The revolt, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner troops, has significantly weakened President Vladimir Putin’s image and raised doubts about his ability to conduct military operations in Ukraine.
After a brief uprising by mercenary forces, Russian government troops have withdrawn from Moscow’s streets, allowing people to flock to parks and cafes.
This event has tarnished Putin’s reputation as a ruthless leader who swiftly suppresses dissent, potentially creating opportunities for other dissatisfied individuals who oppose his long-standing control over Russia, particularly in light of his ill-fated Ukraine invasion.
Characterizing the recent events as remarkable, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted that the developments over the weekend were “extraordinary.” He recalled the situation 16 months ago when Putin seemed ready to capture the capital of Ukraine, and contrasted it with the present scenario in which Putin had to defend Moscow against a rebellion led by his former protégé.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that the recent events have revealed cracks in Russia’s façade. The exact implications of these cracks and their future trajectory remain uncertain, but Putin will inevitably face a series of new challenges in the coming weeks and months.
Agreement made by Putin and Prigozhin
As per the agreement, Prigozhin will be granted asylum in Belarus without being subject to legal prosecution, and his forces will also be exempt from any legal consequences. Since the announcement of the deal, reportedly mediated by Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko, both Putin and Prigozhin have remained silent and their whereabouts or activities are unknown.
As per the agreement, Yevgeny Prigozhin, along with his forces, will be granted immunity from prosecution and will go into exile in Belarus. Both President Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin have remained silent since the announcement of the deal, which was reportedly mediated by Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko.
Impact of rebellion on Ukraine
The consequences of the 24-hour rebellion on the ongoing war in Ukraine are still unclear. However, it resulted in the withdrawal of some of Russia’s top forces from the battlefield, including Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner troops and Chechen units dispatched to suppress the revolt.
Ukrainians had optimistic expectations, while analysts proposed that the internal conflicts within Russia could present favorable openings for the Ukrainian army. The Ukrainian forces are currently initiating a counteroffensive to regain control over territories occupied by Russian troops.
Ben Barry, a senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, commented that these recent events would bring significant reassurance to the Ukrainian government and military.
What did Wagner do?
During their swift offensive, Prigozhin’s forces managed to seize control of two military bases in southern Russia on Saturday, bringing them within a distance of 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Moscow. However, they subsequently withdrew and retreated from the area.
Captured on video by The Associated Press on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don, a scene unfolded that fed into Putin’s concerns about a potential popular uprising. People could be seen enthusiastically cheering the departing Wagner troops, with some rushing to shake hands with Prigozhin, who was traveling in an SUV.
Following this, the regional governor stated that all the troops had departed from the city. Russian news agencies also reported that the authorities in Lipetsk confirmed the withdrawal of Wagner forces from their region, which is situated on the route from Rostov to Moscow.
What measures did Putin take?
In anticipation of the arrival of Wagner forces, Moscow took precautionary measures by setting up checkpoints at the southern periphery of the city, deploying armored vehicles and troops. State television in Chechnya reported that approximately 3,000 Chechen soldiers were swiftly redirected from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine to Moscow early on Saturday.
Russian troops, equipped with machine guns, established checkpoints on the outskirts of southern Moscow. Additionally, sections of highways were excavated to impede the progress of the advancing forces.
What happens to Wagner?
One question that arises is the fate of Wagner, the military contractor owned by Prigozhin. Wagner forces have been deployed in various countries to support Russian interests.
Under the terms of the agreement that put an end to Prigozhin’s progress, Wagner troops who refrained from participating in the rebellion will be provided with direct contracts from the Russian military. This move will place them under the control of the military leadership that Prigozhin was attempting to remove.
The arrangement appears to be a hastily arranged deal aimed at protecting Prigozhin, preserving his wealth, and ensuring the safety of his family. Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland, characterized the agreement as such.
Prigozhin’s motive behind rebellion
Prigozhin, known for his criticism of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s handling of the war in Ukraine, had demanded Shoigu’s removal. The US possessed intelligence indicating that Prigozhin had been amassing his forces near the Russian border over a period of time.
This contradicts Prigozhin’s claim that his rebellion was triggered by an attack on his camps in Ukraine by the Russian military. In his announcement of the rebellion, Prigozhin accused Russian forces of launching a rocket, helicopter gunship, and artillery assault on the Wagner camps in Ukraine. However, the Defense Ministry refuted these allegations, denying any involvement in attacking the camps.
One possible motive behind Prigozhin’s rebellion could be the Russian Defense Ministry’s requirement, supported by Putin, for private companies to sign contracts with the by July 1. Prigozhin had refused to comply with this demand.