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A Peace Deal that Benefited Both Parties
Natia Skorupski

Jul 15, 2023

The Wagner Uprising was an unprecedented action against the Russian State. What does this mean for Putin?

On Saturday, June 24th, leader of the paramilitary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, led an uprising against Russian President Vladimir Putin. At about 8pm that same night, he called off Wagner’s march on Moscow after striking a deal with Putin through Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Despite treasonous actions against the state, no one in Wagner Group will be prosecuted, their soldiers can join the regular army, and Prigozhin will go into exile in Belarus.

While speculations fly as to whether the uprising was a bluff, some argue that it spells the beginning of the end for Putin. The Wagner Uprising illustrates that Vladimir Putin doesn’t have strong control over his country. The fact that Prigozhin took over the city of Rostov-on-Don and proceeded to get alarmingly close to Moscow without significant resistance illustrates this. The deal struck between Putin and Prigozhin was the best move for both parties involved, but even still, it shows weakness in the Russian state that will be difficult to remedy in the future. 

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s decision to lead an uprising was a response to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who has long held a feud with Prigozhin. Since the autumn of 2022, Prigozhin has loudly criticized Shoigu’s actions in the War with Ukraine, attributing failures on the battlefield and a lack of weapons and supplies to him. To reign in Prigozhin’s power over his paramilitary group, all private defense company soldiers were ordered to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense in early June. This may have motivated Prigozhin to act before the July 1st deadline for this change, as he knew his power and popularity among Russian forces could be short-lived. When the uprising began, Prigozhin was clear that the conflict was against Minister Shoigu, as opposed to President Putin. Despite this, Putin called the actions treasonous and a threat to the nation in an address to the people. 

As stated by Belarus President Lukashenko, “ one came out of that situation a hero.” While Prigozhin may have wanted to retain his power as the leader of Wagner Group, he was only able to retain his life. As his troops have demonstrated loyalty to Prigozhin, the only way for them to retain their freedom would be to join the regular army. Putin on the other hand prevented the conflict from leading to bloodshed and further destabilizing his efforts in Ukraine by agreeing to a deal. If a deal was not brokered between Putin and Prigozhin, a civil conflict could have occurred and destabilized Putin’s power tremendously. Meanwhile, Minister Shoigu may face the wrath of President Putin. Shoigu’s feud with Prigozhin led to a demonstrated weakness in the Putin regime. Since Prigozhin faced comparatively little consequence, it can be assumed that Shoigu will largely take the fall for this rebellion. And considering the level of hatred Prigozhin holds for Shoigu, this consequence could be exactly what Prigozhin aimed for all along. 

As explained by the Atlantic Council, Putin’s situation is not the picture of someone in control of his country’s politics. Putin was unable to stop the marching troops of Prigozhin towards Moscow, and it took President Lukashenko’s involvement in order for a peace deal to be brokered. This event illustrates an unsteady leadership not only to the world, but to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

Some speculate that this could further demoralize Russians and give an advantage to Ukrainians fighting in the war. Ultimately we see that a feud between two Russian powers went uncontrolled by the Russian President. Evidently, Russia’s security isn’t dominated by Putin. Putin’s next moves will be incredibly important as the world watches to see if its new perception of him sticks.

To see this piece’s sources, click HERE.

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