In a dramatic turn of events, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the flamboyant leader of Russia’s private military company Wagner, finds himself losing support in Moscow after openly criticizing the Russian military and issuing threats against its leaders. Read more.
As a result, the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence service, has initiated criminal proceedings against Prigozhin, accusing him of “inciting armed rebellion.” Surprisingly, they have called upon his mercenaries to apprehend him.
The events began when Prigozhin accused the Russian military of attacking a Wagner camp, resulting in significant casualties. He declared his intention to retaliate forcefully, hinting at the possibility of eliminating opposition through aircraft and roadblocks.
CNN reported, “There are 25,000 of us, and we are going to find out why there is such chaos in the country.” However, he later retracted his threat, portraying his criticism of the Russian military leadership as a “march of justice” rather than an attempt to stage a coup. By then, however, he had already stirred up anger within the Kremlin.
On Friday, Prigozhin claimed that his fighters had entered Russia’s Rostov region, even alleging that they had shot down a military helicopter targeting a civilian convoy.
The Russian Defense Ministry promptly denied these allegations, dismissing them as “informational propaganda.” In response to Prigozhin’s actions, the FSB initiated a criminal case against him, accusing him of inciting “armed rebellion.”
The Russian intelligence service released a statement describing Prigozhin’s statements and actions as calls for an armed civil conflict within Russia, branding them a betrayal of Russian servicemen engaged in combating pro-fascist Ukrainian forces. They called on Wagner fighters to apprehend their leader.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin knows the situation. Security measures in Moscow have been heightened, as evidenced by social media posts depicting military vehicles patrolling the city’s main streets in the early hours of Saturday.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former associate of Putin, initially gained success by catering to the Kremlin and supplying meals to public schools. However, he later expanded his endeavours to include the Wagner Group, a mercenary force aligned with the Kremlin. The Wagner fighters have been actively involved in conflicts across Africa and have played a significant role in the war in Ukraine, fighting alongside the Russian army.
Now, at 62 years old, Prigozhin has taken on his most audacious role yet: advocating for an armed uprising against Russia’s military leadership. While some reports suggest Prigozhin’s growing influence and potential political aspirations, experts caution against overestimating his relationship with Putin.
Mark Galeotti, an expert in Russian security affairs, characterizes Prigozhin as more of a staff member than a confidant, serving the Kremlin’s interests without being part of the inner circle.
Prigozhin’s rebellion and call for an armed uprising against the Russian military leadership have raised curiosity and concern. As the situation unfolds, questions arise about the potential implications for Russia’s stability and the extent of Prigozhin’s influence on the country’s political landscape.