There was almost a full paramilitary coup in Russia over the course of 36 hours

If I’m getting the time difference right, it seemed like this whole thing began mid-day Friday. Suddenly, a Russian paramilitary force of recently imprisoned mercenaries called the Wagner Group attacked and took over Rostov-on-Don, Russia. They were met with little resistance in Rostov, nor did they meet much resistance as thousands of Wagner mercenaries hauled ass for hundreds of miles, hellbent on “taking” Moscow before the weekend was over. Yevgeny Prigozhin in “in charge” of Wagner. Prigozhin went from hot-dog-stand owner to owner of a catering company to one of Putin’s close allies and the leader of a massive and dangerous mercenary force. Prigozhin and Putin were so close that Putin basically allowed Prigozhin to form Wagner. When Putin made the catastrophic error of invading Ukraine, Russia’s military couldn’t handle the invasion or the war, so Putin hired Wagner to fight the Ukrainians. Apparently, Prigozhin has been deeply unhappy with the losses his forces have suffered in Ukraine, and originally, he claimed that this massive coup attempt was merely trying to remove Russia’s military leadership, not overthrow the entire government. Well, this whole coup ended on Saturday night because finally Belarus’s President Aleksandr Lukashenko got in touch with Prigozhin:

The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin announced that his troops marching toward Moscow would turn around, shortly after the leader of Belarus said he was in talks with Mr. Prigozhin on a deal to “de-escalate tensions.”

The negotiations between Mr. Prigozhin and President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus opened the possibility that the rapidly evolving security crisis embroiling the Russian government could be resolved without armed fighting. But Mr. Prigozhin did not immediately say whether his forces were leaving the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where he has seized critical military and civilian buildings.

In a brief address on Saturday morning, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called the mutiny an act of treason by people who were delivering “a stab in the back of our country and our people.” Mr. Prigozhin, after lashing out on Friday at the Russian military over its handling of the war in Ukraine, took control of Rostov in the early morning and began moving his armed military convoys toward the Russian capital. Mr. Putin, in turn, scrambled security forces in southwestern Russia and Moscow.

The situation shifted quickly late Saturday when Mr. Lukashenko’s office, in a statement, said that Mr. Prigozhin had agreed to the Belarusian leader’s proposal “to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company.” In an audio statement posted to Telegram shortly afterward, Mr. Prigozhin said he was “turning around” to avoid Russian bloodshed and “leaving in the opposite direction to field camps in accordance with the plan.”

[From The NY Times]

Over the course of a 36-hour period, Vladimir Putin had to step out and make a public address and he kept it short. That’s interesting because anti-Russian disinformation bots were definitely trying to convince everyone that Putin, his oligarchs and senior military officials were running like rats from a sinking ship, but it looks like the senior command did stay put in Moscow. It’s also interesting to see how little military and civilian resistance Prigozhin encountered as Wagner raced through the country to get to Moscow. Russian authorities said that Prigozhin was committing treason and armed rebellion. Prigozhin said he was merely a patriot. LOL.

It is good news for Ukraine, more than fifteen months after Russia’s invasion. Putin is deeply unpopular, the Russian military is in chaos, the Russian mercenaries are having supply chain issues and Putin needed his Belarusian buddy to bail him out. Insane.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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41 Responses to “There was almost a full paramilitary coup in Russia over the course of 36 hours”

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  1. Otterton says:

    I’ll be amazed if Prigozhin actually makes it to Belarus, it’s far more likely that he’ll have an “accident” involving a window or some polonium tea. Russia has tactical nukes based in Belarus, do they really want this guy anywhere near those? I’m guessing no.

    • JJJohnson says:

      Prighozin had been criticizing Putin for weeks. The Russians did not accidently bomb the Wagner mercenaries. That was an assasination attempt. I don’t think Prighozin ever intended a Coup. I think he wanted to prove to Putin that he could get to him too. It was self preservation.

  2. Digital Unicorn says:

    This is not the end – it’s merely a stall of the inevitable, Putin will be over thrown. If not by his mercs then it will be by his oligarchs. Either way whoever replaces him might be worse.

    • BothSidesNown says:

      @ Digital Unicorn, yes, it’s not the end and it shows that Putin has less control over Prigozhin, as well as his other military leaders, with regards to his so-called military operations.

      Putin is seeing his very near future of president of Russia with an expiration date, sooner than he ever imagined. Prigozhin beautifully showed Russians that he can and will stand up to Putin, which gives influence to Russian interior ministers take action as well.

    • Seraphina says:

      I am hoping that Putin’s end is near and we get a more stable and rational leader there. But power has a tendency to corrupt even those who started out with the best of intentions.
      What is VERY true is that we should thank God Biden is in the WH and not Putin’s BFF Trump.

      • Lady D says:

        I cannot imagine the shape the Ukraine would be in, in this war if Trump were president. For a start the numbers of the dead would rise.

    • Twin Falls says:

      @digital unicorn – that was my initial thought when I read Wagner was marching toward Moscow that Putin’s days are numbered. But I didn’t think Belarus had any power of its own so seems to me that Russia through Belarus got him to stop and…now what?

  3. CrazyHeCallsMe says:

    Prigozhin Is also the guy who led the Russian disinformation campaign to meddle in the U.S. elections. He basically helped Trump get elected. The guy is just as awful as Putin.

    From NPR: A Russian businessman linked to Putin admits to U.S. election meddling

    • BothSidesNown says:

      Yes he did. We shouldn’t forget the military operations that he has curated in the Middle East for years as well. Prigozhin has the capacity of endless resources and might to take fight off any offensive threats or attacks that might come his way. Putin created this war criminal without hesitation and Prigozhin wouldn’t think twice about turning on Putin.

  4. Gina says:

    I followed the news on Twitter (I’m following the main posts about this war). The final result has no sense at all. Whether he wanted to seize the power in Moscow or whether he wanted to prevent Wagnerites from signing the contract with Russian Regular Army, it seems he achieved nothing. More of that, he divided Wagner, and, judging by the reactions on Twitter, lost authority and respect of his convicts.
    He weakened Putin too. So, maybe it was all good, at least how it looks for now – I’m not sure Prigozhin as the President of Russia would be better than Putin.
    But it’s all very strange. He looks like idiot, and as we know, he is not.

    • Beana says:

      I had the same reaction. Did Putin’s henchmen threaten Prigozhin’s family, perhaps? Or get at his money sources? (Although I’m pretty sure, as Putin was funding Wagner, Prigozhin would have motivation to seize power and cut out the middleman). Did he get word that his friends in the military/intelligence community were withdrawing support?

    • JoanCallamezzo says:

      It’s a fascinating story. I wonder if the oligarchs sent Wagner in? What did Belarus threaten if Prigozhin didn’t turn around? Now what?

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, it’s a strange strategy. But the effect is that Prigozhin will be “safe” in Belarus, free of prosecution, along with all the mercenaries who joined him. It’s almost like he said, ” this is stupid, the war is stupid, I’ve lost half my men, how do I get out of this.” If he manages to avoid any needle-tipped umbrellas, maybe he can start a chain of hot dog stands in Minsk.

  5. Mrs. Smith says:

    This story was blowing my mind yesterday. WG got about 400k away from Moscow then stopped, turned around and left. Huh? So what was offered? No matter what WG exposed how weak and vulnerable Moscow, Russia and Putin himself are right now. How does one walk THAT back? Regardless, Biden helped the Ukrainians, which helped fully expose the Putin regime in front of the whole world. Whoa.

  6. Hereforthegossip says:

    When he is no longer is useful to Putin that is when he will disappear or be mysteriously poisoned…

    Putin won’t forget this level of disrespect on a world stage.

  7. Brassy Rebel says:

    I have thought for some time that Putin is losing his grip. But when you’re willing to murder your enemies, you are difficult to eliminate. Holding my breath for what happens next. And, no, Russia would not be better off with Prigozhin. Neither would Ukraine. So this may be the best outcome for now. Putin weaker, Ukraine stronger.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Murdering your enemies is one thing, but Putin will murder his ‘friends’. This is getting interesting. I hope the Ukrainians somehow benefit from this chaos.

  8. Emma says:

    On a side note, one of the tweets you embedded was from Ros Atkins. I recommend his stuff to all CB-ers, his short explainer videos are fantastic at cutting through the noise and presenting the facts.

  9. Seraphina says:

    He just exemplifies evil.

  10. Slush says:

    This whole thing was so so bizarre.

    At the end of the day, Prigozhin Is a dead man walking, and Putin was caught out as weak so he is not going to control Russia much longer.

    BTW, this is not Putin playing 4D chess or anything like that. If he were playing 4D chess he wouldn’t have been getting his a*s handed to him in Ukraine for 18months, and all this did was make him look bad.

  11. canichangemyname says:

    The company I work for is Ukrainian-owned, so I have several Ukrainian coworkers and I volunteer with middle school kids in Ukraine (1/2 hour virtual English classes once a week) so while I’m not from there and don’t live there, I try to keep a close eye on this entire situation. It’s hard since I don’t know jack about war or strategies, anything like that and it’s also difficult to know what news sources to trust. But it breaks my heart and it all seems so senseless. These kids are so sweet, just talking about their pets and their friends, their video games like normal middle school kids but their lives have been upended. My coworkers are just adults with families and bills and jokes about our more “interesting” clients. All so normal, but dealing with something so terrifying and unfair. I worry for their safety, but they rarely mention anything about it so neither do I. But if this is at least a temporary win for Ukraine, with Putin hopefully somewhat distracted by having to deflect resistance in his own country, I’m glad.

    • Joanne says:

      What a wonderful person you are! Many thanks from another celebitchy fan.

      • canichangemyname says:

        Aw, thanks 🙂 Not really – I actually just fell into the volunteer gig when someone else couldn’t do it. I dreaded it at first, but now I really like it. The kids are nicer to me than my actual son (also middle school LOL)

  12. HeyKay says:

    I can’t understand why Putin hasn’t been overthrown by now by someone in his command.
    Are the Russian people in favor of this war on Ukraine? I do not believe so.
    Putin should be vulnerable to an inside attack.
    Why would they stop, when they were so close to overthrowing him?

  13. K says:

    I am not making light of this when I say I can’t even imagine what was in those hot dogs. WG is a terrifying,organization rolling so deep in blood I think Putin better beware. And he knows that.

  14. Evies Mom says:

    This whole story is wild, yet at the same time classic Russia? I have no idea what lies in store for Putin or the Wagner leader – except it seems the only a matter of time before a revolution of some sort starts in Russia.
    Thank you Celebitchy – this coverage is intriguing!

  15. Lily says:

    I was following the news yesterday and the schadenfreude was tremendous but short-lived. Putin’s turnaround from ”Backstabber! Treason!” to ”oh, well, let the bygones be bygones” was so… lame. And so was Prigozhin’s whole deal, from ”we’re marching ’cause the Russian army won’t give us munition, their generals are incompentent and they attacked us last night” to ”oopsie, I’m moving to Belarus, mah boys will sign with that super incompetent army, byyeee”. It was all so pathetic… His ”boys” will be cannon fodder now.

    Also, I don’t know if Putin and the rest were running, but they sure were scared shitless. Moscow was blocked off, the citizens were warned not to leave their houses on Monday and they pre-emptively destroyed roads leading to Moscow.

  16. Whyforthelovel says:

    Someone in the US Govt said this is best thought of as a couple of Mafia guys fighting for power. Neither guy is good, but as long as they are fighting each other rather than the rest of the world it is beneficial. My hope is at least whoever overthrows Putin can read a room and stop the war with Ukraine.

  17. Lizzie Bathory says:

    It’s a weird story, but I’m pretty sure this was a trial run on Prigozhin’s part. They faced virtually no impediments heading towards Moscow, plus they downed 6 Russian helicopters. Gerasimov & Shoigu haven’t been heard from. My understanding is the Ministry of Defense got some convicts (low value as soldiers) to sign contracts–meaning, they can be used by the army in human meat-wave attacks. Prigozhin has been cut off from prison recruitment for months now, so he knew he wasn’t going to get more. He kept his best, most experienced soldiers, who he tried to keep back from the worst of the fighting in Bakhmut.

    It’s a net win for Prigozhin–a way to signal to his UAE backers & any Russian elites on the fence that he might be the one to back over Putin at this point.

  18. Dee Kay says:

    I am glad Prighozin rebelled and also glad he is not taking over leadership of Russia. This is in some ways the best case scenario: bloody civil war in Russia avoided for now, Putin shown to be weak af, Prighozin doesn’t his hands on the Kremlin’s power. But Prighozin is a dangerous operator, someone who basically won Putin’s cyberwar against the US and UK for him, as well as head of an armed mercenary group. If MBS or another major player like that scoops up his services, that would be bad for the world.

  19. Mireille says:

    Prigozhin and his Wagner group army are a bunch of vicious, murderous thugs whose loyalty is to the highest bidder, not to Putin, the Russian army, not even to mother Russia. They’re for sale to any dictator or unscrupulous government that wants to squash a rebellion or opposition. Google them and see what they’ve done in the Middle East and Africa, e.g. Mali. They kill in exchange for access to resources — war for profit. These are the sickest SOBs on earth. Putin deployed them to fight in the Ukraine and they soon discovered that Ukrainian forces are more equipped and trained to take them on — unlike fighters from the Middle East and Africa who don’t necessarily have access to the best training, equipment. I’m surprised he turned back with some slight of conscience not wanting Russians to spill the blood of other Russians. But if you’re African or Middle Eastern…no soul or conscious needed to wage that war. So, I ask you who’s worse? Putin or this SOB.

    I’ve no sympathy for mercenaries and I laugh at Belarus being the “peacemaker” between Putin and Prigozhin. Putin is going to go after him. Belarus will not protect him. Prigozhin has been using social media to gain followers to his cause. His popularity among the Russians does not sit well with Putin. He’s got to know that he’s got that target on his back. If Putin does put a hit on him, it may anger enough Russians to start another rebellion or insurrection…but who knows? Either way this situation is not good and Putin remains in power and at war with Ukraine. I’m praying for a quick implosion of the Russian government and end to the war.

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, this exactly. But I don’t believe Prigozhin turned back because of any pang of conscience. He thought he’d get more support when coming into Moscow and realized he wouldn’t, so he decided to save his own skin. Whether or not Belarus protects him depends on Putin, as he is in control of Belarus.

      And the answer to your question is – Putin is worse. He elevated Prigozhen, gave him major government contracts, made him a billionaire, provided the resources for creating the Wagner Group, allowed him to recruit from prisons and sanctioned the tampering of US elections and all of Wagner’s actions in Africa and the Middle East. That Wagner is a “private” army is only a cover so that Putin can say the Russian government isn’t responsible – that was the whole point of creating Wagner.

  20. B says:

    So, A) I hope Putins chica can disappear with her kids. Someone said before, she probably wasn’t in a position to refuse his “advances.”
    B) the mercenaries are going to sign in to Russia’s army. Whaaaaaaa?!?!?! They’re going to be dispersed to run recruitment amongst all of the other military?! Oh ok. That sounds great. The guy ballsy enough to do this is just going to go to a retirement home in Belarus and his A-class minions are going to take a slap on the wrist and be good Russian soldiers now.

    • Caribbean says:

      And isn’t possible that if certain people are in power here that they would allow in those same Rusians to run this country? And for a lot of people who are in with their whole chest now would be in fact under the control of those people. And the ‘freedom’ that they so love ….

  21. MsGnomer says:

    Make Russia Great Again.

    Someone make a hat!

  22. bisynaptic says:

    Oops. Better not drink the tea.

  23. JanetDR says:

    When this news started popping up, I checked several sources but wasn’t happy with the level of knowledge that I was getting.
    I hoped that it would be covered here and between Kaiser and all of the celebitchies comments I would get a deeper understanding. And I did!
    So grateful for this site!

  24. jferber says:

    Now the guy is saying he never meant to stage a coup against Putin. He’s trying to save his skin, for sure. And Putin will kill him anyway. Trump’s best friend, Putin, let’s not forget.