Vladimir Putin has been badly wounded. Yes, the President of Belarus allegedly negotiated a settlement between the Wagner Group and Putin, whereby Yevgeny Prigozhin will flee to the safety of Belarus, while the troops of the Wagner Group will return to the front lines in Ukraine.
Putin is going to let Prigozhin live? Stalin and Beria (Stalin's torturer and exterminator) are rolling over in their graves. "You don't let mutineers survive! You torture them and then kill them. Bada-bing-bada-boom."
Clearly, Putin lacked the military support of his generals to win a shooting battle with Prigozhin. In a lightening move, armored units of the Wagner Group seized Rostov-on-Don, a regional military headquarters.
Just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Ukrainian border, Rostov-on-Don is the largest city in southern Russia. With a population of over 1 million, it is the capital of the Rostov region that adjoins parts of eastern Ukraine.
Where was the resistance? The local police ran. The Wagner Group did shoot down a Russian airborne command craft (like an AWACS) and six helicopters; but where was the rest of the local Russian Army? Where were the Russian jets that could have strafed the long column of Wagner Group armored vehicles? They chose not to get involved.
The people of Rostov-on-Don cheered and gave the Wagner troops water and candy. I saw a pretty Russian girl in Rostov posing for a picture in front of a Russian tank captured by the Wagner Group. The Russian people clearly don't hate Prigozhin.
And the Russian Prime Minister and the Mayor of Moscow were absolutely silent throughout the crisis. They rallied no support for Putin at all.
But even worse than the military move towards Moscow, Prigozhin told the Russian people, in an interview broadcast by a pro-Kremlin blogger, that the war against Ukraine was unjust. That blogger was immediately fired, and he might find getting life insurance a little difficult.
But the Russian people ate up that interview. They had long-suspected that the war was based on lies. If Putin had trouble with recruiting and the draft before the interview...
Let's summarize: A Russian warlord dared to march on the Kremlin. Putin was forced - because he didn't have enough military support - to let the warlord flee with his life. Some (soon-to-be-dead) blogger had the stones to broadcast the interview. The Russian people now know that they have been the recipients of lies about the war in Ukraine. The Wagner Group, Putin's best force, has left the front lines in Ukraine and may never return.
The Russian military simply sat back and watched the potential civil war play out. The people of Rostov-on-Don (and Moscow?) may be rooting for Prigozhin and the Wagner Group.
Ready for the big irony? In this battle of warlords, Putin arguably is the good guy! Okay, that was too much. Putin is a lying, evil bastard who murders lots of people. But Prigozhin is even worse! His troops have committed horrible atrocities in Ukraine, Mali, and central Africa. We do NOT want Prigozhin to win.
One American television general pointed out that the Russians store a whole bunch of tactical nuclear weapons at Rostov-on-Don. So the Wagner Group rushes to the city, stays a few days, and then voluntarily withdraws? I'm sure they just ignored those nuclear artillery shells and those tactical nuclear missiles.
Why do we want Putin to win? For one thing, if those warlords get into a civil war, the chances are much too high that someone will use nukes. Ramzan Kadyrov, the crazy leader of Chechnya, has offered to use his Muslim fighters to put down Prigozhim and the Wagner Group.
And then there is the bitter blood-feud between Prigozhin and Russia's military chiefs, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin claims that Shoigu ordered a missile attack on Wagner Group's field headquarters, killing as many as 2,000 Wagner soldiers.
If Putin flees, there is no backup plan for Russia. The warlords, generals, and oligarchs will battle for control. Tactical nukes can be found in several depots around the country, and these crazy dictator-wannabes are crazy enough to use them on their enemies. Once the use of tactical nuclear weapons becomes "accepted practice," how long before some Russian "patriot" uses them against Ukraine?
I read this morning that the real reason why Prigozhin turned back from Moscow might have been that Putin threatened to kill his wife and three children, who are now living a low profile life in the EU. Heaven knows that Putin is good at assassinations.
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” -- Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones.
Enough for today. But make no mistake. Putin's blood is in the water, and what comes after Putin may be very, very ugly. Just think about what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was killed