Did Yevgeny Prigozhin Really Lead an Armed Rebellion in Russia? – Philip Giraldi 7/11/23

Source: Unz.com

“A riddle wrapped up in an enigma” is a shortened form of a quotation made in October 1939, just one month after the Second World War had begun, by Sir Winston Churchill in a radio broadcast to the British people. At the time, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. The full comment was “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma…” Somehow that statement popped up into my head as I tried to decipher the meaning of the Yevgeny Prigozhin alleged coup attempt in Russia on Saturday June 24th, an unanticipated development that has energized the imaginations of pundits and government officials worldwide, generating a torrent of written articles as well as many hours’ worth of spoken commentary.

Predictably, the blather coming out of US Government officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken is worthless propaganda-speak, replaying the standard line about evil Russia and the autocrat Vladimir Putin, who, per Blinken, is in serious trouble in a Russia that is in chaos over the continuing Ukraine war, which, he claims, the Kremlin is losing. President Joe Biden also played his part in distancing the US from the Prigozhin affair by declaring emphatically that the US government was not behind the alleged coup attempt, though he also ladled it on thick last Wednesday by declaring, like Blinken, that Russia was losing the war in Ukraine and Putin has become “a bit of a pariah around the world.” Both those assertions could easily be challenged.

There was almost no bloodshed in the initial move by Wagner Group mercenary units to Rostov on Don, which houses the Army’s Southern Command. Afterwards, while on the road to Moscow, there was no resistance from regular army troops along the way, though there are reports that several Russian army helicopters and a surveillance aircraft shadowing the column were shot down. But surely beyond that something potentially game changing vis-à-vis Russia-Ukraine came close to happening even if we do not yet know with any certitude why or even how it all occurred. The central problem is that there are many explanations of what took place that are plausible but which cannot be confirmed based on the fact that no one directly involved in the event’s genesis or execution is likely to provide any honest answers to questions that might logically be raised.

Consider for a moment some of the elements in the drama. As it was occurring, Putin initially went on television to denounce the apparent march on Moscow by the Wagner group soldiers as an attempted coup d’etat which made participants traitors to the Russian government. Prigozhin, however, quickly rejected that characterization, claiming that he was making his move to confront the generals in Moscow who were failing in their duty to win the war against Kiev as expeditiously as possible, i.e. possibly because they were dragging their heels by avoiding any risk and making a war that could have been concluded seem interminable and possibly even unwinnable.

The march on Moscow should thus be seen as an “demonstration of dissent” according to Prigozhin. And to thicken the plot even further, two senior generals Valery Gerasimov and Sergei Surovikin have not been seen in public since Saturday and there are unconfirmed reports that one of them, Surovikin, a former commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, has been arrested. Gerasimov is Army chief of staff and the current commander of forces in Ukraine while Surovikin is now serving as his deputy. The handing over of Gerasimov was one of the demands allegedly made by Prigozhin. US intelligence sources are also now claiming that Surovikin knew about the rebellion in advance, which suggests that CIA and the Pentagon also knew about it. And there is also a comment made by Ukraine’s head of defense intelligence, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, who said Kyiv knew both about Prigozhin’s plans and a separate plot by Russia’s intelligence agency the FSB to assassinate him. If any or all of that is true, that rather suggests that there might have been a real foreign intelligence agency driven plot against Putin or at least that the Kremlin is proceeding with caution to include the generals’ accounts of their activities being verified to make sure they were not complicit in any way with either the CIA or the Ukrainian government or Prigozhin himself.

So one has to ask whether Putin’s advisers and his intelligence resources were accurately portraying what Prigozhin was up to or was the speech about “treason” a cover story designed to hide a more complicated sequence of events. Did, for example, Putin’s intel chiefs really know in advance that the “coup” or what is possibly better described as an “armed protest” would be taking place? If that is so, did they let it start, assuming that it could not succeed, to attempt to rally the Russian people behind the government and the war? And an even deeper, darker possibility is that the entire episode was contrived by Prigozhin and Putin in support of some still undetermined agenda.

Prigozhin’s subsequent exile to Belarus in exchange for his ending the insurrection and the dropping of any-and-all charges against the alleged Wagner Group insurgents rather suggests that the business of what it was all about was not as straightforward as it seemed on day one. Whilst denouncing the “mutiny plotters” Putin carefully distinguished between those individuals and “the majority of Wagner Group soldiers and commanders” who “are also Russian patriots, loyal to their people and their state.” Indeed, Prigozhin’s role aside, the Wagner Group was founded and commanded by former military intelligence (GRU) officers and funded and provisioned by the Ministry of Defense. Beyond that, Wagner’s soldiers were heroes, the legendary victors of the “battle of Bakhmut.”

And then there is the possible US role denied by Biden. The Washington Post has confirmed that the claim that the CIA knew about what it referred to as the “rebellion,” i.e. the plan to march on Moscow, at least several days in advance. The Agency briefed the so-called Gang of Eight in Congress regarding what was expected to occur but it has not shared what it knew with the public. That might suggest to some that the United States and quite likely Britain were behind an actual coup attempt and may have even initiated it, possibly as some kind of false flag operation, a scenario suggested by Putin in his television address where he hinted darkly that “They [the West and Ukraine] wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other, so that soldiers and civilians would die, so that in the end Russia would lose, and our society would break apart and choke on bloody civil strife (…) They rubbed their hands, dreaming of getting revenge for their failures at the front and during the so-called counter-offensive, but they miscalculated.”

That is a pretty direct accusation of presumed guilt and it has been suggested that Prigozhin may have met secretly with Ukrainian and NATO intelligence officers in Africa where Wagner has also been operating. If that is true, he might have been recruited by CIA or MI-6, or possibly even was allowed to cooperate with them after consulting with Putin, again in support of an as-of-yet undetermined objective, though seriously embarrassing the US and NATO might have been envisioned….

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