For a little over a day Vladimir Putin’s supposed invincibility appeared to be in question as the leader of the Wagner mercenary groupPutin Suffers A Blowmounted a threat to the Russian leader by taking control of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and sending his troops on a march to Moscow. When the mercenaries were 200 km from the capital city, the insurrection was called off and Prigozhin retreated after an amnesty deal, allegedly brokered by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. He agreed to go to Belarus on condition that no action would be taken against his fighters and the treason cases filed against the Wagner group chief and his fighters would be withdrawn.
Ironically, Prigozhin was propped up by Putin and his mercenary group has been used for several covert operations in different parts of the world. For the last several months the Wagner chief has been waging a war against the defence establishment in Moscow over the handling of the Ukraine conflict. The targets of his ire are Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. He claimed that Russian military leaders had targeted Wagner camps and killed many of his soldiers. His stunning move was reportedly triggered by the government’s decision to bring Wagner under the military command structure.
Prigozhin’s rebellion may have been shortlived but it has raised doubts about Putin’s hold on power. What is more worrying for Moscow is the presence of armed and highly trained Wagner mercenary fighters in different parts of Africa and the Middle East where they have been contracted by those governments. Putin and the Russian establishment obviously underestimated how much of a thorn in the flesh Prigozhin could prove to be. His mutiny has dented the Russian strongman’s image at a time when he ill afford such a development given that most of Europe and America are ranged against him.