Prigozhin mystery, meanwhile Kiev resumes counteroffensive: what is happening in the Kremlin

Elizabeth Smith

Russia tries to restart after the chaos. But what happened on 24 June with Evgenij Prigozhin’s Wagner march is still difficult to decipher.

And while attempts are being made to normalise everything, the question remains as to how the wounds can be stitched up.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu words

The week began with a video of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu appearing for the first time since the attempted coup (largely against him) while visiting troops in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defence issued a statement saying that Shoigu ‘paid special attention to the organisation of aid to the troops involved in the special military operation and the creation of conditions to ensure the safe deployment of personnel’.

And the choice to appear for a few seconds served to reassure the troops and give a semblance of normality. But alongside this image, reports of a possible dismissal of the minister continue.

Some Russian media believe that he may be replaced by the current governor of Tula and former Deputy Minister of Defence, Alexei Dyumin. According to many observers, Dyumin could be chosen because he is on good terms with the Wagner Brigade. But also because he has long been seen as Putin’s ‘dauphin’.

Where is Prigozhin gone

If at the time of writing the fate of Shoigu is still unclear. Neither is that of the great protagonist of the chaos: Prigozhin.

The founder of Wagner, who disappeared after the end of the uprising, reappeared with an audio on Telegram. In which he admitted that what was carried out last Saturday by his mercenaries and on his orders ‘was not a coup but a protest’ because ‘they wanted to disband Wagner on July 1’.

No intention of overthrowing power in Russia, then. But, a sort of armed demonstration aimed at demonstrating the anger of Prigozhin and his men at the Russian government’s decision to force private companies to sign contracts with the Defence. Thus effectively subordinating themselves to the armed forces.

And these, it must be said, have always been the real enemy of Putin’s ‘chef de Putin’. Both throughout the war and during the agitated phases of the uprising. In addition to denouncing the inadequate security shown during the ‘protest’, the head of the contractors also stressed, however, that ‘in Russian cities, civilians welcomed us with Russian flags and Wagner symbols’.

Prigozhin also wanted to send a political signal. In the audio, the head of Wagner does not specify his whereabouts. And the absence of his whereabouts is also a further element of mystery surrounding what happened this weekend in Russia.

Maximum secrecy leaks out from Moscow. Some media have spoken of the possible arrival of the ‘chef’ in Minsk, capital of that Belarus. Whose leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, seems to have played a leading role in stopping the uprising.

Read also: Why Putin is weaker today: mass flight of oligarchs to Turkey and Israel after the Prigozhin uprising

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