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The revolt of the Wagner Group. Center for Eastern Studies expert: Yevgeny Prigozhin may leave Belarus

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The end of the Wagnerian rebellion and the adoption of unfavorable conditions for ending the march on Moscow cannot be considered a success for the Kremlin, assessed Piotr Żochowski from the Warsaw Center for Eastern Studies (OSW). In his opinion, changes in the command of the armed forces cannot be ruled out now. He also suspects that the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, will continue his opposition activities from the territory of Belarus or one of the countries where his mercenaries operate.

OSW expert Piotr Żochowski assessed the Kremlin’s current situation after the revolt of the Wagner Group and their march on Moscow. President’s position Vladimir Putinwhich a few hours earlier had declared that the authorities would protect the country against internal betrayal, and that the participants of the rebellion would inevitably be punished, has significantly eroded. In the dictatorial system of Russia the inability to severely punish an opponent who openly challenged power, violating all formal and informal rules, would be regarded by members of the wider elite as a sign of weakness,” he believes.

See also: Situation in Russia and Ukraine. Live coverage on tvn24.pl

Russia’s Growing Weakness

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“It does not matter that the withdrawal from the destruction of the Wagnerian forces probably resulted – apart from the deficit of forces capable of acting – from the fear that it would be a difficult and costly task for the Russian armed forces. An internal armed conflict would be dangerous, given the state of the already problematic morale in the army and could negatively affect the situation at the front war in Ukraine. It is likely that this situation will lead, on the one hand, to personnel reshuffles, and on the other hand, to an intensification of, initially probably secret, rivalry within the elite,” noted Żochowski in his commentary.

“The Wagnerian march confirmed the thesis about the growing weakness of the state security system. The authorities, the armed forces or the special services did not take decisive steps to suppress the rebellion. This may indicate that skepticism is growing among state structures as to the orders from the central authorities,” he added.

READ MORE: The Kremlin and Prigozhin have an agreement. What’s in it?

Possible changes at the top of Putin’s power

The analyst emphasized that Prigozhin most likely wanted to force changes in the defense ministry and general staff, which were in conflict with him, through a manifestation of force.

“Everything indicates that Prigozhin, when issuing the order to march on Moscow, was convinced that the manifestation of force would force the authorities to take into account his demands for the change of the defense minister and the chief of the General Staff. He also hoped that his desperate step would cause an internal crisis at the top of power It cannot be ruled out that he had information about frictions within the political elites and decided that his actions would accelerate the process of disintegration of the Putin regime, and that he himself would be supported, for example, by some of the generals, wrote the OSW analyst.

The Wagner group leaves Rostov-on-Don

Prigrozhin may go to Africa or the Middle East

Considering scenarios regarding the future of the founder of the mercenary Wagner Group, Żochowski assessed that “after leaving for Belarus he will lose his hitherto held position of a populist military commander who contested the policy of the authorities in the conditions of war and undermined the authority of the armed forces.

“His company will probably come under the control of the Ministry of Defence. It is possible that, with Lukashenko’s permission (Prigozhin – editorial note), he will try to continue similar activities from the territory of Belarus, or will go to one of the African or Middle Eastern countries where the Wagnerians operate” – added.

March on Moscow

On Friday, the owner of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed that troops of the Russian regular army attacked the camp of his fighters, causing numerous casualties. He announced a “restoration of justice” in the army and demanded the removal from power of the minister of defense in conflict with him Sergey Shoigu. The Wagnerians captured the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, and then directed their forces to Moscow.

However, after 24 hours on Saturday evening, Prigozhin announced a retreat and the withdrawal of the mercenaries to the field camps to “avoid bloodshed”. This was supposed to be the result of negotiations between the Belarusian authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenko and Prigozhin, conducted in consultation with Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said that Prigozhin would go to Belarus as part of an agreement ending his rebellion, and the criminal case against him would be dropped.

Main photo source: gettyimages

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