The hostile union between the Wagner mercenary group and Moscow finally ruptured over the weekend.
✊ After refusing to integrate with the military, Wagner chief Prigozhin then rejected the entire basis for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and marched to within 200km of Moscow. He only pulled his troops back when President Putin agreed to a deal, after publicly labelling Prigozhin a traitor.
🙍♂️ So what does this all mean for Putin? After reportedly retreating to his Valdai bunker and offering major concessions for Prigozhin to back off (new military heads, safety guarantees), Putin’s illusion of invincibility is now gone.
🇷🇺 What does this mean for Russia? Having allowed a warlord to march 800km towards Moscow, and losing valuable military aircraft in the process, whatever remained of Russia’s illusion of invulnerability is now gone, too.
🇺🇦 And what does this all mean for Ukraine? It could now capitalise, as:
- Russia’s key decision-makers become consumed by the turmoil
- Russian troops take fewer risks while they await new direction
- Russian morale on the frontlines plunges even lower, and
- Putin further loses the ability to rally the country behind his war.
Intrigue’s take: So, dear Intriguers, we hear you asking what’ll happen next?
Well, there’s now a growing list of Russian factions (across the oligarchs, securo-crats and organised crime) that would be better off without Putin.
There’s also a history of Russian losses abroad accelerating regime collapse at home: think 1905, 1917 and 1989. And systemic cracks there often just get wider: think Gorbachev surviving a 1991 coup, only to be gone months later.
So, one way or another, there’s a chance Putin doesn’t make it to Christmas. It’s hard to see how Prigozhin survives this either.
Also worth noting:
- Wagner fighters reportedly sent farewells to their families and told them to watch the news the day before their march on Moscow.
- The Kremlin says Prigozhin agreed to leave Russia for neighbouring Belarus in a deal brokered by Belarusian President Lukashenko. Prigozhin’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
- Following initial reports that Russian Defence Minister Shoigu was under house arrest, Moscow just released footage purporting to show him visiting a command centre in Ukraine.