Spy expert explains who Putin was afraid of during Wagner revolt

A week ago, Vladimir Putin’s apparatus of power faltered. The mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigoshin had taken over the city of Rostov in a coup and on June 24, a Saturday, was on the march with his troops towards Moscow. A deal allegedly brokered by Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko averted further danger to Russian President Putin.

Intelligence expert: FSB did not want to interfere

A Russian intelligence expert explained in an interview that, in his opinion, the Russian services knew beforehand about the revolt of the former Putin confidante, but possibly deliberately did nothing. “I’m sure that there were indications of the action beforehand,” said Andrei soldatov, who lives in exile, to “Spiegel”. The FSB, which is responsible for military counterintelligence, has its own people within the ranks of the Wagner group, and besides, Wagner is a very large organization.”

However, the powerful secret service may not want to get involved in the internal power struggle between Prigozhin and Putin. “If you intervene and the sides then come to an agreement, then you are suddenly the one to blame. Therefore nothing was reported upwards. I heard that the FSB administration in Rostov just barricaded themselves in their building on Saturday morning.”

During the course of the Saturday in question, the Wagner troops advanced from Rostov further and further north towards the Russian capital Moscow. Russian President Putin then condemned the armed revolt in a video message and announced that those responsible would have to answer “in court and before the people”. But this hard line only lasted for a short time. Hours later there was a deal, the Wagner boss and his mercenaries were given the prospect of impunity and emigration to friendly Belarus.

Putin was afraid – but not of Prigochin

According to secret service expert Andrei Soldierov, Putin was very scared. But not before Prigozhin, because he had no intention of overthrowing Putin and had not published a call for a coup d’etat. Rather, the Russian dictator was concerned “that elements of the army would consider all of this to be a serious crisis and would start making demands on the army leadership themselves.” Fearing internal criticism, Putin then recorded the video message. “It wasn’t aimed at Prigozhin at all, but at the military, he wanted to tell them: don’t join them. There can be no common front with the man.”

Although Moscow was able to calm down the Wagner boss for the time being, he is now said to be in Belarus. However, according to the US foreign intelligence service, the Ukraine war is having a “dissolving” effect on the Russian leadership under President Vladimir Putin. The disappointment in Russia over the war offers the CIA new opportunities to collect intelligence information, said CIA director William Burns, according to the BBC at the annual lecture of the Ditchley Foundation in the English county of Oxfordshire on Saturday (local time) – a week after the failed revolt of the Mercenary group Wagner in Russia. “This dissatisfaction creates a unique opportunity for us at the CIA,” Burns said of agent recruitment. “We will not let this opportunity go to waste.´”

Burns said the actions of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin were “a vivid reminder of the corrosive effect of Putin’s war on his own society and regime.” Prigozhin
Actions and statements would have an effect for some time. “Disappointment with the war will continue to gnaw at the Russian leadership.”

Wagner-Södner set up military camps

According to US experts, the Wagner mercenary group itself is building three military camps in Belarus, which is an ally of Moscow, after their failed revolt in Russia. “New high-resolution satellite images taken on June 30 show at least 303 tents capable of accommodating 20 to 50 people at a former military base in Belarus,” wrote the Washington-based Institute for War Studies (ISW). The tents appeared within the last week. There are also reports of plans for two more camps in western Belarus.

In the past week, several independent Russian and Belarusian media had already reported on the construction of at least one military camp in Belarus intended to house Wagner mercenaries. These reports have not yet been officially confirmed. Western media such as the Washington Post have meanwhile also published satellite images of the alleged Wagner camp near the town of Assipowitschy.

Jean Harris

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