James Grundy MP: cracks showing in Putin’s regime with action by Wagner group
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At one point, it seemed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was only hours away from being overthrown by a mutiny conducted by his former ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group that has been so central to many of the Russian military operations in Ukraine since the war began last year.
On Friday, Prigozhin dramatically seized control of a major Russian military base in Rostov-on-Don, a major Russian logistics and supply centre critical for the Russian War effort in Ukraine.
Within short order, the Wagner group had also seized control of the neighbouring province of Voronezh as well, later getting to within just two hundred kilometres of Moscow.
Equally as dramatically, the rebellion suddenly ended, ostensibly to avoid 'the spilling of Russian blood', but with rumours circulating that a deal had been done between Putin and Prigozhin, or that Putin had captured the family of Prigozhin to use as a bargaining chip to end the insurrection.
At the time of writing, very few details have emerged about this deal, apparently brokered by Russian ally and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
All we know so far is that all criminal charges against Prigozhin will be dropped, and he is apparently moving to live in Belarus.
Although this armed rebellion appears to have failed, there is no doubt that this event has greatly destabilised the position of President Putin.
Even last week, it seemed inconceivable that Putin could face significant internal opposition after his near quarter century of increasingly authoritarian rule.
Perhaps most damaging for Putin was the implosion of his carefully constructed narrative about the so called 'special military operation' in Ukraine.
Prigozhin, at the beginning of his mutiny, denounced the official Russian reasoning for the war in Ukraine, claiming that it was a tissue of lies, the real reasons for the war being that the cabal of elites around Putin merely wished to exploit the resources seized from Ukraine, and implying that they were prepared to send thousands of ill-trained teenaged Russian conscripts to their deaths to do so, led by a corrupt and incompetent clique of Russian generals who have bled their army dry by diverting military budgets into their own pockets.
In the west, we already knew much of this to be true, but for someone formerly so close to President Putin to openly state this as fact as he launched this abortive coup is quite breathtaking.
Even though this coup has failed, the cracks in the edifice of Putin’s regime are now clearly showing.
And it is to be hoped that this will expedite the end of the conflict with Ukraine.
It will be deeply ironic if all that Vladimir Putin achieves at the end of this is his own overthrow from his role as president.
Although the cost in terms of the lives of the men and boys sent to die in his pointless war will not have been worth the price.