Russian rebellion: Insights into Wagner Group, threat to Putin

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Ben Dalton is the Program Manager of New America’s Future Frontlines. He joined Arizona Horizon to discuss what happened as mercenary fighters led by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin seized the city of Rostov-on-Don and marched towards Moscow.

According to Dalton, Wagner Group is considered a private military company or a paramilitary cartel since they are closely embedded within the Russian government. Prigozhin is demanding the removal of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“They have been absolutely critical to the war effort in Ukraine, Russia’s war effort to invade and conquer portions of Ukraine. They’re really the only military force on the Russian side that has captured substantive amounts of ground and territory in the last year or so,” Dalton said.

Prigozhin’s uprising came to an abrupt end hours after it began within 124-miles of Moscow, after he struck a deal with the Kremlin to end the operation. Dalton said there is debate surrounding the intentions around Prighozin, on whether he wanted to overthrow the Russian government.

“According to them that was not their goal. There is a lot of debate as to whether that’s true or not. Their explicit goal was to figure out what was going on, why is this war being conducted so ineptly and to get their hands on Russia’s top military leadership,” Dalton said.

Dalton said this was a very serious threat to Vladimir Putin and that he was not prepared for what happened. Six helicopters and another aircraft were shot down by the Wagner forces.

The pact was brokered by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Prigozhin said he was never trying to stage a coup. He and his soldiers were allowed to leave Moscow and won’t be charged. Some experts said it was the largest revolt Russian President Vladimir Putin has faced in his 22-year reign.

“Putin now looks weaker than at any point in his roughly 23 years in power. For a dictator, looking weak is being weak. You always have to adhere to being impenetrable. Right now, I would say Putin looks extraordinarily weak,” Dalton said.

Ben Dalton, Program Manager of New America's Future Frontlines

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