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Expert: Prigozhin stepping out of line manifestation of army frustration

Rainer Saks
Rainer Saks Source: Kairit Leibold / ERR

Security expert Rainer Saks said that Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin stepping out of line has sowed confusion, the Russian media does not have the situation under control and what is unfolding is a reflection of the Russian armed forces' frustration in Ukraine.

"It is difficult to define the situation as anything other than confusion at this point. The question is whether Prigozhin's protest against the Russian leadership has gotten out of control or whether we are dealing with a localized mutiny that will likely be resolved soon," Saks suggested.

The expert said that it is very difficult to tell the difference between Wagner fighters and Russian domestic troops as they all wear the same uniform.

"So what is going on in the city of Rostov-on-Don which Wagner units have allegedly entered and taken control of some buildings... The visuals offer no concrete proof – they may also be Russian internal troops loyal to the leadership and in charge of the situation. The head of Wagner is also counting on the chance Russian units will not fight him if he can paint a picture of success in the media."

Saks said that the media picture might prove more decisive than real developments on the ground. There is confusion also in Rostov-on-Don. While it is clear that some Wagner units have entered the city, one would be hard-pressed to say what they've achieved so far.

People can also be seen trying to leave the city. The Russian television will play a crucial role and social media access has already been restricted.

"At least the Russian leadership was in disarray yesterday. We can say that the Russian leadership did not have control of the media last night, and I doubt they have it under control now. The situation is very serious," Saks said.

The expert suggested it is unclear whether Prigozhin will find enough support inside Russia. "But what I would like to emphasize is that while this has now become a struggle for survival for Prigozhin, the entire situation is a reflection of frustration over the situation on the front in Russia's war with Ukraine which has not gone well and has resulted in massive losses," Saks said.

"The logic is rooted deep in empires that as soon as you're no longer successful, you start losing legitimacy, confidence," Saks said.

The Estonian expert said that Russia's position in the Ukraine war has changed completely overnight, while it is too soon to say whether it will lead to a wider breakup of the front.

Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has accused Russian armed forces of attacking Wagner rear units and says his units have entered Roston-on-Don. Russian authorities are interpreting these actions as a call for a military coup and have stepped up the readiness of internal military forces. Prigozhin has claimed to control key buildings and the airport in Rostov-on-Don. Wagner has also reported shooting down a Russian military helicopter, while this information has not been confirmed.

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a televised address referred to Prigozhin's actions as a "knife in the back" and said that everyone rising up against the authorities will be punished.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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