Mutiny or protest? Prigozhin clarifies Wagner’s stance

Moscow (Caasimada Online) – In a recent online audio message, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary outfit, elaborated on his failed insurrection, declaring it as an attempt to safeguard his military unit and highlight Russia’s military leadership deficiencies.

This comes as Russian authorities are striving to project an atmosphere of normalcy after the recent unrest.

Prigozhin’s message, his first since the halt of his troop’s march towards Moscow, is a pushback against the notion that he intended to undermine the Kremlin.

Instead, he asserted that his actions were designed to prevent dismantling his Wagner force, and he highlighted the evident security issues revealed by the ease of his troop’s advance on Moscow.

The mercenary leader, previously a close confidante of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, has a longstanding disagreement with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, stemming from their management of the Ukraine campaign.

“Our goal was to stage a protest, not to seize power in the country,” Prigozhin clarified.

He also boasted of his troops’ achievements, claiming they had “blocked all military infrastructure” along their path, closing in at less than 200 kilometers from Moscow.

A lifeline from Lukashenko

After mediation efforts by Belarus’ strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin called off the advance and vacated a military base his force had taken over in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, a critical hub in the Ukraine war.

Lukashenko provided a way for Prigozhin to keep the Wagner force functional in Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East.

“Lukashenko offered solutions to continue the operations of the Wagner private military company under a legal jurisdiction,” Prigozhin shared.

The remarkable sequence of events has sparked international concerns, marking Russia’s gravest security crisis in decades.

Nonetheless, Prigozhin insists the mutiny was merely a form of protest and claimed that civilians along the march route expressed support with patriotic flags and Wagner symbols.

The Kremlin, aiming to downplay the situation, announced that Prigozhin could seek exile in Belarus and offered amnesty to his troops.

Putin himself sidestepped the issue, focusing instead on praising companies for overcoming “severe external challenges.”

Wagner’s ongoing operations

Despite the recent turmoil, Wagner’s headquarters in Saint Petersburg remains operational. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed the firm’s continued activities in Mali and the Central African Republic.

Amid the unrest, Putin reportedly received “full support” from Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

As Russia grapples with the internal crisis, Ukraine’s military continues to register victories in its campaign to drive out Russian forces from the eastern and southern regions of the country.

“We are expelling the enemy from its positions around the city of Bakhmut,” said Oleksandr Syrskyi, eastern ground force commander.

“Ukraine is regaining its territory. We are moving forward.” Ukrainian deputy defense minister Ganna Malyar added that Ukraine had recaptured the rural settlement of Rivnopil in the southern front of the Donetsk region.

The shifting tide in Ukraine is seen as further weakening Putin’s grip on power. Western allies provide weaponry and financial support to Ukraine, noting the dual pressure of Wagner’s revolt and the Ukraine operation.

Germany, in particular, announced it would deploy a 4,000-strong army brigade in Lithuania to bolster Europe’s eastern defenses against Russia.

Despite the internal strife and the ongoing war, Russian officials in Moscow and the Voronezh region have lifted the emergency security measures designed to protect the capital from rebel assault, signaling a return to normalcy.