September 29, 2023

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Index – Abroad – Kremlin grips tighter on reins, Putin can rub his palms

The Russian Wagner mercenary army has begun training Belarusian special forces just a few kilometers from the Polish border – we recently reported on Code based on MTI news. Wagner’s “importation” was part of the June 24 agreement that ended the mercenary mutiny. Belarusian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka acted as a mediator to stop Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenaries before they reached Moscow and send them back. The mercenary leader and his men were free to travel to Belarus.

It’s not a sly maneuver

“We don’t know what the goal of the Belarusian leadership is with Wagner, but its presence will act as an additional obstacle to Belarus’ neighbors. Although it is believed that neither the Poles, nor the Lithuanians, nor even the Ukrainians plan to start a war on the territory of Belarus in the future, they have not given up support for the anti-Lukashenka movement.” “They openly declare that,” explained András Kostur, XXI. Század Institute is a lead researcher on the code. He said that the presence of Wagner – in addition to Russian nuclear weapons – could be another argument in favor of not trying it, and that neighboring countries should not support such tests.

Poland and Ukraine are concerned about Wagner’s proximity. The Ministry of National Defense in Warsaw announced that it was preparing for several scenarios to deter potential threats. The Poles feared that the Wagner group could be used to destabilize the Polish-Belarusian border. There is still speculation that the entire Wagner Rebellion was a ruse, a diversion, and that the objective may have been to place the mercenaries in a strategic position.

András Kosztur previously told our newspaper that there was no reason to organize such a “drama” and that the “result” would not be proportionate to the potential and actual damage. He added to his last response by pointing out that the Russians have nuclear weapons in Belarus quite openly, so replacing Wagner would not require a “tricky” maneuver, especially since Russian troops continue to be stationed in the country.

Additionally, Wagner, even at its original full strength, would not have been strong enough to launch a full-scale offensive against the northern part of Ukraine, now that they were marching into Belarus with very few men and no heavy equipment. If diversionary activities are planned, it will benefit from less publicity. Of course, the latter cannot be rejected regardless, but it will require the approval of the Belarusian leadership

explained XXI. Senior Research Fellow, Chasad Institute.

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Yevgeny Prigozhin is still influential

Over the past few days, Yevgeny Prigozhin has shared on his official Telegram channel how many losses mercenaries have suffered so far in the war in Ukraine. Numbers are published by index on portfolio basis. According to Prigozhin, 10,000 Wagner mercenaries are currently in Belarus or en route to the country, and another 15,000 are “on leave”. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that 33,000 Wagner mercenaries had signed the contract to join the army, but Prigozhin responded by saying that “this is only possible if the dead also sign the contract.”

Since the Wagner uprising, the Kremlin has been trying to tighten its reins, one sign of which is the alleged arrest of pro-war Russian nationalist and growing critic of President Putin, Igor Kirkin. According to András Kosztur, actors in the military, media and politics are expected to have less room for maneuver.

We don’t know much about the specific actions – except that Prigozhin’s empire was being dissolved, or more precisely, it was being curtailed. There have been reports of sackings and alleged arrests from the military leadership, but these are currently unclear

said the analyst. As a typical example, he noted that the Western press recently, referring to Russian military bloggers, wrote that Mikhail Teblinsky could replace Valery Gerasimov as head of operations in Ukraine. A week later, on the other hand, his possible arrest was already discussed, and referring to Russian bloggers.

According to András Kosztur, Vladimir Putin still considers Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (whose head was one of the objectives of the Wagner uprising) to be trustworthy, and he can entrust him with the task of putting an end to outbreaks of insubordination within the military. “Wagner’s action did not affect the situation at the front, the Ukrainians could not use it to gain an advantage,” noted the researcher.

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Regarding Wagner, some mercenaries – according to the Ministry of Defense, a small part, the Wagnerites say, a large part – went to Belarus with Prigozhin, but what exactly they will do in the future remains to be seen.

Prigozhin retains his influence over them and is believed to be trying to continue his previous activities. It is not known whether Moscow will be its hidden or direct patron. Based on his statements so far, Prigozhin has not given up on returning to Russian domestic politics

– András Kosztur said.

No alternative to Putin?

According to William Burns, head of the CIA, the rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin exposed significant weaknesses in the power structure built by Vladimir Putin. “We’re seeing a very complicated dance,” Burns said, adding that the Russian president may still want revenge on Prigozhin and is trying to buy time while Wagner figures out how best to deal with the leader of the group.

Putin generally believes that revenge is delivered coldly. In my experience, the Russian president is an apostle of vengeance, so I’d be surprised if Prigozhin escapes retaliation.

– The CIA chief commented. He added:

If I were Prigogine, I wouldn’t remove my food taster.

Regarding the powers of Russian President Vladimir Putin, XXI. A lead researcher at the Szazad Institute put it this way:

Although his authority has eroded, his rule has not been shaken, and in fact his ranks have been strengthened, a potential source of danger – a circle of radical patriots and disgruntled officials on the way to the fight – has been removed, and it has become clear to anti-radical circles what Putin’s alternative is.

This has made the Russian president’s position even more dubious, the researcher added.

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Where is Wagner going?

Various kinds of information have already come to light about where Wagner’s next “assignment” will be: they may return to the Ukrainian front, go to Africa or Syria.

“Wagner’s remains are currently in Belarus, and they will remain there for some time. It is also questionable what opportunities they have in Africa and Syria, because there are conflicting reports from these countries. For example, according to Reuters, on the day of the coup, the Syrian Wagner officers were removed from their posts, and most of the fighters signed a reclassification agreement under the Ministry of Defense. According to other reports, hundreds of Wagnerians from the Central African Republic went to Russia. may have come home,” Andras Kostur said, pointing out that the reports were unverifiable, “as mysterious as the fate of the Russian officials who were close to Wagner.”

(Cover image: Vladimir Putin. Photo: Contributor / Getty Images)

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