Expert: Effects of Wagner rebellion still to reach the front in Ukraine

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Security expert Rainer Saks believes that the effects of Yevgeny Prigozhin's short-lived mutiny in Russia are still to manifest on the front in Ukraine. He adds that there is potential for new unrest in Russia as Ukraine losses continue mounting.

Saks said on the "Vikerhommik" radio show that the performance the Kremlin has been putting on in the past few days has a considerable effect on the course of the war. He suggested that Russia will now have to determine why the mutinous situation was created and whether the steam has been vented or whether something else could continue to erode the Kremlin's authority.

"The main question is whether the Wagner mutiny had wider support in the armed forces based on prior communication. We cannot see that, don't know how this communication happened. It is one matter the Russian president is currently ignoring," Saks said, adding that this in turn begs the question of whether broader dissatisfaction in the armed forces will be resolved or not. Saks suggested there is potential for further dissatisfaction following more losses in Ukraine.

He said that Putin is trying to demonstrate that he holds the power in Russia of which there is currently little doubt.

"His prestige has taken a hit, chains of command are not working as they would have six or nine months ago. But there is no other individual in command either. Rather, we are looking at a process of power erosion, while we don't know where it will end up. I believe that it mostly depends on how Russian forces will fare in Ukraine," Saks suggested, adding that should losses continue to mount, dissatisfaction will spread from the army to others parts of society.

Another conclusion from the Wagner mutiny is that Moscow seems to be completely undefended, Saks pointed out. "If we were to imagine another army marching on Moscow with the intent of really conquering it... This should give the Russian leadership pause."

Rainer Saks believes that the true effect of Wagner's protest is still to reach the front lines in Ukraine. "We are yet to see how Wagner's rebellion really affected the Russian army," he said. He said that while Ukraine is inflicting plenty of casualties, they still cannot hit all Russian services equally, especially the Russian Air Force, to keep them from attacking Ukrainian positions.

"The situation is not yet one that would allow Ukraine to send major units on the offensive. But if Ukraine continues to inflict losses, Russia's air power will count for little once its units are worn out and forced to retreat to avoid the army's destruction," Saks offered.

Talking about the fate of Wagner units, Saks remarked that the Russian leadership is not interested in Wagner continuing to exist as a unit, while it wants as many mercenaries as possible to continue fighting in the war, which is why they will likely be incorporated into existing units. "They want Wagner soldiers to keep fighting in core army units because Russia will simply run out of fighting men otherwise," Saks said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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