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Prigozhin’s Folly

The Biden administration had a glorious few days last weekend. The ongoing disaster in Ukraine slipped from the headlines to be replaced by the “revolt,” as a New York Times headline put it, of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary Wagner Group. The focus slipped from Ukraine’s failing counter-offensive to Prigozhin’s threat to Putin’s control. As one headline in the Times put it, “Revolt Raises Searing Question: Could Putin Lose Power?” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius posed this assessment: “Putin looked into the abyss Saturday—and blinked.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken—the administration’s go-to wartime flack, who weeks ago spoke proudly of his commitment not to seek a ceasefire in Ukraine—appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation with his own version of reality.

Russian (Melo)Drama

After a few hours of high drama in southwestern Russia last Saturday, featuring a paramilitary leader, 4,000 to 6,000 followers, and a small column of trucks and other military vehicles driving north toward Moscow, let us keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs and blaming it on … Vladimir Putin. Let us try to understand what happened and why when Yevgeny Prigozhin, a commander of no military experience but nonetheless of some battlefield accomplishment, turned on Russia’s high command after months of heated and very public feuding. Let us first try to understand what did not happen last Saturday. No one challenged state power.

Russia’s FSB Spooked CIA On Prigozhin ‘Coup’

CNN, followed by the New York Times, broke the story on Sunday that the US and Western intelligence were indeed aware of the failed coup attempt on Friday night by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group of Russian military contractors, “for quite some time and making preparations for such a move, including by massing weapons and ammunition.” What we do not know is at what point Russian intelligence got wind of it. The Kremlin acted forcefully, decisively and with foresight in real time to scotch the coup attempt within hours. By Saturday evening, the foreign intelligence chief Sergey Narishkin announced that the coup attempt had failed. The Russian authorities were waiting for Prigozhin to make his move.

Prigozhin’s Farce Is Over And It Is Clear Who Has Won

The Prigozhin's insurrection farce is over. I had predicted that it would not take long to end: In twelve or so hours things are likely to have calmed down. About eight hours after I published the above Prigozhin had given up and left the scene. Prigozhin had launched his hopeless mutiny after the Defense Ministry had demanded that all his men sign contacts with the Russian army. That would have taken away the autonomy of his Wagner outlet and with it a large chunk of his profits. The run of his troops towards Moscow was a desperate attempt to get Putin's attention and to make him reverse the ministry's plans.

The Rise And Fall Of Wagner Group’s Yevgeny Prigozhin

The Kremlin leadership has acted decisively to meet the threat of an armed insurrection by the Russian oligarch and self-styled ‘founder’ of Wagner Group of military contractors, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In a series of videos released on Friday, Prigozhin alleged that the Russian government’s justifications for military intervention in Ukraine were based on lies. He accused the Russian Defense Ministry under minister Sergei Shoigu of “trying to deceive society and the president and tell us how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO.” He claimed that regular Russian armed forces had launched missile strikes against Wagner forces, killing a “huge” number.
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