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22 June, 2024
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Wagner mutiny exposes the fragile balance in Putin's regime

A detailed account of the brief but explosive conflict between Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner group and Russia's military elite, highlighting the underlying tensions and risks

The Wagner mutiny, which lasted less than 24 hours, was the result of a toxic mix of jealousy, rivalry, and ambition that had been brewing for months. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner paramilitary group, and the heads of Russia's military, Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, were the central figures in this drama. Prigozhin, a former criminal with close ties to the Kremlin, built up his own power base by leading the Wagner mercenaries, who supported Russian interests in Syria and Mali. While Prigozhin had clashed with military elites before, his hatred for Shoigu and Gerasimov grew after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Prigozhin accused Shoigu and Gerasimov of trying to steal credit for Wagner's victories and criticized them for the military's failures in Ukraine. The rivalry intensified when Shoigu unveiled a plan to integrate volunteer formations, including Wagner, into the military, reducing Prigozhin's influence. The move, believed to have Putin's approval, triggered Prigozhin's fury. Despite a meeting with Putin and Shoigu, tensions remained. Prigozhin posted unhinged rants on Telegram, threatening to abandon the fight in Ukraine. Eventually, Prigozhin and his forces left Ukraine and took the Russian city of Rostov.

While the mutiny was quelled, the underlying conditions that led to it persisted. Private military companies in Russia, including Wagner, operate with allegiances to various factions, and their loyalty to the regime is now in question. Shoigu himself controls a rival company, Patriot PMC, creating further competition. The mutiny revealed the domestic political risks and challenges Russia faces in a prolonged conflict in Ukraine. The power dynamics among Prigozhin, Shoigu, Gerasimov, and Putin remain uncertain, and the long-term consequences for Prigozhin and Wagner are unclear. The mutiny highlighted the delicate balance of power in Putin's regime and the challenges of managing competing factions.

[Information sourced from BBC]

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