A high ranking Ukrainian politician has levelled a massive accusation at Moscow, claiming Vladimir Putin’s government was behind the heavily-publicised Wagner mutiny in June.
The fact that now-exiled Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin met with Putin just five days after troops marched on the capital raised eyebrows around the globe, with analysts claiming the entire event was an elaborate scheme to pull wool over the eyes of the West.
Almost two months on, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) secretary Oleksiy Danilov has asserted the “mutiny” was in fact a ploy to weed out those who were disloyal to the Putin regime.
“Today we can already say that it was a special operation coordinated with Putin to expose those generals who were not entirely loyal to Putin and his entourage,” Danilov told Ukrainian TV broadcasters this week.
“And we believe that this will happen in the fall or winter of this year because the number of people who understand where Putin has led them to is increasing every day.”
Analysts believe the event, which sparked a tidal wave of global media coverage, was purely to mislead rival intelligence agencies — as dozens of foreign countries rallied against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The entire Prigozhin affair, even before the mutiny, struck me as a kind of a burlesque, staged by Putin and his close advisers for Western consumption,” Alexei Pavlenko, associate professor of Russian at Colorado College, told Newsweek.
“The purpose of this farce was to confuse the Western analysts and military experts and then gloat over their predictable predictions of Putin’s impending demise.
“The objective of this setup was both to keep the official army generals on their toes and to plant confusion into the adversaries’ intelligence.”
Rebekah Koffler, a former DIA intelligence officer, went so far as calling it a “completely faked false flag operation” in an article criticising the West for “falling for the scheme”.
“Think about it: An army invades Russia, race right up to Moscow, and no one gets hurt? With just a few thousand men, it achieved what Hitler with almost a million men wasn‘t able to?” she wrote.
“And Putin holds his military back? And then, with Moscow supposedly within his grasp, Prigozhin decides, ‘Oh well, never mind’ and heads to Belarus?’”
Koffler argues the entire “mutiny” was a political move by Putin to gain further support before the Russian 2024 election.
“With no end in sight to the Russia-Ukraine war, Putin has to convince the Russians of the need to bear even more sacrifices in order to maintain popular support for the war in Ukraine,” she wrote.
“Putin achieved this by appealing to two primordial fears of the Russian people: invasion from the West and chaos.”
In the weeks that followed, Prigozhin, the now-former hardline leader of the private mercenary group, insisted he did not try to overthrow Putin and that he started his march towards the Kremlin because 30 of his men were killed in a Russian rocket attack.
“We started our march because of an injustice,” he said in a recording, believed to have been sent from Belarus.
He also gave an explanation as to why Wagner forces stopped their march towards Moscow.
“We felt that the demonstration of what we were going to do was enough,” he said.
“And our decision to turn back was influenced by two most important factors. The first factor was that we did not want to shed Russian blood.
“The second factor was that we were going for a demonstration of our protest, not to overthrow the government in the country.”
It is a message rejected by the Russian President who spoke to the nation in a public address shortly after the incident.
He said “the overwhelming majority” of Wagner forces were patriots of Russia who did not want to follow Prigozhin’s lead.
In another twist, it was revealed US diplomats had reached out to Russian counterparts in “real time” to discuss security concerns during the Wagner mercenary group revolt.
The relatively rare Russia-US contact came during the mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group as it briefly took control of a major city. The upheaval sparked fears in Washington that nuclear-armed Russia could descend into chaos.
“Instability in Russia is something that, you know, we take seriously and we certainly had lots of questions over the course of the weekend,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, when asked about fears over turmoil in nuclear-armed Russia.
“We did have and were able to have in real time – through diplomatic channels – conversations with Russian officials about our concerns,” he said.
Mr Kirby said US officials continue to monitor Moscow’s nuclear posture “very closely” during the invasion by Russian troops of pro-Western Ukraine.
So far there is “no indication” that Mr Putin is moving in the “direction” of using nuclear weapons or “anything that will cause us to change our own deterrent posture,” Mr Kirby said.