Yevgeny Prigozhin, the notorious Russian mercenary leader, orchestrated a brief but tumultuous insurrection, causing concerns about Putin’s control. Accused of treason by the Russian president, Prigozhin’s armed rebellion towards Moscow came to a sudden end within 24 hours, sparing bloodshed.
Prigozhin, known for his role in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, led his Wagner mercenary group from occupied eastern Ukraine to Rostov-on-Don and onward to Moscow. However, a surprising deal brokered by Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko halted the operation, supposedly marking the end of Prigozhin’s influence.
The exact nature of the deal remains unclear, but the Kremlin stated that Prigozhin would face no criminal charges and would head to Belarus. His fighters were promised amnesty. Despite a downed military helicopter, the extent of bloodshed remains uncertain.
Prigozhin’s revolt stemmed from a public feud with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov over insufficient support for his mercenaries. He defied Putin’s order to bring all mercenary groups under defense ministry contracts, challenging the president’s authority.
After accusing the military of attacking his men in Ukraine, Prigozhin declared a “march for justice” and attracted thousands of supporters. However, his rebellion was swiftly countered by the military and ended peacefully.
Although Putin may seem weakened on the surface, the incident offered a glimpse of an alternative to his presidency. The military’s ability to regain control over 25,000 mercenaries marks a significant development. Prigozhin’s role in the war and Russia has seemingly come to an end, but the implications of this episode continue to reverberate.