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Putin and the Wagner mutiny

02 Jul 2023 at 10:39hrs | Views
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple"
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

On 23rd June 2023 the Western media became delirious with joy when the heard that there was a 4,000 strong armed column of Wagner fighters marching from Rostov-0n-Don towards Moscow. For a few hours, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner became heroes about to stage a coup and topple the rule of Vladimir Putin.
Anti-imperialist commentators, myself included, immediately took the view that this action was organised by the CIA and that Yevegeny Prigozhin had been bought by them. Subsequent events indicate otherwise.

This was a purely internal affair.


For some weeks it had been clear that Yevgeny Prigozhin had built up a strong personal enmity with Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov. Prigozhin being loud-mouthed and narcissistic, has frequently and openly lambasted Shoigu and the Russian military leadership  sometimes with good reason, but not always. The successes of Wagner, especially in Bakhmut/Artyemovsk, made Prigozhin believe that he could dictate the structure of the Russian government and of its overall military strategy; he had been pushing for the removal of Shoigu and Gerasimov.

The War

The other, more general, factor is that Prigozhin, like many others believe that the war has been going on too long. Despite Western propaganda indicating the contrary, President Putin has been proceeding with great caution: this is because he does not see the Ukrainian people as a whole as ‘the enemy', he sees them as ‘Slavic brothers' misled by the enemy. From the time of the Maidan Coup, heavily funded by the USA, Vladimir Putin handled the problems created carefully but decisively.

It must be stressed also, that had there been no coup, there is no evidence that the relationship of Russia with both Ukraine and Europe would have remained anything other than normal. The supply of Russian gas to German industry was mutually beneficial.

On Crimea, however, Putin acted rapidly. The administration of Crimea had only been transferred from the Russian Federation to Ukraine in 1954. There was little opposition to the move as all were living within the borders of the USSR; the population of Crimea was and is overwhelmingly ethnically Russian. In addition, Sevastopol, Russia's biggest naval base and headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, is on the Crimean Peninsula and had, by agreement, remained in Russian hands after the dissolution of the USSR. It was very clear that the USA which had funded and directed the coup was looking greedily to add Sevastopol to its other 800 or so military bases worldwide. Action was fast, and a referendum with a very high turnout showed that 88% of Crimean voters favoured joining the Russian Federation. At least 3 surveys by Western opinion poll agencies since then have indicated that almost all Crimeans support Russia and do not want to be part of Ukraine.

In the Donbass, the People's Republic of Lugansk and the People's Republic of Donetsk declared independence from Ukraine soon after the coup. Immediately the Donbass Republics were invaded by the Ukrainian Army which was held off by the militias of both newly-formed states.

Civilian areas of the Donbass were targeted by Ukrainian forces led by the openly Nazi Azov Battalion. This included deliberate shelling of densely populated residential areas. Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian, the first language of 30% of the people was no longer recognised. Soviet memorials to the Great Patriotic War were removed and in their place, statues of Nazi war criminal Stepan Bandera erected. Despite this, the militias of the Donbass republics fought the NATO armed Nazis for 8 years alone. The Russian army only entered the Donbass in February 2022 after all attempts to negotiate had failed.

In 2014 and 2015 came the Minsk I and II Protocols, which, as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted, were seen by the West, only as an opportunity to arm Ukraine in a war against Russia, a war which NATO obviously believed they were going to win, leading to the disintegration of the Russian Federation and an opportunity for Western companies to exploit its vast mineral resources.

When the Special Military Operation was launched in February 2022, it was not a full-scale invasion. Only a small part of the Russian Army was involved in the action. Putin had believed that this show of force would lead to a negotiated peace agreement.

A peace agreement was in fact concluded in Turkey in March 2022 in a deal which recognised Russian sovereignty in Crimea, the independence of the Donbass republics and permanent neutrality for Ukraine. (NATO wanted a nuclear base in Ukraine from which weapons could be launched towards Moscow with no time for interception or retaliation.) Vladimir Putin recently showed this document to visiting African Presidents.

The Ukrainians had agreed and signed.

Boris Johnson, then UK Prime Minister, was immediately sent to deal with President Volodomyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The deal was scrapped and since then hundreds of thousands of lives have been sacrificed.

Putin was left with no option but for all out war. The danger is now that some in the West are calling for the use of ‘tactical' nuclear weapons against Russia, the first to do this being Liz Truss in her short time as UK Prime Minister. Already the UK sent depleted uranium shells to Ukraine. Most, if not all these were blown up by a Russian strike on the place where they were being stored. That alone will cause horrific birth defects in the surrounding area, as we have already seen in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Libya.

Many are starting to believe that without rapid advance by the Russian army, the chances of nuclear war will increase.

Putin's Decicion

It is obvious that Putin was very angry about the Wagner advance on Moscow, but the actions of Putin and Lukashenko since then clearly show that they do not believe that external forces were involved. Military history has shown that there have been many effective commanders in the field who have been eccentric in their ways and in their statements: T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate and David Stirling among the British and George Patton of the US army come to mind. (Readers may care to look up these names).

It is also well-known in military circles that lumpen criminal elements often make the best soldiers. In the case of Wagner, many joined from the prisons to risk their lives fighting rather than to remain in prison.

Putin gave the Wagner fighter 3 options:
1) Join the Russian army directly.
2) Go home and retire from military service.
3) Go to Belarus.

Prior to the Wagner uprising, it had already been decided that Wagner troops would go to Belarus where President Lukashenko is under threat from a possible ‘colour revolution'. It is clear that Wagner will deal with any such attempt. Beyond that Kiev/Kyiv is only 100km south of the border from Belarus. We may soon see a move by Russia and Belarus towards Kyiv.

Wagner in Africa

Wagner is an effective force in Africa, especially Francophone countries and in particular Mali and the Central African Republic from where French colonial troops have been forced to withdraw. A Washington Post article dated 23rd April 2023 is titled "Wagner Group surges in Africa as U.S. influence fades, leak reveals". It is obviously a deliberate US intelligence ‘leak' Wagner is also operating in Syria where US forces are in illegal occupation of part of the country.


The Soviet Union was the most obvious and painful victim of neo-liberalism following the counter- revolution of 1991. Russia in its most shameful years gave up Marxism-Leninism in favour of alcoholism ⸺ incarnate in President Boris Yeltsin. Everything was privatised, and privatisation even spread to the military. Wagner is in part, a product of the neo-liberal agenda. But it is no ordinary mercenary outfit willing to fight for the highest bidder. Wagner is a privatised section of the Russian army ⸺ as Blackwater, the organisation which trained the Ukrainian Nazi Azov Battalion, is a privatised section of the US army.

As the war, both military and economic continues, the neo-liberal agenda in most countries is dying fast. This is particularly true in Russia. US aggression backed by subservient governments in Europe and the UK, has pushed Russia closer towards Soviet forms of economic and social organisation. Wagner has played its part in fighting the Second Nazi Invasion, and is still there. But it looks like the future lifespan of private armies is limited.

Once again, the level-headed Putin triumphed. In his dealing with Prigozhin and Wagner he has cooled his justifiable anger, skilfully redeploying a potential threat. With Russia growing economically and the West in recession, the future for US/European imperialism now looks bleak.

Source - Ian Beddowes
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