By Kazimierz Kryzhich
On June 23, the confrontation between Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Wagner PMC owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, which started almost from the beginning of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, entered the stage of armed confrontation. Many believe that the initial cause of the conflict lies in the radical dispute of business interests of Sergei Shoigu’s family clan with Yevgeny Prigozhin’s corporation. Neither side in the dispute is progressive in nature.
Repeated attempts by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to take control of Wagner during military operations in Ukraine were unsuccessful. Wagner had no clear legal status, as the very existence of this military organization did not comply with the very norms of Russian legislation.
After Shoigu’s order that all private military companies must conclude contracts with the Ministry of Defense, Prigozhin categorically refused to obey and made a series of populist statements about the total corruption of the highest command of the Russian army and the senseless death of a hundred thousand people affected by military tasks. Consistently positioning himself as a true patriot of Russia, a defender of the common soldier and the Russian people, Prigozhin quickly gained popularity in Russian society and began to pose a real threat to the current government.
On June 23, a missile attack was carried out on Wagner PMC camps, for which Prigozhin blamed the Defense Ministry. In the evening of the same day, Prigozhin announced the start of a military campaign against Moscow, calling it a “March of Justice.”
On the morning of June 24, Wagner’s militants captured the headquarters of the southern military district of the RF Defense Ministry in Rostov and blockaded all military facilities in the city. Part of Prigozhin’s units left the Rostov region along the M-4 Don federal highway to Moscow. It is worth noting the large and positive public outcry provoked by this “March of Justice”. Along the entire route of advance, the Wagnerians found the support of the population who perceived Yevgeny Prigozhin as the savior of the Russian people from Putin’s yoke. During the day, Wagner detachments passed through the Voronezh, Lipetsk and Tula regions and stopped two hundred kilometers from Moscow. The rebels destroyed six Russian helicopters attacking the Wagnerians and one transport plane. In Moscow and adjacent regions, a regime of anti-terrorist operations was announced, access roads were blocked and all military units were put on alert.
On the night of June 24, through the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Yevgeny Prigozhin agreed with the Russian federal government to put an end to the uprising. Thus, Wagner’s failed rebellion ended with the return of the combat units to their previous locations, and Prigozhin went to Belarus, where Lukashenko acted as a guarantor of his personal safety.
The criminal case on the fact of the rebellion has been closed, the participants of the rebellion, according to Putin’s press secretary, will not be prosecuted.
It is hard to imagine that Prigozhin, being one of Vladimir Putin’s most successful projects, would have attacked Moscow to overthrow him. The conflict between Wagner and the Russian Defense Ministry, in which Putin eventually sided with Sergei Shoigu, left Prigozhin with no choice but to pay for higher fees. And this tactic worked. At the very least, Prigozhin has so far preserved his freedom and his life, as well as the possibility of further enrichment in the field of mercenarism. It is possible that Prigozhin will be killed a little later in Belarus, or Lukashenko will use his services, using the experience of the owner of Wagner PMC, including in various commercial projects in other states. The remaining Wagner militants are doomed to further participation in the meat grinder called “special military operation”. Further unrest in the ranks of the Russian military, including those involving militants of private military campaigns, is not ruled out.
The failed Wagner rebellion demonstrated not only Putin’s political weakness, but also the oligarchic-corporatist essence of Kremlin power, with its inevitable multi-clan wars over the “food base.”
During the war against Ukraine, dozens of private military companies have been created in Russia to protect the interests of various corporations embedded in power. The failures of the Russian military on the Ukrainian front will certainly hit the Putin regime and provoke armed conflicts between oligarchic groups in the struggle for spheres of influence and dwindling resources on Russia’s own territory.
Therefore, the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions, which led to military aggression in Ukraine, may have a completely opposite result: the total collapse of the Russian Federation.