Aborted Wagner rebellion: what comes next?

Instead of waging war against Ukraine together with the Russian Armed Forces, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary organisation, ordered his fighters to march on Moscow over the weekend. Putin initially talked of treason and threatened to punish the perpetrators. A few hours later the march was called off. Prigozhin will reportedly not be punished. Commentators discuss the implications of this unexpected development for Russia and the war.

Open/close all quotes
Primorske novice (SI) /

Putin has nothing to fear

The outcome of the advance on Moscow confirms the Kremlin's previous course, analyses Primorske Novice:

“The Wagner Group will change to some extent because Putin needs its services - not only in Belarus, but also in African countries and elsewhere. It is also not to be expected that the democratic opposition will topple the Putin regime. Its opponents are mostly abroad or in prisons, while others have opportunistically adapted to the authoritarian regime or are just trying to survive right now. As long as there is no famine or major defeat on the front, Putin's regime has nothing to fear.”

El Periódico de España (ES) /

Beijing's silence is calculated

El Periódico de España examines China's reaction:

“No one will emerge unscathed from the crisis. China will review its strategic alliance with Russia. Beijing's silence on Moscow's 'anti-terror measures' is telling. It is a calculated move, because no one can assess the consequences of the mercenaries' provocation or know how they might undermine Putin's power. But the calculation is necessary if China and other players want to use the opportunity to end the war through negotiations - even if Russia is reluctant because Prigozhin has challenged many of its great power structures. Now more than ever, the war in Ukraine is also a war in Russia.”

Lietuvos rytas (LT) /

Ukraine's allies can't exploit the situation

Lietuvos rytas asks how the West should behave now:

“Should it stay out of the carnage and perhaps even support the current regime in order to exploit its fear and desperation to its own advantage? Or on the contrary, should it help and encourage all the forces within the regime's apparatus that pose a real challenge to the current government as much as possible? It should be the second option. However, this requires the most detailed and realistic information possible about what is going on inside the regime and, of course, proactive policies and measures based on that info. Unfortunately, as we saw last weekend both in Lithuania and in the main Western capitals, neither is sufficiently in place.”

Echo (RU) /

Twilight of the gods in the Kremlin

For opposition politician Lev Schlosberg, Putin's omnipotence is now a thing of the past. In a Telegram post republished by Echo he writes:

“Much of society followed the events not with horror but with curiosity: 'Just look at that, Putin can be overthrown after all. Well, we lived under Putin, we can live under Prigozhin too.' This is not only political infantilism, it's also a profound indifference regarding Putin's fate. ... Putin lived on Olympus, a god who could not make mistakes, could not lose and could not be weak. All this collapsed on June 24, 2023. ... The Putin myth is crumbling before our eyes, and this is the greatest threat to his power. A colossus can only be made of iron. He cannot have feet of clay.”

Oleksandr Kovalenko (UA) /

Neither side won

Both Putin and Prigozhin lost this duel, military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko comments on his Facebook page:

“This was a milestone in the history of the Russian state's disintegration, put in place by a cowardly ex-convict. ... Normally in such a situation one of the conflict partners, usually the loser, is disgraced. But in this case both disgraced themselves. Putin, a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court, has shown his weakness, his diminished importance, his fear and his loss of control. Everyone saw that Putin is incapable of controlling the situation in the country.”

Politiken (DK) /

Hopefully the beginning of the end for Putin

The Wagner uprising could mark a turning point for Russia, writes Politiken:

“Even if he succeeded in pushing back Prigozhin, Putin has suffered a decisive defeat in the last few days. The Wagner uprising not only shows that Putin is not in control of his own troops. It is also a direct consequence of the fact that Ukraine and the West's military equipment have proven to be superior to Russia on the battlefield. ... Remember that World War I led to the fall of the czar, that the invasion of Afghanistan was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. May the world one day remember that the Ukraine war was the downfall of Vladimir Putin.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Reminiscent of Mussolini's tactics

La Repubblica sees similarities with the march on Rome of 1922:

“Il Duce effectively delayed the march for three days because his threat was enough to make the king appoint him head of government. ... It was enough to start this subversive march to make the state relinquish power. ... In these two cases - which are very different from each other - we are witnessing less an actual coup d'état than its clamorous presentation. So we are witnessing the political exploitation of the insurgency, staged as a heroic and dramatic framework for the struggle for command.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Kyiv can now convince the doubters

This incident has strengthened the Ukrainians' position in several respects, the Financial Times points out:

“They may choose this moment to commit reserve troops to the counter-offensive. They will also be furnished with new arguments to present to their friends in the west, at the Nato summit next month. Those allies who quietly suggested that Russia could not be defeated - and that Ukraine should negotiate with Putin - will fall silent for now. By contrast, Putin's international backers will be having second and third thoughts and will now be actively considering post-Putin scenarios for Russia.”

Contributors (RO) /

Putin fighting for survival in Ukraine

The war against Ukraine is gaining importance for Putin, political commentator Ioan Stanomir explains on Contributors:

“Decayed and degenerate though it may be, the Putin regime has a military monopoly that is now being consolidated. The private armies will eventually be absorbed into the state army. And the war in Ukraine remains Putinism's raison d'être: failure there would be the inscription on the dictator's tombstone. Despite the losses and attrition, Putin's Russia seems determined to continue the war. Russia cannot accept any other form than that of an empire. And Putin's Russian empire is fighting for its survival on the Ukrainian front.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Europe must prepare itself

The world must be prepared for the eventuality of Russia collapsing, military historian Cédric Mas urges in Le Monde:

“A collapse of Putin's regime that plunges the country into civil war and chaos would pose a major threat to the security of Europe and the world. Yet the rules of international law are not adapted to such a crisis. ... Therefore it is important to think about a legal framework and practical means that would come into play in an emergency and permit the protective intervention of a force under UN auspices to secure civilian and military nuclear sites in a collapsed state. ... Yesterday's events offer us the chance to prepare for the worst in order to prevent the worst from happening. ... It is up to us to seize this opportunity.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Homegrown enemy in the country

States that rely on military organisations beyond the official armed forces take a big gamble, Milliyet comments:

“They fail to take account of the growing popularity of these companies among the people in their country. This leads to a whole new problem. Once consolidated, these organisations establish relations with various power centers, businessmen and oligarchs in the country and begin to interfere in politics as far as their power allows them to. A similar situation arose in Sudan a few months ago.”