The leader of the Wagner mercenary army, Yevgeny Prigozhein, had been harshly critical of Defense Minister Shoigu as an incompetent who was sabotaging the war effort with Ukraine.

Prigozhein was told his troops would need to sign agreements with the Russian army, effectively putting the Wagner group under the control of Defense Minister Shoigu.

Prigozhein refused to sign the agreements and made a statement that the pretext for the invasion of Ukraine was concocted by the Defense Minister for his own aggrandizement. Within hours, the Prigozhein camp was bombed by Shoigu.

Prigozhein responded with a “March for Justice” toward Moscow to rid the government of Shoigu.

Short-Lived Revolt: Long-Term Consequences

Prigozhin said the Wagner’s field camp in Ukraine was struck by rockets, artillery, and helicopter gunships which killed some 2,000 Wagner soldiers. Prigozhin alleged the attack was ordered by Defense Minister Shoigu and demanded a meeting with Shoigu.

Moscow braced for an assault by the Wagner forces. Crews dug up sections of the highway to slow the invasion.

The Wagner group assault ended when Prigozhin was offered a deal to have all charges of an armed rebellion dropped.

President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade hold on power, already bruised by the Ukraine war which has dragged on for 16 months and claimed huge numbers of Russian troops, suffered another blow with the Wagner group mutiny.

16 months ago, Putin was on the doorstep of Kyiv in Ukraine, looking to take the city in a matter of days. Now, he has had to defend Moscow against a mercenary of his own making.


Until July 2023, the Kremlin never admitted to funding the Wagner group. Recently Putin revealed that the state paid Wagner almost $1 billion in just one year.

In fact, between 2014 and 2023, Wagner and another company owned by Prigozhin earned over $18 billion through government contracts.

Prigozhin remains unpunished despite Putin’s labeling his revolt treason.

The bloody squabble between the Wagner mercenary army and the Russsian Defense Minister, while short-lived, will have long-term consequences for Putin.

Photo by Edoardo Baraldi

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