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21 Mini Afghanistans?
Prighozhin's Line in the Sand
We are monitoring OSINT reports detailing Airstrikes on Wagner PMC Group Camps perpetrated by the Russian Military.
This could prove to be par for the course - in 2018, after Wagner shock troops took heavy losses in a failed seizure of a Syrian Conoco Phillips Oil Field, wounded Russian mercenaries were retrieved with unmarked helicopters, despite being promised fully-fledged air support by the Russian Military.
In other words,
though Wagner Group has held Putin’s water thus far, Wagner /= the Russian Military.
As we mentioned in earlier research bulletins, prior to the latest special operation in Ukraine, Wagner enjoyed legal carte blanch in exchange for Putin’s ability to maintain plausible deniability. This “above the law” status was complicated out of necessity in recent months, as Wagner Owner Yevgeny Prigozhin publicly chastised top Russian brass for false promises of small arms ammunition during the siege of Bakhmut - internal crises such as the Bakhmut snafu have forced Putin to acknowledge Wagner publicly, something Vlad has largely avoided over the past decade.
Prigozhin has taken to telegram in past hours, urging Russian conscripts to essentially stay out of the way as Wagner Group’s 20k+ force decides their next steps.
What could happen next?
Russia is immensely and diverse, both geographically and demographically. Putin’s strongman governance has held the country’s 21 Republics together in a patchwork federation to date, but we look to comparable demographic, geographic, and ethnic conditions in past fail states such as Iraq and Afghanistan for worst case scenarios absent a strong man (Saddam Hussein) or brother bear (The United States) calling the shots.
See here for Russian search engine data detailing just how popular Prigozhin has come to be in recent months.
We will continue to monitor the situation.