The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, planned to capture the Russian military leadership as part of the mutiny over the weekend and accelerated his plans after the country’s national intelligence agency became aware of the plot, the report has reported. Wall Street Journal, citing western sources.
Initially, according to the same outlet, Prigozhin intended to capture the Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, during a visit that both planned to a southern border region with Ukraine, but the Federal Security Service (FSB) learned of the plan two days before its execution. The premature launch of the plot was one of the factors that could explain its ultimate failure, when Prigozhin halted the armed “march” on Moscow, according to the American newspaper.
The head of the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, has said, according to the TASS state agency, that there were “information leaks” from “the Prigozhin camp”, which were “quite specific, about the fact that they were planning a riot, and that it would take place between June 22 and 25, which is exactly what happened. “This shows that all this was inspired by the West, and, apparently, they were instigated by Prigozhin himself, or maybe his ambitions got the better of him and he wanted a higher position,” the head of the National Guard said.
According to him Wall Street Journal, Western intelligence agencies also learned early on of Prigozhin’s plans by analyzing interceptions of electronic communications and satellite images.
General Surokivin knew about the plans, according to the NYT
WSJ sources believe that Prigozhin had communicated his intentions to senior military officials, possibly including General Sergei Surovikin, but whether Surovikin passed this information on to the FSB or how the agency found out about Prigozhin’s plans could not be determined.
He New York Times It has also reported that Surovikin, and possibly other high-ranking members of the military command, were aware of the mutiny, citing US intelligence, which is trying to find out whether Surokivin helped plan Prigozhin’s actions.
Surovikin is a respected military leader, perceived as more competent than other senior Russian military officials, and was replaced as top commander of the military forces fighting in Ukraine after just three months in office. Prigozhin had praised Surokivin while he openly lashed out at Shoigu and Gerasimov, whom he accuses of being bureaucrats and blames for failures at the front.
On Friday, General Surovikin appeared in a video calling on the fighters to end the rebellion and return to their barracks.
Moscow has described the information about Surovikin as “speculation”. “Around these events there will now be much speculation and conjecture. I think this is one such example,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said in his daily telephone press briefing.
Several experts have been skeptical about the general’s possible complicity. “The main question is whether Surovikin knew or coordinated/participated in the preparation of the rebellion,” Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the think tank R.Politik.“ Well, friends, look at the riot itself: without clear political objectives –more than getting Putin to listen and protect Wagner–, without normal preparation, without the idea that the road to Moscow would be open and would lead to a Certain death…. What do you have to get involved in? In Prigozhin’s desperate attempt to save Wagner? On the other hand, I think that Surovikin may have sympathized, may have known. But he clearly chose to side with the state at the right time.”
The analyst believes that Prigozhin’s supporters included the military, but “it would be more correct to say dissatisfied with Shoigu and Putin.” “I have a strong suspicion that the main beneficiary of all this history is, curiously, Shoigu. Prigozhin and Wagner have been eliminated, (…) now he can deal with the ranks of his own Army”.
“If I were cynical I would wonder if it is an information operation,” Mark Galeotti, a specialist in Russia, has tweeted. “Surovikin was quick to issue a public appeal to Wagner’s mercenaries to withdraw, making it clear that – contrary to previous suspicions that he was close to Prigozhin – he was loyal to the Kremlin. This might have helped clear his record and make him eligible to be reappointed as Commanding General in the Ukraine or even as Chief of the General Staff after Gerasimov (he had been his favourite). This, let’s face it, would not have been good for Ukraine, Surovikin is not a nice man, but he is a dangerously competent general. As I say, this is just speculation, but suggesting complicity in Prigozhin’s betrayal – to use Putin’s words – may seem like a good way to help derail his comeback.”