The Chef’s Putsch


26th June 2023

On Saturday 24th June 2023, the world awoke to news of rebellion in Russia. The warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fascist paramilitary Wagner PMC had mutinied against the Putin regime and were advancing on Moscow. Putin let off a frightened cry for his country to save him, lest he meet the same fate as Tsar Nicholas, and bravely ran away from the capital. Anarchists around the country scrambled to put together a response – whether civil or militant – to the collapse of the Russian state and the prospect of an all out conflict between different factions of the ultranationalist machine. Meanwhile, Belarusians began to talk openly of overthrowing their own little dictator and Ukrainian forces seized the opportunity to push back the invaders in Zaporizhzhia and Donbas.

But before anyone could get their bearings of the new situation, it was over. Prigozhin failed to garner enough support from the military and political elite, forcing him to the negotiating table. He agreed to pull back his troops and end their occupation of the Don region, in exchange for being allowed to abscond with his money to a state of semi-exile in Belarus. Although the mutiny may have failed, Prigozhin seems to have gotten away with it and Putin has never looked weaker.

In follow up to the statements published by CrimethInc., in which Russian anarchists gave their thoughts and plans of action during the unrest, here we publish their analyses of the fallout.

Autonomous Action

From Trends of Order and Chaos, episode 111.

This weekend we witnessed an armed mutiny in Russia. At the time of writing, Prigozhin's troops, already at the gates of Moscow, have turned around and retreated to their field camps. Prigozhin is not a fool, he obviously received some guarantees, otherwise he would not have ended the mutiny. How the situation will develop remains to be seen.

Where will the criminal case of armed mutiny against him go? What about the alleged missile strike against the Wagner camp by the Ministry of Defense? It was the formal reason for the mutiny, although to date, no evidence has yet been presented that the missile strike actually took place. According to information available at the time of writing, the Wagnerites shot down six helicopters and one MoD plane on their march to Moscow, and the pilots were killed. There have been other shootings, explosions, fires and destruction along the Wagnerian route. How this can be hushed up is unclear.

What would happen if Prigozhin were to take the helm of Russia? So far this is a very hypothetical option, but one can speculate.

There is a chance that he will not remove Putin, but will seize control over all major spheres. Prigozhin is probably not really an independent figure. According to Igor Girkin, he is backed by the deputy chief of staff Sergey Kiriyenko and Putin’s associate Yury Kovalchuk. So in the event that this happens, Prigozhin could simply redistribute resources and leverage in their favour.

But if Prigozhin removes Putin, then there is a fork in the road. Everyone remembers the public sledgehammer execution, the brutal discipline and cult of death in the Wagner PMC, the bloody assaults in Donbas. All the prerequisites are there for Prigozhin to build an even more fierce fascism than Putin. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that there are many Nazis working in Prigozhin's structures.

On the other hand, Prigozhin is now also using Alexei Navalny's slogan “not to lie and not to steal”. The day before the mutiny, he recorded a half-hour video saying that the attack on Ukraine was not done to protect Russians in Ukraine, but for Shoigu's personal ambitions and for the enrichment of the oligarchs. I have been monitoring Prigozhin's statements for about a year and cannot recall a single occasion when the “chef” said that war with Ukraine was for a reason. He has always spoken in the spirit that, say, when two villages are fighting, one must fight for one's own. Prigozhin's mutiny was supported by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In theory, if Prigozhin takes the throne from Putin, he would have the opportunity to stop the war, negotiate with Ukraine and perhaps even organise some kind of democratisation in Russia. Anyone who is not Putin can write off 24 February 2022 to corrupt, senile old men.

Then there is one more likely scenario: if Prigozhin comes to power, the country will be in for a years-long massacre, with the prospect of a number of regions seceding. Other strong players could enter the scene and displace Prigozhin, but in the meantime prefer to keep a low profile. Wagner is not alone in Russia, there are dozens of PMCs in the country now.

The only other option is that Putin continues to rule, with everyone pretending that nothing happened on 23-24 June. Prigozhin and the Wagnerites may even be jailed for mutiny. But all the same, the prestige of the system has been dealt a heavy blow. Prigozhin still managed to create a parallel state, with a powerful private army, a wide business network and a strong grip on the media.

If you know much about Pablo Escobar, you will find many parallels with Prigozhin. People like Escobar and Prigozhin tend to emerge in a situation of weakened official power. And in the course of the “chef’s putsch”, the real state of power in the Russian Federation was seen by all. Even if Prigozhin is fully punished for his impertinent antics, it will be increasingly difficult for Putin to continue playing the “Father of the Nation”.

Putin's regime is so repugnant that, on balance, any movement toward change is welcome. But one must realise that many of the possible scenarios are even darker than they are now. And some kind of anarchist scenario would be hypothetically possible only by our efforts. In such cases, the partisan response is to say: “Nobody but us”.

Movement of Irkutsk Anarchists

From Telegram.

As a result of yesterday's events, the Ministry of Defence lost at least 15 pilots. This single day has demonstrated the inability of the state to protect not only its population but even itself. What security guarantees can we talk about when organized mercenary gangs can safely occupy your city?

Another interesting detail is that Wagner will have to sign contracts with the MoD by 1 July. This leads to one of the discussed versions of what exactly provoked the Prigozhin’s rebellion. According to this theory, Prigozhin had essentially lost a power struggle with the military in advance and was forced into a confrontation for which he was ill-prepared, as per the attempt to oust Erdogan in 2016.

Another variable for Prigozhin was the reaction of the governors of the Russian oblasts, who hastily pledged their allegiance to Putin. If they had simply remained silent, Prigozhin might have had more confidence that a simple change of faces in the government would take place.

Yet he still had to march on Moscow to be able to bargain. He needed to ensure his exit because several different figures in the Russian government had a grudge against him. Now that he is fleeing Russia, perhaps he will try to be something like Navalny. But his position will only weaken from here on out and Putin cannot be expected to keep his promise.

It is hard to say now, but perhaps the disgraced mercenary chief will come in handy for Lukashenko's protection against the Belarusian opposition, which intends to overthrow him by force.

Having forced people to flee the country en-masse for over a decade, the Putin regime has created a situation in which the only people who have been able to put up an organised and armed opposition (except the Ukrainian people, who have been resisting a full-scale invasion for over a year) have turned out to be mercenaries, Nazis like the Russian Volunteer Corps and political careerists – in this case, all embodied by one person.

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