After the mutiny: what’s next for Wagner?
When fighters of the Wagner mercenary organisation advanced towards Moscow on the weekend, Vladimir Putin spoke of treason and threatened harsh punishment. A short time later there was a turn of events: the mutiny was called off and Putin guaranteed Prigozhin and his soldiers impunity. Commentators discuss what this back and forth means for Wagner’s future.
Prigozhin can hardly come away unscathed
Tygodnik Powszechny wonders how much Putin’s safety guarantees are worth:
“The mutiny has also shown how Putin’s state handles the law. After reaching a deal with the insurgent, the Kremlin announced that the criminal proceedings against him for inciting an armed rebellion had been dropped. In a country where people who wrote about the crimes in Bucha on Facebook were sentenced to several years in prison, will an attempted coup really go unpunished? Putin has never forgiven disloyalty in the past; those he considered traitors he has punished according to his own code — even those outside Russia — using polonium and Novichok. And here such leniency? ... Let’s see if the safety guarantees don’t turn out to be invalid very soon.”
Dependent on help from Moscow
The failed uprising represents an existential threat to the private army, De Standaard comments:
“As things stand now, Prigozhin has overplayed his hand. ... Naturally, Wagner has other sources of income, but without financial, logistical and military support from Moscow things will be much more difficult. ... The Wagner soldiers are hardened and well-organised fighters. If they no longer want to fight in Ukraine it will be very convenient for the Ukrainian army. ... Prigozhin’s uprising did not last long enough to change the course of the war decisively, but it certainly gave the Ukrainian soldiers’ morale a boost.”
So much for this being a "private" army
Putin has confirmed that the Wagner group’s 2022 wages were co-financed by the state to the tune of 86 billion roubles (about 1 billion euros). According to Prigozhin, Wagner always paid its soldiers in cash. Sociologist Alexei Roschin voices astonishment on Facebook:
“86 billion — and all in bags, in five-thousand-rouble notes, from the state budget! Holy crap. ... Everyone understands the idea behind cash payments — it’s done to disguise the fact of the financing and generally cover tracks, mostly from the tax authorities. ... But when the state itself does it. ... Who was Putin hiding from when he ordered the clandestine financing of the Prigozhin bandits from a bag of cash and even allowed them to sign for it as ‘private’? Welcome to Absurdistan.”