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  • 1440 Daily Digest

The Coup That Wasn't

An uprising by Russia's top paramilitary group against Kremlin officials ended nearly as quickly as it began over the weekend, with Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin going into exile in neighboring Belarus. The challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin's authority followed months of simmering tensions between the group and military brass (see timeline).

Events rapidly escalated Friday when the former Putin confidant released a video calling for the ouster of top defense officials (while denying a coup attempt against Putin). By Saturday morning, Wagner—a private military force numbering around 25,000—had captured the southern city of Rostov and began to march toward Moscow.

Within hours, Prigozhin announced he would turn his troops around following a Belarus-brokered deal. Prigozhin departed to Belarus while the Kremlin dropped charges of treason and offered amnesty to Wagner troops. The deal ended what observers had called the biggest threat to Putin since he assumed power in 2000.

Analysts speculated Prigozhin may have overestimated popular support for the effort once already en route to Moscow before abandoning the effort, while US intelligence reportedly detected signs of the uprising in advance.

How the events and loss of Prigozhin on the battlefield will affect the war in Ukraine remains to be seen; see updates here.

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