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Putin knew about Prigozhin's rebellion two or three days before it started - WP

Putin knew about Prigozhin's rebellion two or three days before it started - WP Photo: Russian dictator Vladimir Putin (Getty Images)

According to The Washington Post, Russian intelligence services warned Russian dictator Vladimir Putin about the preparation of a coup against the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, two to three days before it was set to begin.

Ukrainian and other European officials noted that when Prigozhin attempted a coup on the morning of June 24th, Putin was "paralyzed" and unable to act decisively. According to officials, no orders were given for most of the day.

According to intelligence assessments, Russian intelligence services warned Putin that Prigozhin could be planning a coup at least two to three days before it was supposed to take place.

Security measures were taken at several strategic locations, including the Kremlin, where the presidential guard was increased, and more weapons were distributed. However, no other actions were taken.

"Putin had time to take the decision to liquidate [the rebellion] and arrest the organizers. Then when it began to happen, there was paralysis on all levels... There was absolute dismay and confusion. For a long time, they did not know how to react," said one of the European security officials, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

The dictator's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed such intelligence assessments as "nonsense," adding that they are spread by "people who have zero information."

Without clear orders, local military and security structures decided not to attempt to stop the well-armed Wagner forces, according to representatives of the security forces.

Many at the local level could not believe that the uprising could have occurred without some kind of agreement with the Kremlin, say representatives of the security service. Despite Putin's emergency televised address to the nation on the morning of the coup day, in which he promised harsh actions to stop the rebels, and despite the order to arrest Prigozhin for "incitement to coup" on the eve of his march to Moscow.

"The local authorities did not receive any commands from the leadership. From our point of view, this is the biggest sign of the unhealthy situation inside Russia. The authoritarian system is formed in such a way that without a very clear command from the leadership, people don’t do anything. When the leadership is in turmoil and disarray, it is the same situation at the local level and even worse," said a high-ranking Ukrainian security official.

The chaos in the Kremlin also reflects deepening divisions within the Russian security and military establishment regarding the conduct of the war in Ukraine, with many, including higher echelons of security and military services, supporting Prigozhin's aspirations to remove the higher military leadership of Russia, according to European security officials.

One high-ranking NATO official said that some senior figures in Moscow appear willing to rally around Prigozhin if he manages to achieve his demands.

However, other representatives of the security forces were horrified by the coup attempt and the toothless reaction from the Kremlin. They were convinced that this was leading Russia into a period of profound upheaval.

"There was disarray. You could argue about the depth of it, but there really was a lack of agreement," said a high-ranking representative of Russian diplomatic circles.

Representatives of the Russian elite stated that the divergences regarding the conduct of the war and the attitude towards it by the Russian military leadership will persist, despite the Kremlin's PR campaign aimed at demonstrating that Putin is in control and the beginning of a campaign to purge the ranks of the Russian army from critics and supporters of Prigozhin among Russian ultranationalists.

The lack of leadership from the Kremlin during the crisis significantly weakened Putin, according to his critics.

"Putin showed himself to be a person who is not able to make serious, important and quick decisions in critical situations. He just hid,” said Gennady Gudkov, a former colonel in the Russian security services who is now an opposition politician in exile. “This was not understood by most of the Russian population. But it was very well understood by Putin’s elite. He is no longer the guarantor of their security and the preservation of the system.," said Gennady Gudkov, a former colonel of Russian special services and now an opposition politician in exile.

"Russia is a country of mafia rules. And Putin made an unforgivable mistake,” said a senior Moscow financier with ties to the Russian intelligence services. “He lost his reputation as the toughest man in town," said a high-ranking Moscow financier associated with the Russian special services.

The Prigozhin coup attempt

On June 24th, the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused the Russian forces of striking his mercenaries' rear camps. In response, he and his mercenaries set out to storm Moscow. Within a day, they took control of Rostov, but they were still 200 km away from Moscow.

However, the coup attempt quickly ended after negotiations between Prigozhin and the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Following the talks, it was decided to send Prigozhin and some of his fighters to Belarus.

Currently, over 3,500 Wagnerites have arrived in Belarus. On July 20th, it was announced that Belarusian special forces and mercenaries will conduct joint training exercises.

Poland is expecting certain provocations from Russia and, therefore, has relocated its military forces from the western part of the country to the east. The President's Office also does not rule out provocations near the borders of Poland and the Baltic countries.