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June 25, 2023

With summer vacations in full swing, Americans typically focus their weekends on more important matters: mall excursions, pool cookouts and the epic confrontation between LSU and Florida in the Collegiate Word Series. Even so, Saturday’s first reports from Russia were hard to understand and even harder to believe. How was it that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, leader of the infamous paramilitary Wagner Group – Putin’s toughest combatants in Ukraine, Libya, Syria and elsewhere – had denounced Russia’s military leadership and announced that his columns were marching on Moscow? Breathless commentators quickly added that Wagner Group formations were already in control of Rostov-on-the-Don, a Russian city of over a million people and the principal military headquarters for Putin’s war against Ukraine. Most alarming of all: Prigozhin’s troops were rumored to be heading north against slender opposition, possibly only 120 miles from Moscow. Was it possible that the mutineers might depose Putin and inherit control of Russia’s nuclear arsenal?

But as swiftly as that back swan had appeared, the armored columns ominously heading north on the Moscow superhighway were suddenly halted as Prigozhin announced a retreat to avoid “shedding Russian blood.” In an even more bizarre development, AP reported that “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's office (announced) he had negotiated a deal with Prigozhin after discussing the issue with Putin. Prigozhin agreed to halt the advance in a proposed settlement including security guarantees for Wagner troops.”

Having publicly traded mutual charges of treason or incompetence, was it really possible that Putin and Prigozhin had really buried the hatchet – or might a civil war still be brewing?  Another intriguing possibility was that the entire incident might have been staged as a classic exercise in Soviet-style dezinfomrtsiya – a provocation meant to smoke out the real opponents and supporters of Putin’s embattled regime. Interestingly enough, as one Heritage Foundation analyst pointed out, despite day-long troop movements on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border, no casualties had been reported on either side – not even an accidental death. Neither has anyone seemingly noticed that Belorussian President Lukashenko – far from being a skilled behind-the-scenes negotiator – has a well-deserved reputation as a Putin pawn. Why not use the Wagner Group – AKA Putin’s private army- as well as a nonentity like Lukashenko as convenient stage hands in whatever kabuki dance Putin wanted to organize?

The answers to those dilemmas may not immediately be known, although it will be interesting in coming days to watch the Moscow accident reports as various people commit suicide, die of undiagnosed diseases or perish in untimely traffic accidents. Regardless of how this apparent rebellion began, there is now no question that the ordinary, long-suffering, Russian citizen has now been forcibly confronted with the truth of the Ukraine debacle. Although Putin’s press minions are almost as capable of obfuscation as those of Joe Biden, sometimes the truth becomes too big to lie about, especially given the numbers of Russian killed and wounded – possibly over 100,000.

Nikita Khrushchev was quietly ushered from power in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The man who had served Stalin so well eventually lost the confidence of Politburo elites who judged that his adventurous schemes were now threatening the basic interests of the Motherland.

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Comments 1-1 of 1

  • Tracy E Jones

    06/25/2023 07:54 PM

    Since Prigozhin has a clear path to Belarus and his Wagner Army also has clearance. Maybe the stop in Rostov-on-the-don to refresh and resupply. This force is now headed to Belarus which is much closer to Kyiv. If they stage they could break into the capital of Ukraine while the vast majority of Ukraine's forces are engaged in the East and South.