The journey is the destination
The excitement was electric. Muscovites were pawning their most prized Beanie Babies in hopes of raising the necessary funds to buy a ticket.
It was going to be the fight of the millennium.
Shoigu, the Terror of Tuva, specialized in the ancient art of Tuvan spoon-bending (when you bill the government 1 million rubles to bend a spoon, then outsource this task to a quadriplegic for 50 rubles, and pocket the difference).
Prigozhin, known by his millions of fans as the Kleptocratic Cook, was world-famous for his signature “move”—mercilessly nibbling on the toes of his opponents until they tapped out, bleeding and humiliated. These are the facts.
Dana White was waiting patiently in the Octagon that he built with his bare hands. The clock was ticking. But the fight was canceled. Maybe some other time if it can be rescheduled, time permitting.
A small but impressively speedy army of mercenaries came within 200 km (124 miles) of Moscow yesterday evening. They stopped, had a cig, or maybe a nice refreshing hookah, and turned back.
Their leader, who vowed to punish the evil deeds of Russia’s military leadership, was banished to Belarus. You could do worse, honestly.
I don’t think it is necessary to give a detailed play-by-play of what occurred on June 24. Undoubtedly, you have already been bashed over the head with millions of BREAKING NEWS updates, salacious and completely unconfirmed rumors, and various other morsels of “information” that are, on the whole, entirely useless.
(We will discuss a few important details being ignored by Western alt media, but more on that later.)
The most important Update is that Lukashenko mediated a deal, and the mutiny, or insurrection, or coup d’état, or 11D psyop—what happened yesterday goes by many different names—came to a screeching halt.
What was in this deal? As per tradition, the proles are never told, but Peskov revealeda few details:
- In recognition of their past military service, Wagner fighters who participated in the “March of Justice” (that’s what they called it—BLM vibes?) will not be prosecuted. Prigozhin is included in this amnesty policy.
- Wagner members who didn’t participate can sign contracts with Russia’s MOD.
- Prigozhin receives a free Greyhound Bus ticket to Belarus (one-way).
- There were no discussions about personnel changes in the Ministry of Defense.
That last bullet-point is key, because if we take Prigozhin at his word—which of course must be done cautiously—he wanted Shoigu and Gerasimov to “retire”.
The whole affair was very confusing, worrying, and as I have repeatedly stressed—weird.
There’s a lot to discuss. There is no possible way to cover everything, so I will just share my initial observations.
Before I dive into this total mess, I just want to ask my dear readers for a quick favor: I know there is a wide range of opinions on what we all just witnessed. I am 100% OK with this. You should also be OK with this. Please do not pretend that you know exactly what happened, and why, because you don’t.
I am genuinely shocked by how personally people (many of whom have zero connection to Russia) have taken these events. Based on scant or zero evidence, and wild conjecture, they have convinced themselves they are Frodo E-Baggins, heroically transporting the Tweet of Power to Mount Zuckberg, or some other urine-stained corner of the internet, where they balk at the pathetic simpletons who Don’t Understand.
Please don’t be this person—I beg you.
An incomplete sampling of Views
Let’s start by reviewing how various pundits and commentators interpreted Prigozhin’s SMO. I will select viewpoints from across the ideological spectrum, for the sake of diversity.
Leonid Ragozin, a ferocious anti-Kremlin journalist, and BBC alumnus, highlightedhow a poplar Russian Telegram channel floated the idea that Prigozhin pulled off a masterful diversion. He conceded that this theory also crossed his mind:
Rybar [ran] a conspiracy theory regarding [the] Wagner putsch, which suggests it was a distractive way of redeploying Wagner to Ukraine’s northern border, with the view of a future offensive. A thought that occurred to me today, must admit. But too much humiliation for Putin.
This theory was also proposed by Larry Johnson. There are related sub-theories, like the idea that Prigozhin tricked the United States into giving him $6 billion, as part of a sneaky 5D plot. People on Twitter like this idea.
Kim Dotcom, who put forward some very creative theories about the “insurrection” while it was in progress, had this to say once the dust settled:
The craziest 24 hours. With the Warner [sp] Group situation resolved things are going to change. This was a wake-up call for Putin. He can’t afford to slow play the US proxy war in Ukraine anymore.
Pepe Escobar announced a total victory for Putin:
Putin wins ON ALL COUNTS. Making an absolute ass of Western MSM again; Rallying people to end the war quicker; Amassing a list of traitors and 5th, 6th columnists; And freedom to deploy CTO [Counter-Terrorist Operation] martial law powers.
Shortly before the truce was announced, Scott Ritter wrote on his blog that Prigozhin and his fighters were Western-backed traitors who would be mercilessly crushed:
What Prigozhin and his supporters, both in the command and rank and file of Wagner, and those collaborators in the social media universe, have done in attacking the constitutional government of Russia is nothing short of treason. […]
But the critical point here isn’t Wagner’s treasonous behavior, but rather the fact that Russia’s enemies—in particular the British and American intelligence services—saw fit to facilitate a substantive armed insurrection designed to remove from power the government of a nuclear armed power.
I’m not sure if he has commented on the most recent developments. If he has, he didn’t post them on his Telegram channel.
Eccentric Russian nationalist and transhumanist Anatoly Karlin cautioned that the “settlement” might not last:
Skeptical about peace deal. Prigozhin “crossed the Rubicon”—Wagner brought down Russian Air Force planes – discredited the Putin system more than anyone else – seems unlikely he’ll “live happily ever after” if he turns back. I suppose we’ll see who’s psyopsing who soon enough.
Marko Marjanović wrote a very thought-provoking Twitter thread, in which he argued that Wagner is lame, and Prigozhin got himself in trouble by making promises to Putin that he couldn’t keep. (By the way: If you are craving more Marko, let him know in the comments. I think we can bully him into publishing a full article.)
Rolo believes Prigozhin emerged from the Wagner SMO as the clear victor. It’s difficult to provide a succinct summary for why he came to this conclusion, so I encourage you to read his musings in full. They are very interesting.
Obviously, many people hold views that are a mixture of all the perspectives documented above. And there’s also fierce debate about what this all means for Putin, Prigozhin, Shoigu, the SMO, Ukraine’s counter-offensive, etc. Really, it hurts my head just thinking about all the different angles.
There are also many interesting takes from Russian pundits, but we’ll cover them in a different blog post.
Edward’s hot take
Now I’ll share my own reactions.
First, I want to review what I typed when this whole thing kicked off:
- I had no idea what was going on, and I didn’t pretend to know.
- The theory that this was all “faked” (or staged/part of some sort of insider scheme between the two “belligerents”) seemed unlikely to me. (I will return to this point in a moment.)
- Wagner’s SMO didn’t come out of the blue—there were many warning signs.
- I didn’t trust Prigozhin.
- I didn’t trust Shoigu.
- Putin was in Pink Pony Land.
- I wrote this: “It’s too soon to say that we are witnessing the opening salvo of a civil war. Who knows? Maybe this will all be over by the end of the day.”
- Resist the urge to go bananas. Listen to JS Bach. (The most important point.)
It’s true I also announced FULL BLOG MOBILIZATION, which perhaps was premature—although I’m not so sure. Personally, I don’t think we’ve closed the book on this bizarre event. We’ll see though. For now, this blog remains in DEFCON 1 RED LEVEL SAFE & EFFECTIVE BLOG ALERT. It’s my blog, I make the rules.
Okay, here’s my take: Personally, I don’t think you can call this a W for Prigozhin if Shoigu is still running the MOD (although I understand the dangers of contradicting King Rolo).
At the same time, I wouldn’t call this a W for Putin, either.
Let me be clear: I’m very glad that potential bloodshed was avoided. (There wasbloodshed, though! Despite what some people are claiming. Be patient, we’ll talk about it…) In this sense, it’s a W for everyone. Maybe.
The problem for Putin is that he publicly called Prigozhin a traitor and an insurrectionist, and ordered security forces to quell the “revolt”.
Then, as Wagner was inching closer to Moscow, Russian state media announced Prigozhin was backed by MI6/CIA/Mossad.
Then Ritter and half of the “alternative media” echoed this claim. (By the way, I don’t want to pick on Ritter. Just using him as an example.)
Then Luka revealed a deal had been reached, which meant Putin negotiated with a CIA/Mossad traitor, promised him safe passage to Belarus, and gave full amnesty to his insurgents? I’m not trying to nitpick, or be pedantic, but am I out of line to suggest this is a bit strange and contradictory?
I fully appreciate that Putin was in quite a pickle. After all, just a month ago he hailed Wagner as heroes. But why accuse Prigozhin of being a Western stooge, only to cut a deal with him literally two hours later?
This is either the result of very poor messaging from the Kremlin (which is its specialty), or something else is going on here. There are many possibilities, I cannot explore them all. However, I want to address the psyop theory, since is it very popular, and while I think it is possible, it is not my top candidate for explaining what the heck just happened.
Admittedly, the information we have is murky, but it’s reasonable to work from the assumption that approximately 5,000 Wagner fighters were approximately 200 km from Moscow before they were ordered to go back to their bases.
Can you seize Moscow with 5,000 troops? Definitely no. But, like the Original SMO and its failed attempt to “take” Kiev, I don’t think it was Prigozhin’s intention to storm the Russian capital.
In this sense, the Wagner SMO was a psyop—it was likely designed to put pressure on Russia’s upper-management to cave into his demands (Shoigu out!), or at the very least, force Putin to the negotiating table.
Well, Prigozhin got his negotiations, but I don’t think he got everything he wanted (again, if we take Prigozhin at his word). He was probably hoping his supporters inside Putin’s administration would be able to convince Russia’s president that he needed to dump Shoigu to avoid triggering a larger internal conflict. He was too hopeful.
For this “psyop” to be successful, Wagner needed to demonstrate that it was largely unopposed. It was able to demonstrate this—to such an extent that many people believe the whole thing was “staged” in some way.
I’ve seen two pieces of (alleged) evidence to support this idea. First, that a Wagner tank (only one, as far as I know) had its muzzle covered. Second, not a single Russian soldier or Wagner fighter was harmed on June 24—proof that it was all fake!
To address the first point: And? Was this tank leading the column of dozens of military vehicles that rolled into Rostov? Do we know what the situation was like in Rostov when it arrived? Wagner was apparently able to park in front of the Southern Military District HQ unopposed—was there some reason why this tank needed to be ready to fire?
If Wagner was putting on a show of force, and had no intention of fighting, is there some reason why it would be unusual for the tank’s muzzle to be covered? If necessary, would it be so hard to uncover it? Why is it that these basic questions aren’t being asked by people who seem to believe this single photo serves as conclusive proof of something?
Second point: If you think there were no deaths on June 24, you are mistaken. This unavoidable reality is all over Russian-language media.
For example, Readovka (a very large, mainstream news outlet, with one of Russia’s largest Telegram channels) reported yesterday:
15 soldiers were killed in today’s clashes with Wagner PMC
Today, 15 servicemen of the RF Armed Forces were killed during a conflict with Wagner PMC fighters. Most of them are combat pilots. [So far], an Il-18 aircraft was shot down. There were at least eight servicemembers on board.
In addition, today a Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter was destroyed—the entire crew was killed. These servicemen were faithful to their oath to the end.
(It was later clarified that the destroyed aircraft was actually an Il-22.)
A more recent update from a very popular Telegram channel:
Prigozhin, under the terms of the [peace?] agreement, agreed to pay 50 million rubles in compensation to the families of the dead pilots.
Why would Prigozhin pay 50 million rubles to the families of dead pilots that he didn’t kill? Curious minds want to know. Or is this also a sneaky 5D plot?
The reason why there wasn’t more bloodshed is very likely that Prigozhin calculated correctly—the Russian military didn’t want to fight its brethren. Some of them probably supported what Wagner was doing.
That’s how I see things, at least. But if you have different views that’s fine.
On a totally unrelated note, it was revealing that RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan did not post a single social media message on June 24.
It’s very, very rare for Simonyan to go a single day without posting something on social media. The reason for this is because like all Very Serious Journalists, she is a validation-starved human tragedy.
(Remember that gimmick from the idiotic television series “Lost”, where some guy in a bunker had to press a button every 30 seconds, or else? That’s Margarita. I am positive she would experience spontaneous self-combustion if someone took her iPhone 666 away.)
Was she hedging? Would be funny. I wouldn’t put it past a vax-shilling schizo such as herself.
One last thing.
It’s very true that this weird event has allowed the Russian government to impose all sorts of new and exciting restrictions on the population. The so-called “Counter-Terrorist Operation regime” is still in place, although Peskov promises it will be lifted soon. He promises a lot of things.
Putin on Saturday also signed a bill allowing for the detention of individuals for up to 30 days if martial law is declared. (Martial law has not been declared, by the way.)
But do you really need to send Wagner tanks barreling towards Moscow to justify such measures? I would argue no. There are much simpler and less humiliating ways.