Future of Top Russian Military Leaders Uncertain in Wake of Coup Attempt

June 26, 2023

The fate of top Russian military brass remains in flux after an armed rebellion by a private army was called off Saturday.

Amid speculation in Russian media that defense minister Sergei Shoigu might be ousted in the wake of the insurrection, Russia’s military leadership is seeking to project an image of strength and stability. In a Defense Ministry video released Monday, Shoigu was seen inspecting troops in Ukraine, his first public appearance since the armed insurrection that called for his removal. Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin said Monday the country had faced "a challenge to its stability" and called for the nation to unite behind Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The attempts to restore an appearance of stability come after a coup attempt on Friday by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private army, Wagner Group, which had fought for Russia in the Ukraine war. The rebellion began with the swift capture of Rostov-on-Don, a city near the Ukrainian border that housed a Russian military headquarters. The private army then began to roll toward Moscow but turned around after Prigozhin struck a deal with the Kremlin.

Prigozhin will reportedly move to Belarus under the terms of the deal. Moscow promised to drop charges against Prigozhin, but the criminal investigation into the mercenary for "inciting rebellion" remains ongoing, according to Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau chief Ann Simmons called the rebellion "the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in his 23 years of power."

Despite his troops fighting alongside Russian government forces in Ukraine, Prigozhin has repeatedly and publicly accused Russian military leadership of denying his soldiers support and even launching attacks on them.

Prigozhin last month criticized the Russian government for not providing him with munitions in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

"They came here as volunteers and they died to let you lounge in your mahogany offices," Prigozhin said in the video. "You are sitting in your expensive clubs, your children are enjoying good living and filming videos on YouTube. Those who don’t give us ammunition will be eaten alive in hell!"

Published under: Russia