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Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinion

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinion Wagner's coup scared Putin, but Prigozhin didn't finish his march on Moscow (Photo: Russian media)

On June 24, Prigozhin's Wagner group marched toward Moscow in several columns to overthrow the power. However, the goal wasn't reached. So, what happened, and what are the possible consequences of the "march"? Why Prigozhin failed, and who could have been behind the coup?

The outcome of the coup

On Saturday, June 24, several columns of Wagner fighters were advancing toward the Russian capital. Estimates suggest that over a thousand units of military equipment, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers, and trucks, were part of the convoy. The Russian authorities and military attempted to halt their progress, imposing restrictions, sabotaging infrastructure, such as bridges, and blocking roads with public transport vehicles in regions along their path.

Information also appeared regarding downed military aircraft, accompanied by corresponding photos and videos. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense has yet to officially confirm the losses, and there are discrepancies in the data from various Telegram channels. According to some sources, the Wagner fighters managed to shoot down six helicopters and an aircraft, resulting in the deaths of at least 15 individuals, predominantly military pilots.

Yuriy Ignat, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, stated that the rebels had successfully shot down a military aircraft, two combat helicopters, and four transport helicopters. He emphasized the mercenaries' swift and efficient actions, understanding the vulnerability of their columns from the air.

However, the turn of events took an astonishing twist. In the evening, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko was informed about negotiations with Prigozhin, which had been agreed upon by Putin. Shortly after, the founder of the Wagner PMC announced the suspension of the march and the return to their field camps, "acknowledging the responsibility for any bloodshed on the Russian side." He fell short of reaching the Russian capital, merely 200 kilometers away.

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinion

To escape the clutches of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin had to seek assistance from Lukashenko (Photo: Russian media).

Later, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for the Russian president, disclosed that Lukashenko and Putin had reached an agreement regarding the fate of the Wagner fighters and Prigozhin. Allegedly, the participants in the coup would not be pursued, with some of them signing contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, while Prigozhin, under Putin's guarantees, would "go to Belarus." However, as of the morning of June 26, Prigozhin's case had not been closed, despite promises to halt the criminal prosecution for inciting an armed uprising.

It remains unknown what Prigozhin's role in Belarus will entail. Lukashenko's involvement in the negotiations was explained by personal initiative and their longstanding acquaintance. According to Meduza's sources, Prigozhin insisted on holding talks with top officials, but Putin was reluctant to engage with him, necessitating the involvement of Lukashenko.

The Telegraph, citing sources in British intelligence agencies, reported that Prigozhin called off the march on Moscow due to threats received by the families of Wagner commanders. Instead, he plans to head to Belarus in exchange for a pardon following accusations of state treason. German authorities believe that the abrupt halt of the march towards Moscow was due to the lack of substantial internal support in Russia, which Prigozhin had counted on.

According to Jill Dougherty, former Moscow CNN bureau chief, Prigozhin's life could be in danger once he arrives in Belarus, as Putin does not forgive traitors. Meanwhile, concerns have arisen regarding the potential additional threats posed to Ukraine by Prigozhin and the Wagner fighters' relocation to Belarus.

Ukraine's opinion: Putin turned out to be a 'naked emperor'

The Ukrainian military command seeks to reassure the public, saying that the situation along the border with Belarus is under control and any attempted aggression by the Wagner group would be self-destructive. Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhii Naiev, emphasizes that defensive lines are being reinforced along this front.

"Our border is under reliable 24/7 protection. If the enemy attempts to cross the state border, it will be nothing but suicide. Our troops are ready to provide a worthy response to anyone daring to cross the national boundary with arms," he stated.

Currently, there is no information regarding the transfer of the Wagner PMC to Belarus. Ukrainian intelligence notes that while there have been political statements, it is necessary to wait for conclusive evidence before drawing final conclusions.

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinion

In Ukraine, there is speculation that Alexander Lukashenko may have been involved in the plot against Prigozhin (Photo: Getty Images)

According to Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, the Belarusian dictator is a cunning and unprincipled individual, and it remains unclear how he will proceed.

"I do not rule out the possibility that he could lead and assist the Wagner group in this coup attempt. Belarus is not as simple as it seems," he added.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, believes that Lukashenko utilized the situation to his advantage, increasing his stakes and improving his position. As for Prigozhin, the stated and actual goals may differ, as well as the stated and actual consequences.

Mikhaylo Podolyak, an Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, shared his opinion, stating that despite the Prigozhin not reaching Moscow, he has demonstrated that the Russian authorities no longer have a monopoly on violence. On the other hand, it is evident why Ukraine sees no point in negotiations with the Kremlin - they publicly humiliated Putin and made it clear that he is losing power.

Andrii Yusov emphasizes that by providing guarantees to Prigozhin after threatening to punish the traitor, Putin has ultimately diminished his own authority. Moreover, the statements of his associates that this is an internal matter of Russia demonstrate that they do not even want to engage with military criminals.

"Naturally, everyone marked against the hypothetical Putin, indicating that he is a downed pilot. He is a person who has lost his image, a bloody murderer, a criminal, but he controls a vast territory, nuclear weapons, and financial and economic matters. Everyone realized that it is not so. Everyone realized that the emperor is naked, and the house of cards is falling," noted the representative of Defense Intelligence during a telethon, adding that the coup attempt will have catastrophic consequences for Putin's regime.

Previously, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted to Prigozhin's actions by stating that the situation in Russia has descended into chaos, and the Kremlin does not control anything. Addressing the Russian people, he emphasized that the longer Putin can move between bunkers, the more everyone associated with Russia will lose. Zelenskyy also urged Russians to take action as the future of the Russian Federation depends on them.

Possibilities for peace in Ukraine?

According to CNN, the march on Moscow could have been bloodier and faced much greater resistance. At least, this is what American intelligence had anticipated. Within intelligence circles, a surprise was expressed at how toothless the Russian army proved to be against the rebels, but even more surprising was the speed of Prigozhin's agreement with the Kremlin.

According to the news agency, a few days before the coup attempt, American intelligence believed that the leader of the Wagner PMC seriously intended to challenge the Russian leadership.

While Poland and Lithuania are concerned about the possible transfer of Wagner mercenaries to Belarus and discuss the need to strengthen NATO's eastern flank, the British government is preparing for a scenario of an unexpected disintegration of the Russian Federation.

According to The Times, London will closely monitor what unfolds next, as a mercenary uprising could be the opening chapter of something new. Meanwhile, according to former military attaché at the British Embassy in Moscow, John Foreman, a coup in Russia would be the worst-case scenario, as Prigozhin is not a liberal democrat but a fascist.

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinionNATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hopes that the chaos in Russia will bring true peace to Ukraine (Photo: Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken doubts that this story has already reached its conclusion. According to his predictions, Russia may plunge into chaos that will last for weeks or months.

The attempted coup indicates that the political system in Russia is weak, and the military strength has suffered a blow. Furthermore, the monster created by Putin in the form of the Wagner PMC is acting against its creator, according to Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sees significant strategic miscalculation on the part of the Russian president, as he ventured into a full-scale war in Ukraine. He expressed hope that all of this may ultimately bring about a just peace.

Analysts from the American Institute for the Study of War believe that Prigozhin's rebellion will cause significant damage to Russia's military efforts in Ukraine. According to their assessment, Putin has become a laughingstock, and the actions of the 'Wagnerites' have demonstrated the degradation of the army reserves and the Kremlin's and Russian intelligence services' unpreparedness to react promptly to threats.

Putin's circle wanted to throw him off?

Mikhaylo Samus, the director of the New Geopolitics Research Network and a military expert, emphasizes that Prigozhin is not an independent figure but rather the media face of a project involving individuals from Vladimir Putin's circle, the Russian President's administration, oligarchs, the FSB, the Foreign Intelligence Service, and other special services.

The actions of the Wagner PMC founder could have pursued various objectives, from seizing power to absorbing revolutionary sentiments within Russian society amidst the war against Ukraine.

"After this show has ended, it can be said that it was indeed a demonstration to Putin that his position is very weak. One can speculate about the people standing behind Prigozhin. I believe there is the hand of Patrushev (the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service - Ed.). Or even Kiriyenko (the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration - Ed.)," he stated in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinion

Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Nikolai Patrushev may have been behind the Prigozhin's coup (Photo: Getty Images)

According to him, these individuals are believed to be pursuing their own goals, seeking communication with the West, and creating conditions that could lead to Putin's exit from power, similar to Nursultan Nazarbayev's scenario in Kazakhstan. They may attempt to come to power themselves, possibly without resorting to a full-fledged coup. Putin could be sidelined from future elections or voluntarily withdraw, realizing his "responsibility for the situation."

The analyst suggests that the people behind Prigozhin are looking for an exit strategy. Undermining Putin's authority might indicate their attempt to promote their own people or secure preferences in upcoming elections. Moreover, experts believe that Nikolai Patrushev may be establishing connections with the West, and the involvement of Alexander Lukashenko could be a fabrication by Russian intelligence agencies.

Some experts even speculate that these conspirators intend to orchestrate Russia's military defeat in Ukraine. By doing so, they aim to demonstrate to both the Russian elites and ordinary citizens that the current policies only lead to disastrous consequences for Russia itself, compelling a change in course to avoid catastrophe.

Therefore, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, should not celebrate yet.

The expert said, "Putin would be the primary target, with others falling in line within subsequent processes. This indicates an attempt to orchestrate a controlled transformation, although the situation could escalate beyond their control. Despite the confidence of the intelligence agencies, genuine dissent is growing within the Russian army, which has been further fueled by the recent developments surrounding Prigozhin. The Russian military is showing signs of unrest, and the current situation could potentially bring the Russian army to its knees."

Regarding the possible real uncontrollable raid, it could become a severe Russian revolt. Thus, Ukraine needs to intensify its efforts on all fronts and internationally, highlighting the lack of control in Russia, where armed groups act with impunity. This signifies that anyone could potentially utilize the world's largest nuclear arsenal.

"Hence, the West should stop fearing and immediately invite Ukraine into NATO. Can the West be afraid of a fail state? On the contrary, it should seek confrontation and exert pressure. The West will not negotiate with Russia over Ukraine, as Russia lacks leverage that could force Ukraine to abandon its struggle. This poses a significant problem for Patrushev and others," according to the expert.

Shoigu won

The head of the Center for Military and Legal Research, Oleksandr Musiyenko, emphasizes that the Prygozhin uprising was real, not staged. According to him, Prygozhin had long been preparing for this and wanted to be one of the leading players occupying key positions, and the blow to his camp near Rostov became a reason for the Ministry of Defense to respond, as they wanted to take the private military company under their control.

"And he went for it but failed miserably. In fact, he got scared at the last moment, didn't sense the gravity of the situation, and lost. I believe he has permanently missed the unique opportunity to topple Putin," stated the expert in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

At the same time, the Russian authorities behaved better than it might have seemed. They did not escalate the military confrontation because a civil war could bleed their own army, and unfortunately, events unfolded not according to Ukraine's desired scenario. Furthermore, there is information that the West called Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and inquired about nuclear security, according to the expert.

Why Prigozhin failed to reach Moscow and what Patrushev has to do with that: experts' opinionDefense Minister Sergei Shoigu got rid of his enemy Yevgeny Prigozhin (Photo:

"I think Shoigu has strengthened his position. Firstly, he got rid of the constant loudmouth. Now, if Prygozhin shouts, no one will take his words seriously because he's a loser. He had a chance, but he lost it all. Secondly, the Wagner Group mercenaries are going to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense, and Shoigu will be able to do whatever he wants with them in retaliation," Musiyenko believes.

Thirdly, Shoigu will continue to strengthen himself, creating his own army, and fourthly, either he or the West will establish contact with him. It is evident that the Russian Defense Minister is reaping benefits, and if he is not sent into retirement, it will only confirm this version, added the expert.

In his opinion, Prygozhin turned out to be morally unstable and unprepared to see the matter through. A coup requires maturation, and a leader must have a firm backbone and an understanding of the consequences. At some point, the leader of the PMC lacked the courage, although it's possible he did not receive the order to go all the way to victory.

Despite Vladimir Putin's intimidation and assurance that he would be awaited in Moscow, the behavior of the Kremlin dictator appears weak. This is partly because his orders to crush the rebels were not executed. Although it is too early to speak about real consequences now, they will likely manifest themselves a bit later.

As for the future of Yevgeny Prygozhin, there are no favorable scenarios for him.

"There is no forgiveness for such things. It (punishment - Ed.) can be staged as an unfortunate accident. He's done. He's no longer needed by either the Wagner Group, Putin, or Shoigu," added Musiyenko in his conversation with RBC-Ukraine.