The rebellion of the paramilitary group Wagner against the Russian armed forces has presented President Vladimir Putin with an unprecedented uprising, fueling the possibility of a violent conflict on its own territory, analyze experts.
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“It is the first time that we have actually seen an armed protest of this magnitude against Vladimir Poutine”, sums up Guillaume Sauvé, visiting researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research, at the University of Montreal.
In a resounding twist, the leader of the paramilitary group Wagner, Evguéni Prigojine, had declared that he wanted to overthrow the Russian military command. He accuses him of having bombarded and killed several of his soldiers.
Prigozhin had thus announced that his forces had “passed […] the Russian State border and had entered Rostov, in the south of the country, in the direction of Moscow. Until then, several thousand soldiers from the Wagner group were deployed in Ukraine to support the Russian army.
Citizens were moving near a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don on Saturday. AFP
“We continue, we will go to the end, said Evguéni Prigojine in an audio message on Telegram. We will destroy anything that gets in our way.”
In a new statement on Saturday, however, he said his troops were returning to fight in Ukraine, to avoid a bloodbath.
This confrontation had forced the Kremlin to deploy troops on its own territory. Images relayed by the New York Times show that a perimeter has been erected around Moscow to block the passage to the Wagner group.
Members of the Wagner group, in Rostov-on-Don, this Saturday. AFP
The paramilitary group posed a real threat to Russian territory, said Pierre Jolicoeur, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC).
“These are people who have combat experience, who are equipped. This is no small rebellion. These are not demonstrators in a street with a violent overflow, ”explains Mr. Jolicoeur.
It is difficult to envisage the possible consequences of a confrontation, argue the experts interviewed by Le Journal. A coup would have been “surprising”, says Guillaume Sauvé.
“There should be a part of the staff in Moscow that takes Prigojine’s side,” he says.
The other possible scenario: a civil war breaks out, leading to violent clashes.
Good and bad news
In the short term, this confrontation could nevertheless have served as a “distraction” for the Ukrainian army, evokes Pierre Jolicoeur.
“For the Ukrainians, this is good news, somewhere, because it may allow them to carry out their operations, their counter-offensive, with more success,” he explains.
If Evguéni Prigojine succeeded in overthrowing the Russian command, “it would not be good news for the war”, adds Guillaume Sauvé.
Guillaume Sauvé is a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal. Courtesy picture
“He is someone who calls for general conscription in Russia, […] therefore all Russians in arms, and the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, describes the researcher. He’s a much more warlike person than Putin.”
Today, the world saw that the bosses of Russia do not control anything. Nothing at all. Complete chaos. Complete absence of any predictability.
First, the world should not be afraid. We know what protects us. Our unity.
Ukraine will definitely be able to protect Europe from any…
— Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) June 24, 2023
– With information from AFP
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