Future of militia unclear
Rostov residents celebrate Wagner fighters
6/25/2023 4:02 am
The open power struggle in Russia between Wagner boss Prigozhin and President Putin has been settled, and the militiamen withdraw from Rostov, cheered on by the civilian population. It is unclear what role they will play on Russia’s battlefields in the future.
Shortly after an unexpected escalation, the armed uprising by Russian mercenaries against the leadership of President Vladimir Putin came to an end. On the orders of the mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, the members of his notorious Wagner private army gave up their positions in southern Russia by late evening and returned to their camps – to the applause of Russian civilians.
The criminal case instituted against Prigozhin for armed insurrection against the military leadership will be discontinued according to the Kremlin. Prigozhin himself will go to Belarus unhindered, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. He has “the word of the President” as a guarantee for the free withdrawal.
What Prigozhin’s future in Belarus should look like is unclear. The entrepreneur was long considered Putin’s confidant and an untouchable figure in the Russian power structure, until a few hours after the Kremlin chief called him a “traitor” — and publicly dropped him. It is now also questionable what will become of the foreign missions of the Wagner army in the future, which has so far represented Russian interests with armed force, especially in Africa.
The Wagner squad fighters who took part in the uprising should not be prosecuted given their merits at the front in Ukraine, Peskov assured. Some of the militiamen are apparently to be integrated into the Russian armed forces, and according to Peskov they should receive a corresponding contract offer. The fact that soldiers of the private army have opposed the Russian military with impunity is likely to become apparent assessment of observers prove to be a mortgage in the relationship between the army and the Kremlin.
When the Wagner troops left the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don early in the morning, they were celebrated like heroes by the civilian population. Videos show how vehicles with mercenaries leave the headquarters of the Russian military command south – which they had just taken hours earlier – to applause and chants of “Wagner, Wagner” chanting. Prigozhin waved from the open window of an SUV and shook hands. Later, the tanks and combat vehicles also left the city center.
A longer power struggle between the Russian actors would have been welcome for Ukraine. The Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar spoke of a “unique opportunity” for Kiev with regard to the uprising. She reported new Ukrainian offensives in the eastern region of Donbass, where “progress is being made in all directions”. In the evening, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak commented that Prigozhin had “humiliated Putin with his aborted rebellion and showed that there was no longer a monopoly on the use of force” in Russia.