- Print This Post Print This Post

Translated from Colonel Cassad, with afterword by John Helmer, Moscow

Damage control

Today it’s a little funny to see the bewilderment from reports of Putin’s meeting with Prigozhin, because, they say, Putin had called Prigozhin a rebel, and then meets with him.

Source: https://t.me/s/boris_rozhin -- posted on July 10 at 15:08.

1. From a legal point of view, Prigozhin is no longer a rebel, since the criminal case on the evidence of the rebellion has been closed, and no new cases have been opened. Accordingly, the state has no new legal claims against Prigozhin, or not yet — interviews of witnesses and the study of evidence on the deaths of the pilots continue. Therefore, there are no legal obstacles to such meetings.

2. From a political and historical point of view, the fact of the mutiny has not gone away, and the history books will write about the Prigozhin mutiny on June 23-24. But from a political point of view, a meeting between Putin and Prigozhin is desirable to close many of the issues which were not discussed during the June 24 negotiations with the participation of [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko and [Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander] Bortnikov, where Prigozhin was given general security guarantees, but when there remained questions about the future of the Wagner PMCs [private military companies], Prigozhin’s business and his personal affairs. It turned out that the state was very dependent on Prigozhin’s structures in a number of areas, and their simultaneous destruction would lead to serious damage for the state. And so the frameworks operating with Prigozhin’s structures are being revised, which allows the state to gently replace Prigozhin’s structures in a number of areas, and Prigozhin to keep part of his business.

3. After the events of June 23-24, Putin solves the problem of minimizing the consequences of what happened, avoiding scenarios that are obviously disastrous for the state with concessions to the rebels or mass bloodshed in Rostov and in the Moscow region. Of all the available options at that time, the least detrimental to the common cause was chosen, when losses were minimized (although no one can return the dead pilots); the threat of mutiny was removed;  and the state retained the ability to use the personnel of the Wagner PMCs in its own interests, but on different terms. Hence there is discontent among those who did not anticipate how the the interaction of Wagner with the Rosgvardiya in Rostov and the Moscow region would turn out. Of the options available at that time, this is the most acceptable; it has required various compromises within the framework of political expediency.

4. Therefore, the Wagner PMC is not being liquidated, but it is being restructured, as I wrote about on June 25. For the same reasons, Prigozhin moves freely around the country; he will keep part of his business in Russia; and weapons and money have been returned to him. And at the same time, he is being blocked in the state media in order to bring down the level of popularity of Prigozhin and the Wagner PMCs among the masses, which had been promoted to a great height earlier by the efforts of the state media. The Patriot media holding is being taken away from him – in fact,  it is being liquidated, depriving Prigozhin of most of his media opportunities in domestic politics and nullifying his political ambitions – along with part of his contracts, including the fat contracts with the Ministry of Defense.

5. No one will dismiss [Chief of the General Staff General Valery] Gerasimov and [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu under pressure. Even if Putin decides to make permutations at the top for any reason, they will be done only when it does not look like the shifts are due to Prigozhin’s rebellion. I don’t recall any cases when Putin fired someone under pressure from outside. Therefore, Shoigu and Gerasimov defiantly appear in the media, which demonstrates that no changes are planned for the time being, and Shoigu and Gerasimov continue to fulfill their duties. There are still some questions about [General Sergei] Surovikin’s future, but I think he will be fine.

Left to right: Sergei Shoigu; Valery Gerasimov; Vladimir Putin; Sergei Surovikin.

6. Some of the Wagner personnel will leave for Belarus; some will enter into a contract with the Ministry of Defense; some will quit. This process is already underway. Heavy weapons will be returned to the inventory of the Ministry of Defense, which provided these weapons to the Wagner PMCs in the first place. All money issues concerning the fighters and their families will be finalized.  The return of cash to Prigozhin is aimed, among other things, at paying off the scheduled payments to the fighters and commanders of Wagner.

In general, what is planned is a damage control operation.  The fact that Putin’s meeting with Prigozhin came as a surprise to many only shows what many ‘insiders’ were worth regarding the leadership’s strategy for overcoming the consequences of Prigozhin’s rebellion.

Note: Boris Rozhin’s “Colonel Cassad” is one of Russia’s leading military correspondents, and an unacknowledged source for  most US military commentators,  battlefield news aggregators, and military situation reporters.  This Rozhin report, translated verbatim,  was posted in the afternoon of Monday, July 10.  It followed a French newspaper reporting from “western intelligence sources” three days earlier, on  July 7,  that the meeting had taken place on July 1 with Putin, Victor Zolotov, head of the National Guard (Rosgvardiya),  and Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.  The date of the meeting was in fact June 29, according to the confirmation from Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, answering questions from reporters on Monday morning, July 10. Peskov said Prigozhin and 35 Wagner group commanders had attended.   Peskov didn’t identify by name the Wagner commanders or other Russian officials at the meeting, claiming the “details are unknown.” Asked for the names of the state officials and Wagner participants in the meeting, the Kremlin press office said: "We don't have such information." 

Until now,  the Kremlin record for June 29 had disclosed Putin’s presence at midday making a speech to a conference in Moscow on “Strong Ideas for our Time” . Two hours earlier, Putin had issued this message: “This is a great honour in recognition of your special service, huge heroism and courage, fortitude and bravery in defending the Fatherland and the state interests of Russia. Skilful and resolute actions of the regiment’s personnel during the special military operation serve as an example of fulfilling one’s military duty, bravery, selflessness and high professionalism. I am convinced that you, Guard soldiers, will remain loyal to your oath of allegiance, that you will honourably serve the Fatherland and reliably guarantee the safety and peaceful life of Russian citizens.”  This message was addressed by the President to the 237th Guards Air Assault Torun Regiment,   not to the Wagner group.

There is a US precedent for the engagement of mercenary units and their leader in wartime. In early 1943, ahead of Operation Husky, the US naval landings in Sicily and campaign against the German forces in Italy,  a deal was negotiated with Charles Lucky Luciano, head of the US mafia then in a New York state prison. Luciano agreed to mobilize the Sicilian mafia bosses and their soldiers to assist the US forces in attacking German units. In exchange, Luciano received a pardon and prison release in 1946; he did not ask for meetings with Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, or with New York Governor Thomas Dewey. That story has been told here.  

Leave a Reply