BackOnMyBS, avatar

This is wild! Please correct me if I am wrong.

Putin was a dictator that ruled through a strongman public persona. However, the leader of the mercenary group, demanding a change of the military's top leadership and calling the premise of the entire war false, takes control of the main Russian city from which the offense on Ukraine is supported, is shown on video having the support of the city in public, and literally threatens to take Moscow with only ~5k troops. Russia's military forces against Ukraine have been effectively cut off from logistical support. This happened in ~2 days. Meanwhile, while Putin flees in a plane, called the mercenary leader a traitor and said that he would be prosecuted for treason. The mercenary leader then backs away in the final moment, and flees to another country that brokered the negotiations. Putin drops charges and now the military is changing leadership.

They just showed how politically weak and scared Putin really is, not even having control of his own immediate subordinates. They outed that the reason for the war was a lie. They just lost the leader of the mercenary group. They just lost the city from which they support their offensive on Ukraine. They just showed how vulnerable Moscow is, and by a ridiculously small unit of 5k troops. They almost had a civil war.

My best guess is that a coup was successful, and Putin is no longer in charge. We just don't know who really is in charge. They are keeping him there for a soft transfer of power, but a coup happened. The new Minister of Defense will terminate the offense on Ukraine, and the powers that control Russia will place a new face as president.

Anyone else have a better guess?

UnmeltedByRain, avatar

I'm not sure Russia gets to terminate the war at this point. Even stopping offensive actions wouldn't meet Ukraine's requirements. Russia needs to be expelled from all of Ukraine, including Crimea.


They could terminate the war (by leaving) but not just the offence.

UnmeltedByRain, avatar

That would be awesome, but I suspect Putin would sacrifice the lives of his entire population before giving up Crimea.


Why? Between the two Russia is the bigger part.


For Putin? Two Reason: 1. He would look super weak and unsuccessful if he lost Crimea. 2. It's in Russias mind very very important to keep Crimea and additionally a land Bridge to Crimea to "control the black sea" with their navy...

Both are Bs.


I was more pointing out it's an exaggeration to say he'd sacrifice the whole rest of Russia.

At this point Ukraine is not his biggest problem, though. He has internal challengers.


I'd think you'd struggle to get even his immediate, hopefully liberal, successors to give it up. There are even more liberal Russians that support Crimea's annexation on account of it historically and ethnically being seen as Russian, obviously the ethnic cleansing practiced during Stalin's time helped ensure this. The Crimeans themselves are hard to say because nearly any poll that has actually been conducted on them has been biased one way or the other. I'd still guesstimate that a good majority of them will possibly want to stay with Russia since war support seems decently high there. I don't think there is an easy path for Crimea to come back to Ukraine even if the Russians agree to relinquish it.

CanadaPlus, (edited )

Yes, when Ukraine takes it (which is I think where we're headed) they're going to have a hell of a time integrating it. It was added to Ukraine after Stalin died; when people say it's not historically a part of Ukraine they have a point.

exohuman avatar

Putin is still in charge. That’s not going to change. The mercenary leader got what he wanted by sacking the Minister of Defense and busting open the false justification for the war. He never mentioned Putin as a bad guy in all of this. He only said the Ministry of Defense tricked Putin into the war and then didn’t fund it. Putin was weakened but is still in charge.


Could he possibly believe that, though?

DevCat, avatar

By placing the blame for the war on the military leadership, could this give Putin an out to stop the war and absolve himself of all blame?


"In charge" as in what he says goes but what he says it seems can be easily manipulated so does he really have power or is he just the talking head?

Anomander avatar

As weird as it is to say, especially because there's lives at stake and this shit ain't game of thrones, Prigozhin acted a helluva lot smarter than I had expected. I had him pegged as a convenient dumb thug, but he has played his cards overwhelming correctly here.

Putin is still visibly running shit while shit is circling the drain, and is still the big boss that is leading the charge for war.

Prigozhin has spent a lot of this war sending meat into the grinder, to be sure, but it's also looking like he's gone out of his way to send the conscripts into the heat and has kept back his more seasoned and loyalist troops. Those troops loyalty has likely been reinforced by Prigozhin protecting them from being included in meat-wave attacks, while at the same time they've also seen exactly how Russia itself treats its own soldiers. He's been given a perfect environment to forge an ultra-loyalist core within his mercenary company.

He's waited until things are absolutely, massively, dire for Russia and when he knows that Russian supply and troop movements won't be able to respond to brief insurrection. It's almost unquestioned that he could not take Moscow, much less seize power directly. He doesn't have the manpower, he doesn't have the support among the elites, he doesn't have the supplies. He cannot coup. But he managed to rattle huge portions of establishment Russia, show that establishment Russia is not as safe or secure as the establishment says, and has aligned himself with veterans, ultra-loyalists, and anti-war camps all in one move. Then, by taking the overnight deal and agreeing to withdraw, he not only "gets away with it" but even looks like he was the generous one, granting reprieve to the capital.

To the bulk of the public, there's a shuffling of chairs at the top of the military - while more pragmatically speaking Prigozhin has arranged for removal of two of his direct rivals, and has negotiated replacing them with allies. It's been widely rumoured and seems to be accepted that Wagner was given some of the worst assignments and was routinely under-supplied - not just because that's The Russian Way, but because Shiogu and Gerasimov saw Prigozhin as a direct threat and Wagner losing troops or looking weak directly erodes his power in Russia. He's come out of this with a large core of loyal, seasoned, troops still reasonably equipped, and has put on a performance of power and strength that it was impossible for Russia to miss. He got to go through the spectacle of beating the Russian military on home turf in one their own strongholds, and had both their own troops and local citizenry appearing to side with Wagner's threat of coup - but all without having to commit entirely and risk the probable failure.

The balance of power behind the curtain has shifted significantly, for all that the man in front of the curtain - Putin - remains firmly in charge. And Prigozhin even managed to tiptoe through the entire episode without challenging Putin directly and while giving Putin a way out of the PR disaster he's facing - that just happens to require aligning himself even more closely with Prigozhin's camp.

Like, not going to go all out like this is 5D chess shit or something, but it's an impressively cunning series of moves to have set up his forces for this moment, to know when to strike, and when to accept terms and take an exit; all of which I'd have thought would be above the head of a guy who mostly seemed like more of a brutish fixer than someone who might be adept at playing political games.

I think at this point Putin is looking for a way out that isn't a bullet. The real problem for dictators isn't gaining, or holding, power - it's how to retire safely.

At the moment, there's impasse. Putin is still in charge, Prigozhin is still deferential, and this matter has resolved in a way where neither man has to maintain conflict or lose face. Prigozhin has his forces out of the crucible that will be the coming months of counteroffensive, he's safe to consolidate and build power in Russia, while Putin is still holding the bag on the failed war and Putin's main option as far as passing the buck will involve blaming the high-up military and intelligence figures - who are currently responsible for keeping Putin safe. He'd have to turn to other allies to protect him, and Prigozhin is posturing up to become the only viable option.

exohuman avatar

Now that makes sense. Thank you for that explanation.

ickplant, avatar

Putin was weakened but is still in charge.

I think this is very accurate. He was absolutely weakened by this "rebellion," but he is still the top guy. It will be interesting to see how this affects the war going forward.

FaceDeer avatar

The only reason he's still in charge is that, weak as he may be, everyone else is weaker. Putin has spent the last two decades trying to ensure that nobody is stronger than he is, not so much by building himself up but rather by tearing everyone else down.

That's been working for him in the short term, but I think this may be building up a really big problem for Russia in the longer term. When Putin finally does fall - as he surely will - there will be no succession plan and there will be nobody strong enough to step into his role.

ickplant, avatar

Totally agree. Russia's screwed in the long run regardless, he made sure of that. I'm a Russian immigrant, have been living in the US since 2001. I haven't seen much future for my country since the 2012 election (it's the last one I bothered to vote in, it became clear they were a total farce, and Vlady boy was making himself tsar). And then they attacked Ukraine. I lost all hope. I'm not wasting any time trying to make Russia better. I'd rather invest time and money into helping people hurt by them.


There was an interesting theory posed on Reddit (I sneak back there to lurk) that was a bit condescending "I am very smart" but I thought the central premise was actually interesting: this was all an elaborate way to desert since the rumor was they might get absorbed into the regular army and/or not get paid (or maybe they wanted to be assigned to an easier job back in Africa but got threatened so this was their work strike). They had to do it as a group because, individually, they'd have no negotiation power. The feint on Moscow was a show of force to get paid off. So, there was a van packed full of money that was somehow lost and found again in the middle of all this.

That's why the terms are that they get the treason charge dropped and the ones who didn't join just become part of the regular army.

The ones who supposedly "go back" to their staging areas may conveniently melt away/scatter with cash in hand. We'll see if they make it, or get picked up one by one as they try to make an escape. It will be interesting to know what the head count ends up at whatever base or staging area they were supposed to go back to.

Hole in the theory is that they can't expect to just take the pardon and rejoin society without consequences or end up just going back to the front line again rendering the whole thing pointless (unless they just wanted the money, being mercenaries).

If the desertion theory has any credence, that's still good for Ukraine, as Russia loses a chunk of fighting force either way and if news of this deal gets out to the regular army, others may think about using this method of desertion ("Hey, it worked for those guys...") Either way, a squad or platoon can't desert without getting mopped up but a battalion or division deserting will have a lot of leverage.


"projects in Africa" read: piggy's been given crown license to colonize Africa for himself


It gets and keeps him away from Russia, so there won't be a repeat coup, so Putin feels safe. It puts Pregoznin in Africa, surrounded by his people, and maybe getting him far enough away from Putin that he doesn't fall out of windows anytime soon. His men stop getting slaughtered for Putin's ego, so they 'win' as well. And with Wagner out of this war, there's more hope for Ukraine as well.

And, as you point out, the big losers here are the countries that Wagner is active in: Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, and Sudan. Hopefully, the coup will break the support that Russia's been giving to Wagner in Africa which may lead to them being extinguished there as well.

_I_ avatar

It's Russia. He's dead in a week or three. Putin won't forget or ignore this. He's fucking scared, and he'll try to kill him on the "battlefield", or by suicide by seventeen shots in the back of his head. Plenty of Russians love Pregoznin and hate Putin! Putin's fucked either way. He'll be know as the pussy who fled in his plane (even if it was a purposely misdirected.

Taijk, avatar

Will this allow Lukashenko to draw in Wagner troops and give them a base of operations, allowing him to provide some sort of resistance against a hostile military takeover. Some sort of insurance/body guard type deal, since Prigozhin also would not want it to be annexed now he is "safe"?

Shoigu focusing more on Africa will allow him to rotate PMC Patriot in and Wagner out, giving him the ability to become even richer.

mrbubblesort avatar

I can't imagine this is the end. I bet you at least one of the three are dead in a month

_I_ avatar

Nah, he's showing his hand since he knows Putin's got nothing. Putin fucked up when his (allegedly) empty plane fled Moscow. We all know Putin's a scared fucking pussy, and he's fucked either way how you bend it. Wagner is the start. Tchetchenia is next, knowing they'll have zero resistance towards Moscow they'll "finally" become an independent state when Putin is gone.


Lukashenko really workin' for that Colonel position.

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