Prigozhin. Putin's not-so-silent silent professional.
Have you ever felt like you were being forced to “sleep with the enemy”? The phrase means to be forced to live unwillingly in an abusive or repugnant environment, or cooperating (out of necessity) with someone who is not actually trustworthy.
At some point in our lives, we have all been in a situation where we felt this way, but none of us have probably felt the repercussions like Vladimir Putin.
A Russian government agency is opening a criminal investigation into Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin after he called for an armed rebellion on Friday, which was aimed at removing the country's defense minister.
In a series of video and audio recordings, Prigozhin angrily accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of ordering a rocket strike on the private military contractor's field camps where the group is fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine.
If I lost you there, let me explain.
Russia hired the famous private military force Wagner Group to fight the Ukraine war for them. Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner group has decided to turn on Putin and so Russia began bombarding its own hired military.
And you thought things were screwed up here in the United States?
Prigozhin has essentially declared war on his boss, Sergei Shoigu saying that he now believes these recent moves by Wagner are a “march of justice” and not a military coup.
Pot calls kettle what?
Prigozhin has recently resorted to referring to Shoigu as “scum” and “evil”.
According to state news agency Taas, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, part of the Federal Security Services, will be opening a criminal investigation on charges of Prigozhin calling for an armed rebellion.
Moscow appears to be taking Prigozhin’s threats and actions seriously, as the National Guard and riot police were sent to provide security for key facilities in Moscow, which includes transport infrastructure and government agencies. Please try to remember that all of this is to defend against the guy they hired and is still working for them!
So will Prigozhin just quit and go find another war to fight or will he continue to try to overthrow the very country that has hired him? I believe it will be the latter as Prigozhin stated on Thursday that Wagner will go to war and that if anyone stands in their way, they will destroy them.
Sounds serious to me.
All of this, believe it or not, began because Prigozhin has repeatedly accused the Russian government of lying about the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Zelensky government is likely to be taking advantage of the situation soon as Ukraine battles an army that is battling its own bosses. Meanwhile, the Pentagon s watching the situation carefully because of the potential vacuum that could be left should Wagner be successful in inciting enough unrest that we see Putin dethroned.
Because we know Putin is as stable as a three-legged table, Biden’s recent statements are ringing in our ears regarding the potential of Putin unleashing a nuclear Armageddon more out of spite than strategy.
The Wagner Group is officially known as PMC Wagneror “Wagner Paramilitary Organization”.
It is seen as a private military company (PMC), a network of mercenaries and a de facto private army of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It operates in support of Russian interests, receives equipment from the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and has used MoD installations for training. While the Wagner Group itself is not ideologically driven, various elements of Wagner have been linked to neo-Nazism and far-right extremism.
It is obvious that the Wagner Group is used by the Russian government to allow for plausible deniability and to obscure the true casualties and financial costs of Russia's foreign interventions. The group came to prominence during the Donbas war in Ukraine, where it helped pro-Russian separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics from 2014 to 2015. Its contractors have reportedly taken part in various conflicts around the world, including the civil wars in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Mali, often fighting on the side of forces aligned with the Russian government. Wagner operatives have been accused of having committed war crimes in areas where they are deployed. The accusations include rape and robbery of civilians, as well as torturing accused deserters.
Wagner has played a significant role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where it has been reportedly deployed to assassinate Ukrainian leaders, among other activities, and for which it has recruited prison inmates from Russia for frontline combat. In December 2022, United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby claimed Wagner has 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts. Others put the number of recruited prisoners at more than 20,000, with the overall number of PMC forces present in Ukraine estimated at 20,000. In 2023, Russia granted combat veteran status to Wagner contractors who took part in the invasion.
After years of denying links to the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Putin, admitted in September 2022 that he founded the paramilitary group. He specifically declared, "I am proud that I was able to defend their right to protect the interests of their country."
Now, in June of 2023 we find Prigozhin staging a rebellion against the Russian leadership after accusing Russian troops of attacking his men.
This will be a fluid situation for quite some time, but is sure to effect nations around the world and brings to mind the question of how safe it really is to use PMC’s to accomplish strategic goals.
The past two decades have been marked by a rise in the outsourcing to private “silent professionals” of coercive violence functions that used to be the unique privilege of government military or law enforcement personnel. This outsourcing trend took place across the globe and was commissioned by states and non-state actors alike. It took different forms, from mercenaryism, through local tribes and militias, to legal contracts with international companies.
The rise in privatized security and military functions also introduced an increase in regulation and inspection of this type of exchange. The gradual development of accountability mechanisms created some degree of standardization, as well as measurement tools, for states and the international community that use or monitor this type of service. This trend has pushed the type of engagement that might be identified as mercenaryism into a more regulated and standardized realm, de-facto, offering a pathway toward legitimization for practitioners and clients. This development corresponded with a worldwide increase in the number of private military and security companies (PMSCs).
We are going to have to keep watching this situation as it develops but should maintain an awareness on a global level that the trend of using PMSC's is not stopping.