On 24 June, President Vladimir Putin faced his biggest challenge in over two decades at Russia’s helm: a mutiny by a mercenary group fighting alongside Russian forces in Ukraine. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts explore the implications for Putin’s rule and Russian foreign policy.
Authorities confirmed Wagner chief’s death in plane crash amid speculation about Putin’s role; Ukraine intensified drone strikes on Russian territory.
Wagner boss killed in plane crash. Authorities 27 Aug confirmed that head of paramilitary Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, who staged failed mutiny in June, was killed 23 Aug in plane crash outside capital Moscow alongside nine others. U.S. 24 Aug said explosion on board likely brought down plane as number of Western intelligence assessments suggested President Putin may have ordered his death, which Kremlin 25 Aug denied. Meanwhile, Putin 23 Aug sacked Gen. Surovikin, ally of Prigozhin who many believe knew about plans for June insurrection and possibly aided him.
Ukraine conducted near-daily drone attacks on Russia. Ukraine intensified strikes on Russian territory, with largest drone attack since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 29-30 Aug targeting seven regions. Among other notable incidents, aquatic drones 4 Aug struck Navy base in Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk; drones 19 Aug struck Soltsy airfield in northwestern Novgorod region; shelling in Belgorod region 23 Aug killed three; and shelling in Bryansk region left several people dead. Moscow targeted throughout month.
Rumours of possible mobilisation swirled. Bloomberg report 20 Aug revealed hardline members within Russia’s security apparatus are pushing for changes to army leadership (including dismissal of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valerii Gerasimov), declaration of martial law and introduction of full-scale mobilisation. Though Putin gave no indication he plans to take such steps, rumours of new mobilisation wave due to shortage of volunteers spread on social networks. Meanwhile, Putin 4 Aug signed into law measures to increase number of potential conscripts.
Crackdown on dissent continued, value of Russian ruble tumbled. Court 4 Aug sentenced imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 19 years in prison on extremism charges; authorities 17 Aug searched offices and homes of members of Golos movement, which monitors elections; and Moscow court 29 Aug sentenced in absentia investigator Ruslan Leviev and journalist Michael Naki to 11 years in prison for spreading disinformation or “fakes” about army. Meanwhile, Russian ruble 14 Aug hit 17-month low against dollar.
Russian weapons and facilities are under solid control and there’s no evidence that Wagner or anyone else is looking to capture them.
If Russian soldiers feel their commanders are not in control, their trenches will be much easier to take for advancing Ukrainian troops.
I think they [the Kremlin] will use this [Biden's Kyiv trip] to repeat the line that this is a conflict between Russia and the West, not between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian engagement in the Sahel is very low-cost [financially]. It is distracting the West and diminishing the West’s symbolic power.
Moscow also has leverage over Türkiye in other conflict zones such as Syria and the South Caucasus, as well as a vested interest in driving a wedge between Turkey and its...
We have seen nuclear deterrence work, on the part of both Russia and Western countries.
Crisis Group's Europe and Central Asia Program Director Olga Oliker and Senior Russia analyst Oleg Ignatov discuss the aftermath of the mutiny in Russia and what the future holds for the group.
This week, Richard speaks with Crisis Group experts Olga Oliker, Jean-Hervé Jezequel and Richard Gowan about Wagner’s mutiny in Russia, what it means for the Ukraine war and for places in Africa where Wagner operates – particularly Mali, where the government’s ties to Wagner have informed its recent demand that UN peacekeepers leave.
In this online event, Crisis Group experts discuss the implications of the Wagner rebellion for Putin’s rule, the war in Ukraine, Russian foreign politics and the country’s power projections abroad.
In this Twitter Space, Crisis Group experts explore about the need for and purpose of a tribunal on the crime of aggression.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks with Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia director, about the latest escalation in Ukraine, as Russian airstrikes batter multiple Ukrainian cities.
Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism will only backfire.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk with RAND Senior Policy Researcher Dara Massicot about the latest military developments in Ukraine amid Russia’s decision to declare a partial mobilisation.
Following a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia is escalating its war in Ukraine. Yet developments on the ground show that NATO members’ approach to date – supporting Kyiv while avoiding a direct clash with Moscow – is fundamentally sound. The West should stay the course.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.