By Elijah J. Magnier:
In the aftermath of the Wagner Rebellion, opinions differ as to whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has been weakened domestically or whether he has turned the threat into a victory. Observers within the US administration claim that Putin’s popularity and leadership have taken a hit, citing the uprising led by Wagner’s president, Yevgeny Prigozhin, as evidence of Russia’s internal lack of cohesion in the war against Ukraine. These claims have sparked speculation and prompted a closer examination of the outcome of the military rebellion and its impact on Putin’s standing. But one question remains: Will Prigozhin escape justice even if he is allowed to leave for Belarus unharmed?
On 24 June, Prigozhin launched a movement whose precise aims remain unclear. Unlike a coup aimed at overthrowing the government or seizing power, Prigozhin wanted to hold Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and senior military leaders accountable. Only a fraction of the 25,000 fighters associated with the Wagner group joined Prigozhin in this semi-attempted uprising, with many fighters present with him in the city of Rostov but still unaware of the details of his plan. Some of Prigozhin’s close associates were privy to his intentions, but Russian intelligence probably had prior knowledge of President Wagner’s plans. This is because the Wagner organisation is made up of retired senior officers from the Russian army and security services who maintain links with their former superiors and officers who previously served in the armed forces and intelligence services. It is not surprising that other monitoring foreign intelligence services received echoes of Prigozhin’s intentions, as communications are heavily monitored by many Western agencies involved in the war in Ukraine.
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