Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made his first public appearance since a mercenary uprising demanded his ouster, inspecting troops in Ukraine on Monday. The move aimed to project a sense of order after a weekend of chaos. Caused by diverging interests among powerful Russian military leaders.
The mutiny resulted in armed rebels seizing a Russian city and advancing seemingly unopposed toward the capital. Before thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries abruptly turned around after less than 24 hours. Shoigu’s appearance in a video released by the Defense Ministry was widely shown on Russian media, including state-controlled television. The timing of the footage’s recording remains unclear.
Notably, neither Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin nor General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov, both targets of Prigozhin’s ire, have been seen or heard in public since the uprising. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been absent from public appearances.
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced the end of the “counter-terrorism regime” imposed on the capital, which involved troops and armoured vehicles setting up checkpoints and road closures. The Russian Defence Ministry’s released video showcased Shoigu flying in a helicopter and attending a meeting with military officers at a military headquarters in Ukraine, marking his first appearance since Prigozhin declared a “march of justice” to oust the defence minister and Gerasimov.
Experts Assess the Rebellion: Lack of Control and Consequences
The rebellion came to an end when Prigozhin ordered his troops to retreat, following a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The agreement involved Prigozhin and his soldiers receiving amnesty and relocating to Belarus. However, the details of the deal and Prigozhin’s whereabouts remained unclear on Monday.
Prior to the uprising, Prigozhin had vehemently criticized Shoigu and Gerasimov for their alleged failure to provide adequate ammunition to his troops during the battle for Bakhmut, the war’s longest and bloodiest conflict.
Observers noted that Putin remained distant from the rift, while Shoigu and Gerasimov remained silent, possibly indicating uncertainty about Putin’s support. Experts remarked that by not resolving the feud, Putin may have inadvertently encouraged Prigozhin to escalate the situation dramatically.
Alex Younger, former head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, commented that “neither side was in control” during the rebellion. He suggested that Prigozhin lacked a solid plan and sufficient resources for success, while Putin appeared indecisive, initially vowing to crush the rebels before ultimately striking a deal.
The aftermath of the uprising left all parties involved weakened, according to Younger, highlighting the complex dynamics and consequences of the event.