Russia and the Wagner Coup 119

Who would have thought that creating a large well-armed mercenary army including a large proportion of convicts would turn out to be a bad idea?

I am not going to pretend to know what is going to happen – I did not predict Russia invading Ukraine. But here are a few thoughts:

It is very hard to see how Prigozhin and Putin both come out of this alive.

Prigozhin crossed a line yesterday when he started criticising not just the conduct of the Ukraine war, but its pretext.

Today, Putin’s speech made no overtures towards Prigozhin. He did not offer to dismiss the defence minister or bring Prigozhin on board. He characterised this as a rebellion – although holding out the prospect of an amnesty to the rank and file of Wagner if they desisted – and compared it to an eclectic mix of rebellions against central authority in Russian history.

This seems to be an attempted coup.

It does not have widespread popular support. Ordinary Russians are entirely surprised and bemused. Prigozhin had obtained a measure of popularity with the narrative that Wagner were the most effective of patriotic fighters, but that does not mean people want him to run Russia.

I do not see this developing into a sustained civil war. Civil wars in states are sustained by ethnic, ideological or religious division. None of that seems to apply in this case. It is hard to see what would motivate Russian troops to kill each other.

The caveat is of course that Wagner has its own morale and identity, forged in combat and sustained by a common mercenary motivation. There is a strong sociopathic element in any mercenary outfit, and one including many criminals still more so. It is therefore possible Wagner will be more ruthless and motivated than government troops opposing them.

A fast strike for Moscow is not a hopeless plan for Wagner.

Wagner does not have an air force. The Russian air force is an elite liable to remain largely loyal to Putin, which could be crucial.

I don’t see this turning into a widespread Russian civil war. I expect it will be over, one way or another, in a fortnight. One problem with mercenaries is that somebody else might pay them more, and I don’t rule out that Prigozhin has been turned.

But we should all hope that, rather than unleash more chaos across Eastern Europe, this development brings negotiations and an end to the conflict in Ukraine.


Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations


Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9
Ethereum/ERC-20: 0x764a6054783e86C321Cb8208442477d24834861a

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.






Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

119 thoughts on “Russia and the Wagner Coup

1 2
  • Theophilus

    “a large well-armed mercenary army including a large proportion of convicts would turn out to be a bad idea?…”
    Along with some kilted fellows they did pretty well for the British Empire.

  • Jack

    Apparently Prizoghin have to leave Russia and Wagner to disband??

    Kremlin reveals details of Wagner deal
    The PMC’s founder Evgeniy Prigozhin will “go to Belarus,” Dmitry Peskov says

    What kind of nonsense is this?
    They should have sat down and solved the issues between them (Wagner and the russian military), instead Russia send him into exile and dismantle the best fighting force fighting for Russia in the war?? And they depart as enemies??
    Blunder after blunder by the Russian government.

    Shoigu, Gerasimov have to go, Prizoghin was right about that..

    • Andrew H

      Is Prigozhin going to take his tanks to Belarus? Without a security force he’ll be a sitting duck. (and with his personal security force he’ll be next door to Moscow)

  • Republicofscotland

    Possibly the latest.

    “Without the public support of any political figure in Russia, military or police unit, regional governor, or the officers of his Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his thousand rank-and-filers have agreed to return to their base camps on terms negotiated late on Saturday afternoon between Prigozhin and Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus President.”

  • DiggerUK

    This story of a ‘mutiny’ rings hollow. In all video footage I have seen, a maximum of two tanks and five light armoured support vehicles appear at any one time, accompanied by troop trucks in the convoy.

    One Reuters photo of the mutineers in Rostov shows a tank, with half of the Wagner troops in the photo crossing the road with takeaway coffees! Another shows an old boy going about his business of sweeping the street…..and this was a dash to take Moscow that was still over 200km away.

    Now all of a sudden Yevgeny Prigozhin is given safe passage to Belarus? The story being presented now is one of big man hugs and forgiveness.
    Please, give me a break. This whole charade is worse than the cover up over what happened with the Skripals and Dawn Sturgess. We’re no closer to the full story of what happened in Salisbury than we are here…_

    • Andrew H

      Just give it time DiggerUK. We cannot expect to get all answers in under 24 hours. I agree waiting for something to happen is a little frustrating. Charade no – the Russians according to them lost a number of helis + a plane with 11 airmen dead (but Wagner says they didn’t spill a drop of Russian blood on their march). Of course there is always the argument that all the footage is faked, but then we might as well say the entire war is an Orwellian fiction brought to our tv screens to stop us worrying about food prices. I don’t think so – this type of unreality isn’t useful.

      • zoot

        Andrew H

        agreed. in the fog of war what we need is no-nonsense, sober and serious Reality. like Azov are not nazis, Putin to California etc. just clearsighted, hard-headed plain Reality.

  • Crispa

    Succinct summary of the current situation from Russian news outlet Kommersant.
    Private military company “Wagner” left Rostov-on-Don
    NAC warns of responsibility for participation in illegal actions in support of PMC Wagner
    Prigozhin: PMC “Wagner” turns columns and goes to field camps
    Excavated roads in the Lipetsk region began to be restored
    Putin thanked Lukashenko for talks with Prigozhin
    Monday remains a day off in Moscow.
    Interesting example of crisis management, what the fallout is remains to be seen, with a central message to states against over reliance on outsourcing your military however much you believe in capitalism.

      • StrangeDay

        There’s nothing more annoying than reading an article on the Guardian and getting to the end of it and then realizing you missed at the top that it was by Harding. Whenever I’m in a bookshop and see some of his books I take and hide them under a pile of books in another section of the shop, usually in the fiction section.

  • DiggerUK

    Scott Ritter is one of my ‘go to’ for comment. He is also a regular on Consortium News, some of you may know him. Here he is with Judge Napolitano.

    He fills in a lot of gaps. For now I am open minded on his comments about Ukraine, CIA and British Intelligence involvement. I do value his word, but I still like hard evidence…_

    • Pears Morgaine

      He fills in gaps from his own imagination and has been consistently wrong. He presents no evidence that Wagner were working in cooperation with Ukraine and British intelligence; it’s all fantasy.

      • Sean_Lamb

        I think UK and US intelligence may have played a role but primarily in the area of misinformation and malinformation( true information but out of context or for an ulterior purpose). The Discord server leaks for example, which contained claims that Prigozhin was making deals with GUR to direct artillery fire away from Wagner. But possibly a lot of other material that was under the radar – to numerous factions in Russia. They might have told Prigozhin that he was about to be arrested (possibly misinformation, possibly malinformation) or that he was wildly popular among the army and they had intelligence that if he only stood up, the rank and file soldiers would flock to his banner.

        Anyway, as bad as it looks for Russia that it happened, once it happened their response was relatively sophisticated (although exile for Prigozhin might stick in their throats). Time and time again you would read comments in western and ukrainian intelligence circles that they believed the way to victory was by a Russian civil collapse. Now they can all see how delusionary that belief was.

        It is the danger of believing your own propaganda, if you tell yourself often enough that Russia is a gangster state it is going to come as quite a shock to realize that Russia is as much a constitutional state as the UK or the US. And as Napoleon put it: you can do a lot of things with a bayonet, except sit on it.

        The other interesting thing will be if Prigozhin starts making inconvenient comments from Minsk about 2016, but I expect he will be well aware that he is hardly immune from repercussions in Minsk

  • sergey

    As is so often w russia analysis, totally off the mark on so, so many points. To Craig’s credit, the narrative one can read in msm is just shit.

    • T

      I think Craig’s take was thoughtful and perfectly reasonable given what he knew when he wrote it. You are certainly right however about the approved pundits. Looking at Applebaum, Harding, Snyder and the rest it seems the wronger an approved “Russia Expert” is the more valued their services become. Their analyses of yesterday’s ‘coup’, the Ukraine counteroffensive, NS sabotage et al should be career ending. Instead the opposite is always the case.

  • Sean_Lamb

    You get the feeling that Prigozhin knew something bad for him was coming down the line and decided he would jump first. 1st of July was the date he lost control of Wagner, so he decided it was now or never.

    Miraculously he seems to have pulled it off (ie he remains out of prison, which was the only possible positive outcome for him) – for now.

    All completely extraordinary. The contrast with the UK and the US where the thugs and criminals are firmly in control of the intelligence agency and military and they have no need to launch coups. Just leak damaging information to the media whenever a politician looks like they might step out of line.

  • Blue Dotterel

    Well, Larry Johnson has a scenario that tends to support my suspicions that this was not quite the “coup” attempt it seemed to be. Weeb Union put forward a similar possibility yesterday. Both involving the mass movement of forces from Don Bass to Belograd – hence the Kharkov front – while deflecting the attention of the West.

    Weeb Union (towards the middle of the piece)

    Obviously, I cannot say this sort of thing was the plan, but this was clearly not the usual evolving coup type situation. Something was clearly up on the Russian side. As for NATO, egg on the face. Hmm, eggs, time for breakfast!

  • Tatyana

    There are religious summer holidays here in Russia, named Apple Feast of the Saviour, Honey Feast of the Saviour. In Russian it is Apple Spas, Honey Spas, Spas is shortened from Spasitel, Russian word for the Saviour.
    As Belarus is known for their excellent potatoes, people on Pikabu suggest from now we celebrate Potato Spas on June 24 🙂

  • Sam

    Stick to Scotland and Assange and international maritime law and other things you know best because your Russophobia is once again rearing its ugly head.

    Prighozin is alive and well, as is everyone else from yesterday’s drama, so chill your jets. Nothing can destroy Russia.

  • Casual Observer

    If as is being ‘Officially’ claimed, the deal to bring this ‘Attempted’ putsch to a close includes the sending of PMC Wagner to the Polish/Byelorussian frontier, then not only could one suggest that it would be similar to another body being sent to Corsica, but also its something for the Poles to think about given their recent ideas about setting that very region ablaze.

  • Fat Jon

    How can we be sure that any of this story is true? A photo on the front page of today’s Observer purports to show “Wagner troops on the streets of Rostov-On-Don”, but the photo shows one tank with some daubed red markings. You can see underneath the tank, and there is nothing at all on the road behind except for a parked black civilian van with one door open.

    However, I suppose it takes all the focus away from totally incompetent Western politicians, and gives the armchair generals plenty to pontificate about ad nauseam.

    • Teflon Don

      Social media was awash with accounts and photos from a variety of sources – which negates the idea of a single manipulated narrative or single manipulated photo…

  • Matthew G. Saroff

    [MOD: Caught in spam-filter]

    It appears to me that Russia wanted to fold the Wagner units in the Ukraine into the regular military, and Prigozhin was engaging in extremely aggressive negotiations about the price, which were resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

  • Neil

    Ok, but would you mind being consistent and treating comments which constantly dismiss documented empirical evidence as “msm lies” in the same way, i.e. as comments which adds nothing to the discussion?

  • jon Wade

    Apparently Prizoghin met Ukranian intel and CIA given 6.2 billion to stage a coup. Once money transferred turned around. Putin informed in advance by Prizoghin if Isreali inteligence to be believed.

  • Teflon Don

    All fine analysis however what about the strong element of warring factions in an authoritarian system, for which the good tsar maintained somewhat of a balance.

    Viewed over a longer period the further breakup of remnants of the Russian empire – ill fitting in such a giant single nation, bolstered by the presence of military forces across the realm…

  • MFB

    I’m afraid that you are projecting a little, Mr. Murray.

    Quite apart from the gullible acceptance of a lot of dodgy NATO propaganda in this posting, the problem is that if there were indeed to be a serious mutiny in the Russian armed forces, the most likely consequence would be not de-escalation and negotiation (all propaganda aside, there is no sign that Ukraine is worth negotiating with even if the Ukrainian government hadn’t made all negotiation illegal) but a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Unless you really want that, you should be careful what you dream about.

1 2