All our mainstream media have claimed that the Wagner mutiny has weakened Putin. Typical headlines were ‘Ukraine can now end Putin’s crumbling regime‘ and ‘How Wagner’s mutiny left Putin catastrophically weakened‘. But I suspect that the rapid demolition of the Wagner revolt and the exile of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has actually strengthened Putin’s position.
- Putin faced down the mutiny and refused to take any phone calls from Prigozhin. I imagine that’s when Prigozhin realised he’d gone too far and decided to do the Russian version of a reverse ferret and scuttle back to Rostov-on-Don.
- Putin’s people confiscated around $50m in foreign currency and gold bars from the Wagner Group’s HQ.
- The Wagner Group has effectively been disbanded and is handing its heavy weaponry to the Russian armed forces which is what Putin and the Russian military wanted to happen when they started a confrontation with Wagner.
- Prigozhin has been exiled to Belarus and is at risk of arrest if he visits almost any other country.
- Prigozhin’s fighters must either join the Russian army, go home or go into exile with their boss in Belarus.
- Putin never forgives and never forgets. It seems likely that Prigozhin will have difficulty buying life insurance and will either fall out of a window or eat a polonium burger in the near future.
So, it appears to me to be a win for Putin. He has remained in power; Prigozhin is a (possibly soon to be dead) exile; the Wagner Group has been dismantled and any other challengers will have seen that it’s not so easy to de-Putinise Russia.
The recent claims about a supposedly weakened Putin are just the latest examples of Western media’s dubious reporting of what is really happening in Russia. After all, ever since the start of Putin’s misjudged invasion of Ukraine, we’ve been assured that Putin was suffering from a long list of possibly fatal medical conditions. These included cancer – ‘Putin suffers breakdown after changing cancer medicine‘; dementia – ‘Vladimir Putin has dementia and is being driven insane by paranoia‘; and Parkinson’s – ‘Vladimir Putin does have Parkinson’s and pancreatic cancer‘. It does seem that for a while Putin did suffer from some kind of nervous condition as his invasion turned into a disaster. But he has looked fairly frisky lately, especially since the Wagner mutiny collapsed. So it may be that rumours of Putin’s imminent demise from a variety of illnesses imagined by Western supposed ‘experts’ are more than slightly premature.
I also suspect that the latest misreporting by our media concerns Putin’s statement that the Russian State paid the Wagner Group over $1 billion in just the last year. This was called an ‘admission‘ in most Western media as if it was a sign of weakness. One typical Western media report claimed that Putin said this “in an apparent attempt to take full credit for earlier battlefield successes of the mercenaries”. But yet again I believe our ‘experts’ have completely misjudged what Vladimir Putin is really doing. When Putin revealed how much money Russia paid the Wagner Group, he added that he hoped “no one stole anything — or, let’s say, didn’t steal much. But we will certainly get to the bottom of this”. These additional remarks don’t seem to have been widely reported in any of the British mainstream media. These are not the remarks of a terrified, weakened, about-to-be-deposed leader. These are the remarks of an angry strongman out for revenge. It seems clear to me that Putin is about to launch an investigation into how the Wagner Group used the money it was paid and I’ve no doubt that eye-watering levels of corruption (real or invented) will be revealed. Putin has dropped charges of treachery against members of the Wagner Group as part of the agreement which stopped the mutiny. But an investigation into corruption will give Putin the excuse to prosecute and destroy Wagner bosses. So, while Western media interpreted the announcement of massive payments to the Wagner Group as another sign of Putin’s weakness, I think our media (probably deliberately) got it wrong yet again.