Wagner forces halt march on Moscow

Troops from the Wagner Group mercenary force abruptly reversed course after advancing through southern Russia toward Moscow on June 24, bringing an apparent end to what appeared to be an attempted coup d'état. Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner Private Military Company, announced:

In the course of a day, we marched to 200 km from Moscow. In that time, we did not lose a single drop of blood from among our fighters. Now the moment has arrived when blood could be spilled... Therefore, recognizing the grave responsibility that Russian blood would be shed on one side or the other, we are turning our columns back and moving in the opposite direction, back to the field camps, in accordance with plans.

Earlier in the day, President Vladimir Putin had accused Prigozhin of treason and vowed swift and harsh action against him, comparing the uprising to the 1917 Revolution. 

Wagner forces advanced through Rostov-on-Don and Lipetsk in what Prigozhin called a "march of justice." His troops had reportedly seized control of Russia's Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don the previous day. Over the course of the march toward the capital, Wagner-linked Telegram accounts posted content purporting to show citizens in seized territories welcoming Wagner troops, and messages of support from throughout the country.

It was not immediately clear what prompted Prigozhin's about-face, although Belarusian authorities claim their country's leader Alexander Lukashenko facilitated negotiations between the parties throughout the day. While treason charges against Prigozhin have been dropped, he is seemingly to go into exile in Belarus.

Tensions between Moscow and Wagner had been mounting in recent weeks. Prigozhin on multiple occasions accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the military's general staff, of failing to supply adequate arms to Russian soliders in Ukraine. The rhetoric escalated this week, with Prigozhin blaming Russia's top brass of having misled Putin and the Russian people about realities on the ground in Ukraine prior to the February 2022 invasion. He also accused Russian military forces of having attacked a Wagner camp in Ukraine.

In previous statements, the otherwise outspoken Prigozhin appeared to take great care not to criticize Putin directly. But following the accusations of treason, the Wagner Group took an overtly critical tone in addressing the Kremlin. In a comment following Putin's address, the Wagner Group's media arm accused the president of prioritizing the interests of Russia's ultra-wealthy—himself apparently included—over the interests of Russia's soldiers. "What have you given to the war veterans? 3,700 rubles [$44] a month? ...Why is it that you only see your own problems—how to defend Moscow and Rublyovka [ed: a wealthy suburb outside of Moscow known for its sprawling mega-mansions]? …How many fighters have died so that you could live in your mansions?"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted in response to the power struggle in Russia that he who "chooses the path of evil destroys himself," suggesting that Putin "throws hundreds of thousands into the war, only to eventually barricade himself in Moscow against those whom he himself armed."

From Jurist, June 24. Used with permission.

See our last reports on the Wagner Group and Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Russia security forces detain pro-war activist

Russian federal agents took prominent nationalist and military veteran Igor Girkin into custody on July 20 for criticizing Vladimir Putin and Russia's performance in the Ukraine war. Girkin is apparently charged under Part 2 of Art. 280, which pertains to making public calls for extremist activities through media or the Internet. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

Miroslava Reginskaya, Girkin's wife, informed the public about his detention. According to her statement on Girkin's Telegram channel, representatives of the Investigative Committee came to their home and took Girkin away. Reginskaya says Girkin has not contacted her since, and she does not know where he is being held.

Girkin posted an accusation directed at Putin on his Telegram channel on July 18, calling him a "cowardly mediocrity" and calling for the "transfer of power to someone truly capable and responsible." (Jurist)

Yevgeny Prigozhin reported slain in air crash

A private jet apparently carrying Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed in Russia's Tver region about 100 miles northwest of Moscow on Aug. 23, with all aboard reported dead. Dmitry Utkin, a high-ranking Wagner commander, is said to have been onboard as well. (CNBC, JP, The Hill)

Russian general who vanished after Wagner revolt is fired

A top Russian general who went missing after the Wagner Group's insurrection in June has been fired as head of the aerospace forces, Russian state media reports. Gen. Sergey Surovikin has spent four decades as part of the Russian military, including a brief stint commanding the war effort in Ukraine. His brutalty in Syria earned Surovikin the nickname "Gen. Armageddon." (CNN)

Russian neo-Nazi group refuses to fight in Ukraine

A Russian neo-Nazi paramilitary group that supported the Wagner mercenary rebellion has announced it will no longer fight in Ukraine, accusing the Kremlin of abandoning its leader. The group, called Rusich, said that its leader Yan Petrovsky was arrested last month when he tried to pass through Helsinki airport and that Russian diplomats have ignored his pleas for help. (The Telegraph)

UK officially designates Wagner Group as terrorist organization

The UK announced Spet. 15 that it had officially designated the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. It is an offense under British law to "belong, or profess to belong, to a proscribed organisation in the UK or overseas." The move comes several weeks after the government presented a bill containing the designation to Parliament on Sept. 6. (Jurist)