The attempted rebellion by the Wagner Group mercenaries came to an end on Saturday. However, analysts say that the dictatorial image of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been significantly weakened by the uprising.
Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin agreed to end his soldiers’ push toward Moscow, which occurred after they had already taken over the strategic Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Prigozhin agreed to move to Belarus in exchange for avoiding Russian prosecution.
However, the incident has undoubtedly damaged Putin’s reputation in Russia, and he “will try to compensate by making the regime even more hands-on,” Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told NPR. As Putin looks to move beyond the embarrassing event for his government, his “regime will become increasingly more repressive at home,” Gabuev added.
Many experts consider the mutiny the greatest threat to Putin’s decades in power. The Russian president has ruled the country — either as prime minister or president — continuously since 1999, but there’s “no doubt” Prigozhin’s coup attempt makes him look weak, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told NPR. Prigozhin and Putin were previously allies who fought alongside each other during the Ukrainian war. The fact that Prigozhin stepped so far out of line with the Russian president “raises doubts about [Putin’s] ability to continue to govern Russia in an effective way,” McFaul added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also addressed the uprising, telling CNN, “You’ve seen cracks emerge that weren’t there before.” Blinken noted that Russian forces appeared destined to take over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Instead, “they’re defending Moscow against mercenaries of Putin’s own making,” Blinken said.
While the true fallout from the incident remains to be seen, “One thing we know for certain is that Putin’s authority is irreparably damaged,” Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp, told NPR.