By John Helmer
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.
The one-armed rebellion has failed with recriminations, immunity from prosecution, and almost no bloodshed. The Kremlin solution has followed the precedent of General Alexander Lebed’s (lead image, centre) rebellion against President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, not the violent end of the rebellion of Yemelyan Pugachev (left) of 1773-75.
Dmitry Rogozin, who was one of the strategists of Lebed’s campaign for the presidency and later became a deputy prime minister under President Vladimir Putin, made the difference clear in a statement he issued early on Saturday, before Putin spoke at 10 o’clock. “I know the situation at the front as well as Prigozhin and I have never hidden my position, but whatever the explanation for an armed rebellion, it is still an armed rebellion in the rear of a belligerent army. In a war, you have to shove your political ambitions up your ass and support the front with all your might. Any attempts to weaken it are nothing but aiding the enemy.”
Another of Lebed’s comrades of 27 years ago, Sergei Glazyev, followed with a repudiation of Prigozhin of his own. None of the well-known critics of Putin on domestic policy, nor the military bloggers who have attacked the tactical management and strategic priorities of the Special Military Operation, supported Prigozhin.
The rebellion, according to sources speaking on Saturday evening, involved advance planning by Prigozhin and several hundred of the lowest ranks of his military group. There was no support among the Wagner officers. After they had moved on Rostov, then took the road to Voronezh and on towards Moscow, the road columns numbered several hundred, with a total across the southwest of no more than four thousand.
A statement issued by Lukashenko’s office in Minsk at 8 in the evening said the rebellion was at an end. “This morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed his Belarusian counterpart about the situation in the south of Russia with the private military company Wagner. The heads of State agreed on joint actions. As a follow-up to the agreements, the President of Belarus, having further clarified the situation through his own channels, in coordination with the President of Russia, held talks with the head of the Wagner PMCS [private military companies], Yevgeny Prigozhin.”
“The negotiations lasted throughout the day. As a result, we came to an agreement on the inadmissibility of unleashing a bloody massacre on the territory of Russia. Yevgeny Prigozhin accepted the proposal of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company on the territory of Russia and further steps to de-escalate tension. At the moment, there is an absolutely profitable and acceptable solution to the situation on the table, with security guarantees for the fighters of the Wagner PMCs.”
A well-informed Moscow source says: “The whole thing was planned for several weeks. . Soldiers and unit sergeants might be on board. Officers, obviously not. That makes it a mutiny against commanders. I do not think Prigozhin he will go quietly. He will try and romanticize himself as a Pugachev and his assassins as peasants defending Russia from oligarchs. Questions will be asked when and which men were already inside of Rostov Military HQ. Perhaps some advance parties were inside.”
There is no publication yet of Lukashenko’s terms which Prigozhin has accepted for himself. Unconfirmed reports in Moscow indicate he will leave the country for Africa with one of the Wagner units operating there. His media, communications, and internet networks have been blocked.
The War of the Worlds weekly broadcast went to air at 12 noon Moscow time. At the time there was considerable uncertainty in the Russian source reporting from Rostov and Voronezh; disinformation, faked videos, and panic reports, produced in Kiev, were circulating in the western media.
Listen to the analysis here.
The official criminal charge against Prigozhin is the armed rebellion provision of the Russian Criminal Code, Article 279:
Before the radio broadcast began, Putin made his 5 minute, 34 second speech to the country at 10 am. Unusually, he addressed the camera on his feet. Read the speech in full here.
There have been no personal statements from either Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, the targets of Prigozhin’s public attacks.
During the hours of the rebellion on Friday and Saturday, along the line of contact in the Ukraine there appears to have been no breakthrough by Ukrainian forces. Instead, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported: “Tonight, the Russian Aerospace Forces launched a group strike with high-precision long-range weapons at the centres of radio intelligence and aviation equipment of the Ukrainian Air Forces at the Kanatovo airfields in the Kirovograd region, as well as the Dnipro. All assigned objects are hit. The target of the strike has been achieved.”