I find it fascinating that the Western narrative surrounding Yevgeny Prigozhin now emphasizes his virulent hatred of the Russian Ministry of Defense and portrays him as the Commander and “brains” behind the creation of the Wagner Private Military Company, aka Wagner PMC. Yet Prigozhin owes a significant portion of his financial success to his sweetheart contracts with the Ministry of Defense. Go figure.
I want to elaborate on my reasons for doubting the story that Prigozhin, on his own initiative, launched Friday’s mutiny with no coherent plan for toppling Minister of Defense Shoigu or Chief of the Army Gerasimov. He did not follow the normal coup script of seizing control of key communications and military nodes. Nope, he sauntered into Rostov on Don, some 700 miles south of Moscow, with a small band of followers and began making threats with no viable chance of being executed.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, he sent three thousand troops in a long convoy of trucks (at least 60) on a road trip to Moscow. Has anyone done the math on how long it takes to gas up a fleet of trucks like that midway through the journey? I am guessing a couple of hours at least. Then you have to factor in the potty breaks for the drivers (the troops can piss in a bottle). While the trucks are capable of traveling at speeds of 100 kilometers per hour or more, the reality of a convoy makes it more likely that the average speed is around 60 kph. That is why it would have taken that raiding party at least 20 hours to get to Moscow. After 20 hours in a cramped truck, with no luxury seating, do you think the Wagner boys would have been in shape to square off with Kremlin guards? The whole narrative is just ridiculous.
How about the timing of the uprising — it coincided with the end of a massive NATO military exercise. I bet several Western leaders popped some serious wood — their dream of vanquishing Putin was coming true. On the very day the exercise concludes Prigozhin decides he is General Pinochet and that Shoigu is Salvador Allende. Just a coincidence?
Then there is the contradictory Putin meme. Did you know that Vladimir Putin is a ruthless killer of his political opponents and those that betray him? Except for Prigozhin. Business Insider offers a list that is but a fraction of the deaths attributed to opponents of the Clintons, but hey, you got to give Putin credit for trying to keep up with Bill and Hillary:
- Pavel Antov – December 2022
- Ravil Maganov – September 2022
- Dan Rapoport- August 2022
- Mikhail Lesin- November 2016
- Boris Nemtsov- February 2015
- Boris Berezovsky- March 2013
- Natalia Estemirova- July 2009
- Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova- January 2009
- Alexander Litvinenko- November 2006
- Anna Politkovskaya- October 2006
- Paul Klebnikov- July 2004
- Sergei Yushenkov- April 2003
So why is Yevgeny Prigozhin still walking around as free as a bird? A comfy retirement in Belarus seems out of character with the Western image of Putin as a ruthless ruler who is alleged to routinely order a dirt nap for his opponents.
Given the hubbub surrounding Prigozhin I decided to take a look back at the evolution of Prigozhin’s media narrative. In 2012-13 he was described as a “chef” and leader of internet trolls:
In 2012-13, the Russian media began to pay attention to another ‘friend’ – Putin’s ‘personal chef’ Yevgeny Prigozhin. President of the Concordcatering company, Prigozhin also has other responsibilities: he is the man who set up a ‘trolling office’ (otherwise known as the Internet Research Agency) just outside St Petersburg, in which students are paid to write comments online, slandering the West and glorifying Putin. This ‘trolling office’ is run by people from the ranks of the largest pro-Kremlin youth movement in Russian history – Nashi. The organisation’s annual forum in Seliger has been attended at various times by Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and several other senior officials.
Then, like a Russian version of George Jefferson, he moved on up to the big time. He snagged a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense:
‘He is in charge of supplying all army unit towns in the country. There are hundreds of these towns, maybe a thousand. I lived in one of them for many years.’
Prigozhin is also in charge of the housing, repairs and maintenance in these towns – as well as building new facilities, notably on the border with Ukraine.
‘One important detail: in this same period, he also becomes a Putin’s troll.
‘He is exactly the one who owns two famous troll factories in St Petersburg, located in Olgino and on Savushkina Street.
‘All those numerous pro-Putin comments are organised by Prigozhin’s company.’
December 20, 2016 we get one of the first reports linking Prigozhin to the Wagner Group:
The Treasury announcement said Prigozhin had provided financial, material and technological support for senior Russian defense officials, and has had extensive business with the Defense Ministry. That includes a company linked to him that has a contract to build a military base near the Russian border with Ukraine, the department said.
“Russia has been building additional military bases near the Ukrainian border and has used these bases as staging points for deploying soldiers into Ukraine,” the announcement said.
News reports have also linked Prigozhin’s employees to a shadowy private military contractor called ChVK Vagner.
The first report I can find describing the shadowy nature of the Wagner PMC appeared in June 2016 at the Russian site, Fontanka:
The FSB helped Fontanka discover that those involved in the security service of billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin were seen surrounded by the commander of a private battalion, Dmitry Utkin-Wagner.
On the morning of May 25 , Yevgeny Prigozhin’s motorcade was stopped on Universitetskaya Embankment . And for the first time, Evgeny Gulyaev, the head of the security service of the restaurateur closest to the authorities, a de facto monopolist in the army state order market in the field of military food, cleaning, construction and energy, got on video. According to Fontanka, former colleagues of Gulyaev, and now employees of the Concord Security Service, may be associated with an armed group operating in Ukraine and Syria, known as the Wagner PMC.
Prigozhin, notwithstanding his reported wealth, has zero experience as a military operator or commander. He knows how to provide Borscht and bread to Russian soldiers, but he is no von Clausewitz or Zhukov. Russian military intelligence, the GRU, reportedly is the brain and brawn behind the creation of Wagner PMC. I would love to hear an explanation of why the GRU would turn over full control of Wagner PMC to Prigozhin and let him run his own private army. I think that is nonsense.
I also note that Prigozhin’s links to the IRA troll enterprise is an intelligence activity. You at least have to entertain the possibility that Prigozhin’s role with Wagner PMC is Chief Troll and the target audience is the West, including intelligence organizations, the U.S. military and the media. The government and media obsession with Prigozhin and the activities of Wagner PMC while devoting almost no time to the real Russian Army and the Russian defense industry is beyond weird. Could it be that Prigozhin, as the mega Troll, is keeping the West distracted while the actual Russian war fighters go about the business of dismantling Ukraine’s NATO-supplied force? Worth considering.
The West wants to believe that Putin is weak and unpopular — I would note that not a single respected critic of Putin endorsed Prigozhin’s mutiny and that all political leaders across the breadth of Russia lined up behind Putin when the rest of the world was celebrating (prematurely) the demise of the Russian leader. Reminds me of one of the rules of fishing — once you know what the fish are hungry for you know what bait to put on the hook. Right? I am pretty sure that Russian intelligence officials understand that concept.
So I leave you with this question to ponder — is Prigozhin the real Slim Shady? Or does he have naked pictures of Putin and Trump cavorting at the Ritz Carlton? Is that why he does not sleep with the fishes?