In a daring and fast-moving turn of events, an attempted coup unfolded in Russia over the weekend, threatening to disrupt the already tense situation in Ukraine. However, despite the political turmoil in Moscow, the Russian army's posture along the 1,000-kilometer front line in eastern Ukraine remains unchanged. Military leaders admit that the counteroffensive against Ukrainian forces is progressing at a slower pace than initially anticipated. Notably, the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner has been heavily involved in the intense fighting in Ukraine.
Accusing the Wagner Group of orchestrating the coup, Russian generals called for the surrender of Wagner mercenaries, while Russia's main security agency urged their cooperation. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to persist with the war in Ukraine, delivering his resolute message during a pre-recorded interview broadcast on state television on Sunday. In his address, Putin accused Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, of "treason" and condemned the mercenary revolt as an "armed mutiny."
Although the immediate risk of bloodshed has diminished, uncertainties loom large, as experts caution that this unprecedented uprising may have lasting consequences. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman and a long-time associate of Putin, sharply criticized the Russian military's conduct of the war and even called into question Putin's legitimacy. In a bid to quell the attempted coup against Moscow, Putin sought assistance from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. As the situations in Ukraine and Russia continue to unfold, the ultimate outcome of the conflict and the military coup remains uncertain.
The Wagner Group, a private military company operating under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin, has played a significant role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Founded in 2014 by former GRU officer Dmitry Utkin and Prigozhin, the group gained prominence during the Donbas War in Ukraine. It has faced accusations of committing war crimes, including murder, torture, rape, robbery of civilians, and the mistreatment of alleged deserters. Notably, the Wagner Group recruited prison inmates from Russia to join its ranks and actively engage in frontline combat. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of mercenaries affiliated with the Wagner Group are currently fighting for Russia in Ukraine. The group has also dispatched troops to various conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the Syrian Civil War. While the Wagner Group identifies itself as a "private military company," recent developments indicate that the Russian government is taking steps to rein in its influence.
Although the international response to the military coup unfolding in Russia has been limited, with most countries maintaining silence on the issue, the United States has expressed concern. In particular, the US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet described Russia's support for the Wagner Group's attempted coup as "unacceptable and destabilizing." The United States also apprehends the wider repercussions of the escalating crisis in Russia, including potential efforts to establish military bases in other countries. While other nations have yet to issue official statements regarding the attempted coup, experts caution that this rare uprising is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the future.
Editor: Ms. Fahima Afrin
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