The Russian Federation was on the brink of a civil war. Indeed, Wagner Group’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, over the last 48 hours, launched a military insurrection against the Kremlin, intending to take over Moscow. The Russian billionaire business accused the Kremlin of striking a deadly missile against his troops, and he vowed to take over Moscow to ensconce justice. Putin, unintimidated, retorted that there would be severe punishment against the private militia.
A couple of hours, the news dropped that Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his fighters to return to their bases in a surprise turnaround since launching an armed mutiny against Russia’s military leaders. According to The Telegraph, Prigozhin was in the midst of an advance to Moscow, and was less than 130 miles (200 km) from the capital city when he announced he had halted his troops. Prigozhin stated: “We are turning our columns around and going back to field camps.” He said he understood the importance of the moment and did not want to “spill Russian blood.”
According to AP News, Prigozhin did not say whether the Kremlin had responded to his demand to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The turnaround followed a statement from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s office saying he had negotiated a deal with Prigozhin after discussing the issue with Putin. Prigozhin agreed to halt the advance in a proposed settlement, including security guarantees for Wagner troops.
Although a bloodshed was avoided at the eleventh hour, this whole situation significantly weakened Putin’s authority and Russia’s geopolitical strategic positions. U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, warned that Russia was “significantly weaker and more vulnerable than ever.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted:
“Today, the world saw that the bosses of Russia do not control anything. Nothing at all. Complete chaos. Complete absence of any predictability […] The longer your troops stay on Ukrainian land, the more devastation they will bring to Russia. The longer this person is in the Kremlin, the more disasters there will be.”
His lengthy implicit personal attack on the Russian president gathered more than 3 million views and was retweeted more than ten thousand times. President Zelensky once urged Western partners to support Ukraine and to help it “protect Europe” with planes and weapons.
Ukraine will undeniably capitalize on this insurrection attempt to fight back Putin’s troops, but nothing is guaranteed. And it is too early to tell if the insurrection attempt is completely over. For now, it is only a halt.
Putin’s power is currently fragile. We could ask ourselves if these events are signs showing the crepuscule of Putin’s grip over Russia.