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Will Wagner forces in Belarus open a second front against Ukraine?

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (Left) has sheltered rebel Wagner Chief Yevgeny Progozhin (Right) as part of a deal with Russia

Russia’s short-lived mutiny sent shock waves throughout the world with Wagner military group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin challenging Russian state. But after a week, the revolt fizzled out leaving many questions unanswered.

It is too early to say whether there was a direct connection between the rebels and the West  and  whether self-proclaimed  “fighters for justice” received any material or financial assistance and instructions from abroad, or they acted at their own risk.

In addition to that, it is still unclear whether Yevgeny Prigozhin had any behind-the-scene support group inside the Russian political and business elite and what could be been its motivations, if any.

At any rate,  the failed Russian rebellion has very little in common with text-book coups, be it Pakistan or many other troubled countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America which, the world witnessed in the second half of the 20th – the first half of the 21st centuries.

Looking like an irrational step on the verge of insanity, the rebellion of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who created his business and built his military machine thanks to old personal friendship with President Vladimir Putin and even had the nickname of his “cook”, shook the Russian elite.

There was a good reason for that.

On the night of June 24, Yevgeny Prigozhin accused the Russian Ministry of Defence of attacks on the camps of Wagner group  announcing a “march of justice” against “those who destroy Russian soldiers.”  After that, the Federal Security Service of Russia opened a criminal case against Yevgeny Prigozhin under the article on the organisation of an armed rebellion.

The weekend of madness ended after the agreements were reached between the rebels and the Russian authorities through the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. With all the remaining questions a week after the dust has settled three main conclusions can be drawn from Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion.

The first conclusion is that the popular thesis of Western politicians, diplomats and the media that Prigozhin’s rebellion allegedly revealed the weakness of the Russian state and cracks in its foundation looks weak on substance and more of wishful thinking.

In a critical situation, President Putin showed his ability to be an effective crisis manager, together with President Lukashenko finding a quick exit strategy. The Russian society has proved its cohesion, the soldiers of the Wagner private army did not shoot at the soldiers of the Russian regular army, with whom they had recently fought together in the same trenches shoulder to shoulder against the Ukrainian army and mercenaries from all over the world, led by western advisers.

The second conclusion is that the thesis about a certain political crisis in Russia, replicated by Western experts and the media, looks just as untenable. In this regard, it should be noted that the events of June 24 did not affect the political institutions of Russia and  in any way, did not lead to a conflict between various branches of government.

It was a struggle of individuals within the elite. Yevgeny Prigozhin himself is a private person who at some point became the owner of a powerful tool that allowed him to try to blackmail his main opponent – Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Yevgeny Prigozhin cannot even be called a popular public figure, and there is not a single opinion poll that would reveal the level of his popularity. However, if the poll was conducted  he would hardly have received high support figures.

After all, he has always been a non-public figure – a kind of gray cardinal who used to be a “sacred cow” thanks to the patronage of Putin and the successes of Wagner group on the Ukrainian front.

Over the past months, in his numerous interviews, accusing Minister Shoigu and the top military leadership of Russia of inefficiency, the owner of Wagner was allowed to freely do this raising eyebrows  while President Putin pointedly did not interfere in the personal conflict between Prigozhin and Shoigu.

The third conclusion is that Western forecasts that predicted the beginning of a civil war in Russia  also proved to be incorrect.  As it turned out, there is no split into “red” and “white”, as it was during the 1917 October revolution, in Russia.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who did not become the Russian Robin Hood, also did not become the new Lenin as well.

Unlike the Russian elite and the army of journalists and experts, most ordinary Russian citizens did not even notice the attempt of an armed rebellion. As it turned out, there were no people willing to fight with each other, as it was during the revolution of 1917. Many people spent this summer weekend outside the city, unlike law enforcement agencies who were preparing to repel the attack on Moscow.

Meanwhile, this week President Putin  shed new light on the enigmatic  relations between the state and Prigozhin’s private company, which at some point got out of control of the top Russian leadership.

During a meeting with the Russian military Putin said that the country has always treated the fighters and commanders of Wagner group with respect.  According to him, the state paid for the group’s activities and from May 2022 to May 2023 more than 86 billion ruble. This money was allocated for the maintenance of fighters and incentive payments. According to President Putin, the owner of the Concord company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, also earned 80 billion rubles during this period by supplying food for the military. “I hope that no one stole anything or stole less, but we will deal with it all,” President Putin said.

In addition to that, according to him, 110 billion rubles were allocated for insurance payments. The Russian state pays 5 million rubles each to the families of those killed during the fighting in Ukraine, including the Wagner fighters.


As President Putin noted, addressing the military, “we have always treated the fighters and commanders of the Wagner group with great respect.” “They really showed courage and heroism. Those who served and worked at Wagner were respected in the country,” Putin said.


Meantime, on May 24, Yevgeny Prigozhin said that about 20 thousand Wagner fighters were killed in the battles for the city of Bakhmut alone. According to Prigozhin, the Wagner group  provided medical care for all wounded soldiers on its own, starting from first aid and ending with prosthetics.


On January 26  this year, Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he had always financed the Wagner group himself, but in 2022, when the “global expansion” began, he had to look for additional sources of funding. “I invented the Wagner, I managed the Wagner and have always financed the Wagner,— Yevgeny Prigozhin said at the time.

This week the press service of the FSB reported that the criminal case of armed rebellion was terminated.

The Russian Defence Ministry will transfer the heavy equipment left by the Wagner fighters to Russian army units.

The Wagner fighters have already been invited to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense and join the ranks of the regular army. At the same time, a part of the Wagner group together with Prigozhin went to its new field camps in Belarus.


No one knows what the future holds for Prigozhin himself and his private army in Belarus. Everything will depend on whether President Lukashenko wants to play his own game with Prigozhin, having managed to learn lessons from the failed Russian rebellion.

However, experts note that Belarus is only 80 kilometers from Kiev which is the capital of Ukraine — a distance which at some point can be covered within a day.

So, at a certain moment, Prigozhin’s reinvented army may unexpectedly come back on the scene — this time  from the territory of Belarus, which is part of a single union state with Russia.

Back on stage, Wagner group may still once more  surprise the world and sent global shockwaves again.

Also Read: How Putin averted a Civil War in Russia after Wagner’s coup attempt