Twists & turns behind Wagner rebellion
By Vijay Darda | Published: July 3, 2023 08:54 AM2023-07-03T08:54:27+5:302023-11-07T12:57:40+5:30
The story of Wagner Group’s uprising in Russia and subsequent quick settlement is not limited to only what meets ...
The story of Wagner Group’s uprising in Russia and subsequent quick settlement is not limited to only what meets the eye. The question is why did Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is referred to as ‘Putin’s chef,’ rebel?
Why did the private army, which had been fighting for Russia all over the world for years, suddenly direct its weapons and tanks against Moscow? Why did they shoot down Russian combat aircraft and helicopters? Events like Putin’s warning and the subsequent announcement of pardon to all raise more questions than answers. This unexpected story has a lot of twists and turns. While some believe that the American intelligence agency CIA was behind the whole game, the others wonder whether Putin masterminded the entire drama. Generally speaking, one does not see Putin reaping any benefits from the episode, but then what can one say about the thought process of a mercurial Russian leader? He is capable of doing anything!
The story that unfolded is surprising because Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private army Wagner Group, had remained very close to Putin. He used to work for Kremlin’s catering, thus he was also known as ‘Putin’s chef’. It is said that Putin required a private army for works that he could not get done directly by the official Russian army. Keeping this in mind, Dmitry Utkin, a top official of Russia’s Military Intelligence Agency, and tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin secretly organised this private army, which recruited feared criminals in prison and retired officers from Russia’s elite force. Dimitri’s radio call signal in Chechnya was ‘Wagner’, thus he named the group Wagner. Its identity was revealed for the first time when this private army backed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Russia kept silent even then, but with the invasion of Ukraine, the Wagner Group took the lead. Its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin even began to talk openly. Britain’s Ministry of Defence released an intelligence dossier claiming that the Wagner Group has roughly 50,000 soldiers.
The Wagner Group was thought to have provided Russia with significant strength in the current Ukraine war in the 1800-kilometer border area, but Yevgeny suddenly rebelled! He announced to teach Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov a lesson holding them responsible for the deaths of his warriors. His forces were on their way to Moscow within hours! Moscow declared a state of emergency. The Russian army also left for retaliation. Although the Wagner Group was attacked, they also shot down a large number of Russian fighter helicopters and planes! Putin termed it a betrayal and vowed that no one would be spared.
What transpired after some time surprised the world. The entire episode abruptly ended. Yevgeny is in Belarus right now. He said he wanted to depose Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov and did not have anything against Putin. The question now is whether this story is the same as meets the eye or is there another story going on behind the scenes? I believe the real story is hidden behind the scenes. We can evaluate the entire episode in two ways. The first case is that Russia will have to bear the loss of the Wagner Group’s withdrawal from the field, which was clearly desired by anti-Russia forces. So, did Yevgeny fall for this ruse? Was he enticed by the prospect of taking the place of Putin if he was removed from the office? It’s probable that anti-Russian forces persuaded Yevgeny, “You rebel, we’ll support you,” and he betrayed his vow! In diplomacy, anything is possible. He might not have expected that Putin would order an airstrike on the Wagner Group’s fighter convoy so soon! It’s also likely that the anti-Russian intelligence organisations pulled this trick solely to get Yevgeny’s men off the battlefield.
There is no dearth of people who see this whole episode as a ploy by Putin and there is a valid reason to this as well. Putin has not had the success he had hoped for in Ukraine. His assessment was that Ukraine could be captured in less than a week’s time, but it’s more than sixteen months now since the war began. The debate over Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov’s ineffective strategy has raged for a long time. Putin may be attempting to depose both or one of them. That is why the entire episode was designed.
Furthermore, Putin may desire that the Wagner Group fight for him but not publicly. It should work for Russia in the manner it did in Africa and other countries. The fact that Yevgeny Prigozhin was beginning to step out of the Russian shadow is the third crucial development. A strategy might have been developed to remove him from the field so that he won’t pose a threat to Putin in the future. This may be inferred from the fact that Yevgeny claimed that his fighters will not sign the new contract that the Russian army has stated the soldiers will be required to sign. They will not go with the Russian army, he had said. Meanwhile, the word is spreading that Wagner Group has recommenced hiring at a breakneck speed. It simply indicates that the plot has a lot of twists and turns! There are a lot of background happenings. We will have to wait a bit longer to know everything.
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.Open in app