According Kalev Stoicescu (Eesti 200) of the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin's outburst against the Russian authorities could be called an attempted coup, and the Kremlin's carefully constructed façade has begun to crumble.
"I would still call it an attempted coup, because the statements that Prigozhin made yesterday were not just hostile, they were directed against the regime, and what has started to happen in Russia is proof of that," Stoicescu said.
Prigozhin's confrontation with Russia's military elite has been going on for a long time and grown increasingly acrimonious in recent times, Stoicescu said.
In Stoicescu's view, the question now is, what exactly Prigozhin meant when he said, that what had been started must be completed. "Whether he meant the war against Ukraine, or rather a confrontation with the armed forces and the replacement of its upper echelons, which he has been actively calling for. What this really means, why there are war machines on the streets of Moscow as well as in Rostov-on-Don, which is the center of Russia's southern military district - I think the situation is serious for there to have been this kind of reaction," he said.
There is also the question of whether there is a fear of Prigozhin or of the potential for a popular uprising, not necessarily in support of him, but against the Putin regime.
Stoicescu believes, that Prigozhin may have already secured his own support. "His bravado cannot be based solely on his direct links with Putin, whose 'chef' he is," Stoicescu said. "Wagner is estimated to have around 25,000 fighters and, according to some sources, they have already crossed the border and returned to Russia from Ukraine."
However, according to Stoicescu, the number of fighters Wagner has would not enough to threaten the Russian regime. He pointed out, that Russia's national guard has 400,000 members alone.
"The question is, whether Putin can rely on [the national guard] with confidence, the same goes for the FSB. There have been constant hints that Prigozhin also has some support inside the FSB," Stoicescu said.
Stoicescu added, that it is now necessary to keep a close eye on the developing situation. "In any case, it seems that Russian nervousness and paranoia have been unleashed and this could be the start of a downward spiral, even if the situation is brought quickly under control and Prigozhin is arrested," he said.
"This is still a big sign of weakness and the disintegration of the façade that Putin and the Kremlin have been trying very, very carefully to maintain for a year and a half. This pretense that the war is not in Russia, but somewhere else, and that this is all a special operation. That façade has begun to crumble considerably. Now, in essence, a new special operation has been launched - a special operation against Prigozhin and Wagner," Stoicescu said.
Editor: Michael Cole