Wagner’s ‘Coup’: Hope For Ukraine?

Undoubtedly, you’re familiar with the recent Saturday incident that unfolded in Moscow, sparked by the Wagner group’s uprising against Russia. But who exactly is Wagner, and what are the profound consequences entailed in this turn of events?

The Wagner group, a private Russian mercenary organization, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, formerly known as Putin’s chef, plays a significant role in Russia’s military efforts against Ukraine. These mercenaries, considered Russian heroes for successfully defending the city of Bakhmut against intense counteroffensive attacks from Ukraine for ten months, took a dramatic turn on Saturday, June 24th, when they redirected their focus towards Moscow. This event is not an isolated incident but appears to stem from several provocations experienced by Wagner at the hands of the Russian military. One such provocation was when Yevgeny Prigozhin accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket attack on Wagner’s base in Ukraine. Prigozhin had previously complained about the lack of ammunition supplied to Wagner by the defense minister and Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff. Various sources suggest that the motivation behind this revolt lies in Wagner’s quest for autonomy. They expressed discontentment with the Russian Defense Ministry’s failure to provide them with sufficient artillery. Prigozhin also accused the defense minister of initiating the war in Ukraine.

According to some sources, Wagner’s access to prisons for recruitment was denied by the defense ministry, and Prigozhin himself had aspirations to become the Russian Defense Minister, a position held by Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin stated on Saturday that they embarked on a “march of justice” on June 23rd, demanding the removal of Shoigu and his staff. The march towards Moscow began on Saturday morning but was later halted by Prigozhin to avoid shedding Russian blood. While Prigozhin claimed to have taken over Rostov-on-Don in Moscow, there was no confirmation of this on Russian networks. Prigozhin emphasized that the march was not a military coup but a protest for justice.

Although Prigozhin’s attempted revolt ultimately failed, its implications for Putin’s power in Russia are substantial. It raises questions about the Kremlin’s readiness and preparedness to win the war in Ukraine. A deal was brokered by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, resulting in dropped charges against Prigozhin for the mutiny. In exchange, Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his fighters and relocate to Belarus. However, this mutiny has significantly affected Putin’s regime, potentially leading to future power changes and division within Russia.

History has seen similar attempted coups in Russian power struggles, such as the failed attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. This raises the question of whether Putin’s government would survive such an upheaval.

Currently, Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, which did not halt during Prigozhin’s brief defiance. While military leaders admitted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been slower than expected, the division within Russia’s military forces provides Ukraine with the impetus to intensify their own counteroffensive.

The outcome of the war remains uncertain, but the determination and hope among Ukrainian soldiers like Andrii Kvantysia, injured in the Bakhmut city battle, indicate a resilient spirit. Whether this signifies hope for Ukrainians or if the attack on Ukraine will intensify despite the deal made with Prigozhin remains to be seen.

Akinbobola AYINLA

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