The threat of armed insurrection or mutiny against Vladimir Putin and his military leaders exploded into life on June 23, 2023, and ended the next day as suddenly and dramatically as it had begun. It was not unexpected. There had been worrying indications of discontent among the ranks of the Wagner Group, and the international press had talked of a “half-hearted insurrection,” the effects of which for the Kremlin chief, politically and militarily, are considerable.
In this article we will reconstruct the affair on the basis of reports from the international press, which are sometimes contradictory or not fully verified. It should also be noted that it is not easy to reconstruct the facts or reach political or strategic evaluations while everything is still in flux and where sometimes the fake news that is spread online is taken for proven truth. Time will give us a more accurate understanding of what happened.
What has been verified is now well known. We will, however, offer a brief summary. On the morning of June 23, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary group Wagner (consisting of about 25,000 militiamen), embarked on what appeared to be a march on Russia’s capital after posting very aggressive messages on the social network, Telegram. After months of complaints on social media, in which he had pointedly criticized the leaders of the Russian army – Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov – regarding the progress of military operations in the battle for Bakhmut, Progozhin set out on what was seemingly a rebellion. The trigger appears to have been the Defense Minister’s order, at Putin’s request, for all the private militias present in the various theaters of war to sign, by July 1, 2023, an act of submission to the authority of the Russian commanders.