attempted coup was a psyop designed to flush out Ukrainian sympathizers of the traitorous kind in Russia. That doesn’t make much sense either. All that I am seeing are coherent pieces of incoherent explanations.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This idea that this was one big caper is too clever by half. Per Alexander Mercouris, Putin called all the commanders on the front line last night, presumably to stress the importance of their mission and staying put. This is not the behavior of someone running psyops. There’s too much risk of something like this spinning out of control, particularly since per Scott Ritter, the security services busted some sleeper cells in Moscow in the last couple of days. I think Ritter has the most plausible reading of known facts:

      1. Late Introvert

        Thanks Yves. I wish there was an auto-transcribe for YT that was on a 3rd-party site, but I know that’s a wish too far.

        1. Jorge

          Copy the YT url to the site

          That site will grab the transcription (CC button) and download it as a separate file. I find it invaluable to reading through these long videos; I’m not going to listen to some guy talk for an hour.

          Before I discovered Downsub, I was using a hackers-only tool called yt-dlp to do this.

      2. Keith Newman

        Thanks for the Ritter link Yves. It seems to sum up known facts well: the US/UK activating their Russian assets, including Prigozhin (a brilliant bit of recruitment), to disrupt Russia.
        My additional comments: this is a pro forma US/UK operation. They have done this kind of thing umpteen times in the past in many other countries, often successfully.
        Timing is due to Prigozhin about to lose his standing in Wagner and be of no further use, the bad defeat of the Ukrainian offensive, and the upcoming NATO meeting. While the disruption of Russia has failed, it is a bad look for Putin and Russia. Pretty good move by the US/UK although the events may have unintended consequences.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I believe the famed Pauline Kael quote is relevant here. Prizgohin probably misunderstood pomp and circumstance and believed it at some level that he was a savior of Russia or something, and he’s not at a stage where he’s a public elected or getting booed by college students (the greatest horror in the western world).

      Prizgohin may have been approached by Western intelligence in various forms who may have pushed him, but the guy has been publicly off the rails for a while. There is a reason militias and mercs are bad. Since the Moscow patriarchy fancies itself ands the successor structure to the old Patriarch in Constantinople, the Kremlin should be more cognizant of what happens with mercenaries.

  8. Robert Hahl

    After the Bay of Pigs we all learned that it is not wise to join any revolution plan which ends with “…, and then the people will rise up to support us,” all except the CIA/MI6, apparently. Given how this turned out, it seems Prigozhin was acting as a double agent duping the West.

  9. Daniil Adamov

    Prigozhin is someone who was created in the 90s, along with the rest of our (Russian) political and business elites. They may pretend otherwise, but the basic assumptions and features of the era – self-aggrandisement over all, oligarch lawlessness, government weakness and fecklessness, low priority assigned to public interest or people’s lives – are still with us through them. That’s not to say that every single member of our Yeltsinite elite is an identical cutthroat opportunist, of course – just that this is the ideal type towards which most of them drift. Sometimes I feel that this changing somewhat over time as peak 90s recedes and the priorities of elite self-preservation require some adjustments in attitude. If this is not just wishful thinking, the evolution is still slower than Putin optimists like to assume.

    I cannot say I expected any of this, but at the same time none of it seems shocking in the light of the above understanding. Nor do I think it really requires any explanation other than an internal elite conflict (although they are possible, surely – I just don’t think they are necessary). At least there wasn’t a full-scale battle, thank God for that.

    1. tevhatch

      Thank you for that. Simplicius Blog posted a video of the convict fighers, turns out no small sum of them were youth, peach fuzz babies, who probably got in trouble with the local law over antics. The images of them in the fight, and on the tables of the MASH equivalents was a real wake up. I can see why Kremlin cut off his supply of “prison labour”, and that this guy, if he had limits, were well beyond what I could understand.

    2. David in Friday Harbor

      Finally a voice of reason looking at reality on the ground. The collapse of the USSR and the Clintonite/World Bank “shock-therapy” of the nineties has never had an orderly resolution.

      The civil war in “Ukraine” and Russian military intervention are but one facet of this unresolved disorder. From reading RT and Tass is appears that the younger generation in Russia are taking advantage of sanctions to forge a fairer economy and society that isn’t subordinate to the West.

      Prigozhin had finally outlived his usefulness and needed to go. Prigozhin is by all reports a thug — and I suspect an amphetamine user — and acted according to type. What is interesting to me is that nobody — even most of PMC Wagner — appeared to offer even tacit support.

      Even more impressive was the discipline of the Russian armed forces, who patiently stood back and let Prigozhin’s silly parade peter-out before it got to Moscow — even after some half-wit knuckleheads shot at aircraft surveilling their rag-tag column. This suggests to me that there’s hope for Russia after Putin inevitably retires.

  10. Daniil Adamov

    Also, Helmer is very silly. Unless there’s something big I missed, Lebed’s “rebellion” was him running for president. As in, having a completely normal and legitimate presidential campaign. Not remotely comparable to either Prigozhin’s or Pugachev’s activities. Frankly, I think we would’ve been far better off if he had won. He said some questionable things in his time, but his deeds – bringing peace to Transnistria most of all – spoke much louder as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Stephen

    I was originally reluctant to see Prigozhin as anything other than a psy-op but his criticisms in recent months seemed more and more truculent in a way that was far too dangerous to be that. This latest event confirms things.

    The best interpretation seems to be that he could see his fiefdom and money flow about to end as the MoD brought Wagner into their official orbit. So he had decided to act. The planned timing makes sense if you wanted to pose as the defender of Russia after an initial Ukrainian counter offensive that had made gains. When it didn’t he decided to roll the dice anyway and tried to paint a false picture of reality.

    It feels self driven rather than something that the CIA and MI6 or more plausibly the Ukrainian intelligence service initiated. The west seemed wrong footed yesterday too. Possible I guess that there had been contact and even promises made but Prigozhin had enough internal drivers to do this, it seems.

    Easy to criticise Putin for allowing the fiefdom of Wagner to develop as a power centre. But like a lot of these things it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. In the initial days of the operation in Ukraine it was clearly useful to have Wagner recruit fighters and to keep casualties off the MoD’s books. It also seemed to be a good place for disgraced or out of favour Russian officers to continue to serve. Not to mention the uses that Wagner had already been put to outside of Russia with plausible deniability.

    My sense is that Putin emerges from this strengthened. He has not behaved like the crazed dictator of western propaganda and Prigozhin has been faced down.

    Interpreting civilian reactions is tricky too. I did see pictures of civilians both applauding Wagner and of others telling them their actions were wrong. Suspect emotions are complex here. Official military hierarchies and staffs in the abstract sense are often disliked in war. This is even if individual generals might be popular. The Wagner fighters have been fighting for Russia, and dying in the cause. I think I would have complex emotions as a civilian in that case. Applauding the Wagners as they left Rostov, for example, may not imply support for rebellion but simple solidarity and respect for them as Russian soldiers.

    An analysis of official Russian responses to this versus official / political U.S. responses to January 6 would be super interesting. I wonder which regime is more proportionate in its response and which is crazier in terms of discourse.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      I don’t think that would be a fair comparison. American authorities can afford to be very crazy (and that applies to a lot of things). They weren’t managing the mutiny of (an admittedly small but likely integral part of) a military unit in the middle of a war. The people they are dealing with are neither people they particularly want to keep on their side nor people that could genuinely endanger their existence. (I don’t think Wagner could either, but it is much closer to that.) I do think Putin is more cautious and rational than the American elites, which shows in his handling of the situation, but he also has more cause to be so.

      1. Stephen

        Yep, craziness is a luxury good! Western craziness does seem to be a wasting asset though that is running out of road. Given how the world is changing.

  12. GDmofo

    The video of that Ceaser getting knocked out was a sight. It was traveling down a highway, and tried to dodge a Lancet, skidded off into the trees (was literally drifting at one point), and was finished off with a follow up Lancet.

  13. Brexitskeptic

    While there’s lots of speculation from all sides of the spectrum, the fact is we don’t have the full story yet. What seems certain is that Pegrozhin is a dead man walking. Nonetheless, even if Putin survives, there’s no question that he was inflicted a deep wound by his close advisor/ chief assassin . This episode also sends a message to the US, EU and others that their economic abuses and political overreach can be undone on a dime. Books and speeches by and on both Putin and Xi have been around for some time that clearly point out where these men want to take the world. Because oligarchs control the US government, presidential candidates and subsequent key Cabinet positions are filled with the likes of Antony Blinken, Victoria Nuland, Janet Yellen (mute in economic policy), Merrick Garland – who clearly would’ve made a subpar member of the SCOTUS – these “experts” are working to protect special interests and enrich themselves, not for the good of the country,

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      People who are close to Russia come to the opposite conclusion. This has strengthened Putin domestically. An attempt at a military coup, the most threatening type, collapsed in a mere 24 hours. Every prominent figure in Russian society and all the regular army sided with him. People spontaneously came out to try to stop the Wagner drive to Moscow, even thought tanks can’t drive 1000km and the idea of taking Moscow with men in armored vehicles was an obvious non-starter. The US has been clearly trying to foment a coup for years. This (likely via MI6) failed abjectly.

      It may raise doubts outside Russia among less close allies, but any country that is or has been at odds with the US will similarly recognize that Putin survived the worst possible test handily.

      1. Revenant

        The intersection of people who would pseudonymise themselves with Brexit and skeptic-with-a-k is very small. A curious thing….

  14. maray

    The west was quick to yelp about Russia on the brink of civil war (a military coup is not a civil war and the claim that a military coup would lead to a civil war is in fact arguing that Putin remains very popular and civilians will die for him).
    The POTUS seems to have ceded to Blinken, the war mongering supporter of gloabl hatred and military expansion.
    The questions nobody is answering is how a deal was worked out so quickly, what, how could the Wagner leaders be dispatched to Belarussia so quickly and what will they do there? hard to see how an experienced military that rely upon the Russian army for supplies realy thought they could drive 1500Km+ without a supply line.
    That there was no move by Ukraine to take advantage nor any move by the Russian army to desert shows that the west is still in the land of making stories up

Comments are closed.