The fragile truce that halted Prigozhin’s armed revolt against the Kremlin already appears to be crumbling

Vladimir Putin (left) and Yevgeny Prigozhin (right).

Vladimir Putin (left) has long relied on Yevgeny Prigozhin (right) for his Wagner mercenary group to fight during the invasion of Ukraine.Getty Images

  • Wagner’s forces halted their revolt on Saturday after reaching an agreement with the Kremlin.

  • But that peace deal looks increasingly uncertain as Prigozhin renews his diatribes against the Russian military.

  • Putin, meanwhile, made conflicting comments about the consequences ahead for those involved.

The Wagnerian revolt may be over, but the chaos in Russia is probably just beginning.

In a brief and sometimes contradictory speech Monday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin cast doubt on the tenuous peace deal the Kremlin struck with Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin on Saturday after the mercenary leader led a short-lived uprising. term against the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Prigozhin, a former Putin ally, shocked Russian civilians and international onlookers as he led a group of troops for hire in a ‘justice march’ over the weekend after he alleged that the Russian Ministry of the Defense had conducted a missile strike that killed several Wagnerian soldiers.

The uprising represents the most damning challenge to Putin’s regime in decades. It was only averted when Prigozhin sent his troops back just 120 miles from Moscow after the Kremlin said it would drop all criminal charges against the former leader, who in turn agreed to be exiled to Belarus. neighbor.

But on Monday, that deal looked shaky as Prigozhin renewed his rants against the Russian Defense Ministry and Putin made conflicting comments about the consequences ahead for those involved in the mutiny.

After hours of blatant silence following the apparent peace deal, Prigozhin reappeared on Monday, posting an 11-minute audio clip on Telegram in which he offered additional context for the reasons for his weekend attack, while insisting with challenge that his troops would remain independent of Russia. military.

Prior to the rebellion, Wagner’s forces, which helped capture the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in a bloody battle earlier this year, had been ordered to join Russian forces by July 1 – a command that many former army convicts and mercenaries were unwilling to obey, according to Prigozhin, prompting the group’s weekend march to Moscow in an effort to avoid being absorbed into the official Russian army.

“We were marching to demonstrate our protest, not to overthrow the government,” Prigozhin said, according to a translation of his message.

Putin, meanwhile, addressed the Russian public for the first time since Wagner stepped down in his Monday speech, which did little to clarify how Russia plans to respond to the uprising.

The president congratulated Wagner’s troops on their return and pledged to keep his promise that those who did can join the Russian military or seek amnesty in Belarus. But Putin also denounced the “organizers” of the revolt – never naming Prigozhin directly – as traitors who will be “brought to justice”. This appeared to be a reversal of the government’s vow to spare Prigozhin from criminal charges.

Russian state media reported that Prigozhin is in fact still under investigation, adding further uncertainty to the legitimacy of Saturday’s deal.

Prigozhin’s whereabouts remain unknown, and neither the Telegram message nor the televised address offered clarity on the future of Wagner’s 25,000 troops who remain armed.

Prigozhin still has thriving Wagnerian activities in Africa that are probably more appealing than a life of exile in Belarus. Multiple reports this week indicated that Wagner is still actively recruiting.

But even if Wagner’s troops were to join their Russian comrades on the battlefield in Ukraine, tensions between the two armies, which were already high before the revolt, are likely to be heightened by the mercenary group’s attacks on the Russian military over the weekend, which included shooting down several planes that allegedly killed Russian pilots.

US and European officials, meanwhile, are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the dust settles in Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday noted “cracks in the facade of Putin’s leadership”, praising the civil strife as an opportunity for Ukraine to make gains while Russia deals with its internal problems .

The Biden administration and other Western allies, however, remain concerned that the Prigozhin uprising has dealt a significant blow to Russia’s stability, The Washington Post reported.

“We are seeing cracks emerging,” Blinken said Sunday. “I don’t want to speculate on that, but I don’t think we’ve seen the final act.”

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