The Bizarre Episode of Yevgeny Prigozhin

More complete information is now available and reports of the event still do not “add up.” What we are told cannot be what exactly occurred. Coup is not thr correct word. 

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin [centre] poses with two Wagner Group fighters, Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 25, 2023
More complete information is now available and reports of the bizarre episode of Yevgeny Prigozhin still do not “add up.” What we are told cannot be what exactly occurred. Media agenda drives media perception and that perception is marketed to develop a mindset that satisfies the agenda.

Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center reported the event objectively.

Prigozhin’s rebellion wasn’t a bid for power or an attempt to overtake the Kremlin. It arose from a sense of desperation; Prigozhin was forced out of Ukraine and found himself unable to sustain Wagner the way he did before, while the state machinery was turning against him.

President Putin used the word mutiny to describe the Wagner Group activity, which may be misleading and too mild as a characterization. The Wagner group is not attached to the Russian army and cannot mutiny against the Russian military. Prigozhin is rebelling against Russian Military of Defense (MOD) actions and personnel, but that rebellion is not an act in the usual sense, meaning it is not intended against the government.

Characterized by the media as a super patriot, as a charismatic leader of a strong military force striving to fix Russia’s military problems, Yevgeny Prigozhin, by his own words, in which he attacked the MOD and claimed he had an army that was going to fix the chaos, is better depicted as a person who committed treason, with one excuse — his words are mouthed from an incoherent and mentally disturbed egomaniac. Here is how he addressed the MOD:

Prigozhin said that “Russia was losing the war,” and accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Army chief of the general staff, of “genocide against their own people,” and  “for the murder of tens of thousands of Russian citizens and the transfer of Russian territories to the enemy.”

And here is how he, supposedly, was going to change the situation; I write, ‘supposedly,’ because it is difficult to know what is actual or from a bot.

There are 25,000 of us and we are going to figure out why this chaos is happening in the country. That figure “is a tactical reserve, but the strategic reserve is our whole army and the whole country. Everyone who wants, join us. We must end this disgrace and can end this.

Anyone who attempts to resist we will consider to be a threat and eliminate them immediately, including any checkpoints in our way, any aircraft above our heads. I ask everyone to remain calm, not to succumb to provocations, to stay in their homes, preferably not to go out into the streets along our route. After we finish what has been started, we will return to the front and defend our homeland.

During war, no sound and sane person voices the comments attributed to Prigozhin. A person of his reputation can find avenues to inject criticism without bringing the nation to factional war. His belief that the Wagner Group, which has been cited as having 8000 soldiers that entered Russia from Ukraine, and, needed several months to dislodge the Ukraine army from a town, could take command of all of Russia is a bit of stretch, no? His chances of winning were infinitesimal and sure to lose everything — military contracts, his private army in Russia, and its reputation overseas. Who wants to contract an army that overthrows its contractor? Why would any soldier want to be associated with that type of army? All that is relatively harmless compared to the final blow ─ a noose around the neck. Does his method of “resolving the chaos,” which he is emphasizing in spades, reflect the activities of a balanced person?

When the Wagner Group was on the front lines and remained armed, nothing could be done to bring it under military control. Realizing he was not wanted and at a disadvantage, Prigozhin proceeded to move his troops to the nearest city, which was Rostov. The media continued catering to his neurotic impulses when it announced that Prigozhin, “seized military headquarters without a fight and was in control of the headquarters and the airport. All flights proceeded without interruption.”

Being in a place does not mean controlling the place. Nowhere had it been shown that Southern Command HQ operating personnel surrendered control to Prigozhin and that he was instituting any form of control. Did he give a single order to anyone?

Why did he have his forces leave the military HQ of the Southern Command, an important place he already controlled and which could serve as a springboard for galvanizing further action? When his forces left Rostov to move on to Moscow the media showed the populace cheering him on, leaving the impression that the Rostov population sided with his adventure. Cheers are easily explained by noting that it is not every day that a heroic and idolized military force and their hardware come to town.

On the road to Moscow, everything becomes murky and “does not add up.” Why did this small force expect to reach Moscow and what did they expect to accomplish? The Russian military could easily block the M-4 highway and all its exits and trap the entire Wagner contingent in a fixed stretch of concrete. Why head into an obvious trap? Could it be that those who don’t know want to do and have no idea of what they are doing, do the ridiculous?

Even if the Wagner troops entered Moscow, how would they navigate traffic and where would they go? What was their objective and their strategy to fulfill the objective?

Media reports of the Wagner Group downing one transport aircraft and six helicopters near Voronezh did not seem logical but appear to be true. The initial report surfaced from a social media site on Telegram and slowly gained media credibility. Prigozhin confirmed the report by stating that his convoy had been fired upon, his troops were forced to protect themselves, they destroyed aircraft, and Russian pilots were killed. Question: Was Prigozhin there or did he only repeat something he was told?

President Putin, in a speech the day after Russia returned to normal, talked of “bravery and sacrifice of the fallen heroes, pilots saved Russia.” His words seem to connect to incidents in which Russian military personnel were killed.

How can soldiers riding at great speed in covered trucks perceive threatening aircraft and manage to operate tracking equipment? Where is the power to operate the equipment and guide the weapons that target the aircraft?

Images of a downed II-22 aircraft and several helicopters in a field have appeared as certifications of the shootouts. Who took these pictures and how were they able to get them to a Telegraph site in a short time? Could anybody from the moving convoy take the pictures and quickly pass them on to a website? How would anyone else know about downed aircraft and where to locate them? Perplexing! Hopefully, someone can supply the answers.

Because the reports seem to be true, it is difficult to believe that Putin, who goes ballistic over traitors to Russia, and the air force, who suffered the casualties, would permit those involved in the deaths of air force personnel to escape retribution. Putin would lose the air force’s confidence and face a more serious threat. Something strange about that decision.

Replies to media narratives illustrate the distortions in coverage of the bizarre episode.

Hudson Institute

“Footage of Wagner forces charging toward Moscow seized the world, and Vladimir Putin dug in to defend his capital.”

A bunch of trucks on a road, moving together with commercial traffic, becomes “Charging toward Moscow?” Has there been any footage of “Vladimir Putin dug in to defend his capital?”

Washington Post

“The question of whether regular Russian troops would have the will and the skill to fight the mercenaries occupied much of Western thinking Saturday.”

Not only was it improbable that the mercenaries would reach Moscow but it is not questionable that a professional force of hundreds of thousands, equipped with an air force and modern weapons. has the skill to fight an army of 8000. The Moscow police force has 50,000 policemen. National Guard, security forces, and those in the Moscow military district must add an additional hundreds of thousands.

“A Western intelligence official predicted early in the day that Russian troops were unlikely to put up much resistance to Prigozhin’s forces if they were persuaded by his arguments that Russia’s military leaders, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, have performed disastrously in leading operations in Ukraine, are to blame for the extraordinary number of troops casualties and must be removed by Putin.”

Prigozhin offered disparaging words and no arguments. Nor did he say or do anything that attempted to persuade anyone of his charges. Not one Russian soldier and no security service officer has been shown to have sided with Prigozhin


“Wagner forces’ largely unopposed, rapid advance also exposed vulnerabilities in Russia’s security and military forces.”

Rapid advance or confusion about where to go? What are the vulnerabilities? How could and why would Russia’s security and military forces confront Wagner forces? The latter weren’t going anywhere and Russian military realized their condition.

Leon Aron | Politico

“Coups are decided not by how many troops storm the palaces but by how many come to defend them. The top military brass, prime minister, and mayor of Moscow did not back Putin publicly. The fissures in Putin’s support were also evident among the Russian people. At best, they appeared indifferent to the mutiny’s outcome; at worse, the residents of Rostov, in which the Wagner Group briefly took control, welcomed it.”

This is an example of wishful thinking replacing reality thinking. A plausible explanation for the lethargy is that few of the public ever do anything during an insurrection, most were home for the weekend, nobody thought of this as a possible coup, which it wasn’t, and few paid serious attention to it because their attention could do nothing and they had faith that the government would successfully handle the situation, which it did.


One unmentioned favorable element for Putin is that the present Russian military thrust in Ukraine has attempted to rectify the earlier questionable strategy. Prigozhin’s charge of “the murder of tens of thousands of Russian citizens and the transfer of Russian territories to the enemy,” is answered by a MOD strategy that uses missile power to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure rather than muscle power to destroy Ukraine’s army. The new strategy intends to lessen the danger to the lives of Russian military personnel.

Considering the animosity that Western media has toward President Vladimir Putin, it is surprising they have not added a conspiratorial tone to the events. They have not asked, either knowingly or by careless remarks if Putin pushed Yevgeny Prigozhin to say and do what he said and did. Was Alexander Lukashenko’s intermediation, which saved Prigozhin’s life, done on his own volition or by prompting from his good friend, Vladimir Putin? Did Lukashenko save Putin’s life?

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan)

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