By pushing through the invasion, Putin has pushed his power system to the brink of collapse

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a huge mistake from day one. By going ahead with the invasion, Putin has pushed his power system to the brink of collapse.

Tom Finink

An armed uprising by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against the leadership of the Russian army brought Russia close to a coup. Putin accuses Prigozhin of “high treason” and speaks of a “dagger in the back”.

The question now: Which side does the army stand on? The commanders and soldiers have paid dearly in the past 16 months for the impossible task that Putin and the army command have given them.

In many videos, soldiers complained about insufficient equipment being sent to the front – and in some cases their commanders even sold the equipment. The veteran regulars hung on to their old paychecks—as recruits poured in—only to be told they couldn’t quit until “the end of Special Operation.”

The commanders, in turn, were not taken seriously by the army command: sometimes they received direct orders from Moscow to defend the positions, even if it was more reasonable to withdraw.

cannon fodder;

Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group’s mercenaries, is aware of discontent within the Russian military. Unlike Putin and the army chiefs, Prigozhin spent time among the troops at the front. However, it is unlikely that he could guarantee better conditions for the soldiers: he sent his fighters out onto the battlefield like cannon fodder, only occasionally to find out the location of Ukrainian soldiers.

Reports surfaced on Saturday of some defectors from the Russian army to Wagner, but how many were unknown. Meanwhile, General Vladimir Alekseev, deputy chief of GRU, called on soldiers to remain loyal to Moscow. “This is a coup,” Alexeyev said in a video message.

Even if the number of defectors remains limited, the following applies: Which soldiers are willing to take on Wagner? With gruesome executions, the mercenaries terrorized not only Ukrainian but also Russian soldiers.

The armed uprising was the result of the great risks Putin took to make his invasion of Ukraine a success. Within days of the invasion, it was already clear that Putin had overestimated his military and security services. The advance on Kiev ended in a bloody failure. Since then, defeats have piled up for Putin. Most painful was the collapse of the Russian lines in northeastern Ukraine and the forced withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River in the south.

A man stands with a Russian flag at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Moscow Kremlin, on June 24.Image by Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Dangerous road

Putin had the opportunity to cut his losses and partially withdraw his army. Instead, he chose to embark on a risky and irreversible path: he mobilized and annexed four Ukrainian provinces to Russian territory, without the army fully controlling any of the provinces. This made negotiations impossible for the Ukrainian government.

Despite his 23 years in the Kremlin, Putin seems oblivious to the dire state of his army, perhaps because no one around him dares tell him the truth. Over the years, Putin has surrounded himself exclusively with nodded people and dismissed all his critics.

His desire to establish a new Russian empire, with himself in the position of tsar, led him to take a great risk. He gave way to the convicted criminal Prigozhin, who promised the Russian president victories with his mercenary army Wagner.

Putin allowed Prigozhin to recruit fighters in Russian prisons. The gates of the Russian criminal colonies were opened wide: tens of thousands of criminals, including serial killers, rapists and robbers, were released in exchange for loyalty to Prigozhin’s army.

Serious consequences

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny warned of “dire consequences in the long run” when Prigozhin recruited more than 100 criminals into the penal colony where Navalny was imprisoned. “The foundations of law are being destroyed in Russia,” Navalny wrote.

Prigozhin made good on his promise to Putin by picking up a victory for the first time since the summer: last month, Wagner took control of Bashmuth after nearly a year of attrition. Putin doesn’t seem to care that the city has been reduced to ashes in the process.

What also pushed Putin into the deal was a growing conflict between the military and Wagner. The military, led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, watched with horror as Wagner succeeded in giving Putin the good news. The army tried several times to claim territorial conquests from Wagner and limit the supply of arms to Wagner.

Prigozhin responded with videos of ignorance and corruption within the army leadership. “Stinky creeps, what are you doing,” Prigozhin shouted. “Buck of scum”.

With the uprising he wants to claim control over the Russian army. Putin cannot allow an armed uprising, but he also wants to avoid military confrontation in Russia. His most important promise to residents 23 years ago was: no mess.

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Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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