Russian President Vladimir Putin has been made a fool of by an aborted mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is the leader of the Wagner private military company (PMC) that has borne a good part of the load in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Prigozhin has long had a poisonous relationship with the Russian military. He recently accused them of attacking a Wagner camp. Wagner's troops then proceeded to occupy the headquarters of the Russian Southern Military District in Rostov Oblast. This is a district adjacent to Ukraine.
At the same time, he dispatched some of his troops in the direction of Moscow. He termed the move a "March of Justice." They clashed with regular units of the Russian military, resulting in casualties and the loss of equipment for the government forces.
What the March on Moscow Revealed
It was, without a doubt, a rebellion. In an emergency speech to the Russian nation, Putin vowed to quell the uprising, labeling it "a stab in the back" and "treason."
The very next day, Prigozhin reversed himself and an agreement was reached that he would go into exile in Belarus. Putin's office in turn announced that it would not pursue charges for crimes involving the revolt.
Although the rebellion appears to be under control, there can be no doubt that the chaos and weakness of the Putin regime have been glaringly exposed.
The international community should now redouble its support for the Ukrainian counteroffensive so that the aggressor Russia can be pressed to final defeat.
Prigozhin's Wagner band of mercenaries was the mainstay in Russia's winter offensive. It was notable therefore that he should publicly admit, "The war wasn't for demilitarizing or denazifying Ukraine."
The key point is that Prigozhin outright denied the "justification" that Putin used as a pretext for the invasion.
Calling for the Truth from Putin
The time has come for Putin to frankly admit his propaganda has been nothing but lies and immediately withdraw all Russian troops from Ukraine.
The military district headquarters responsible for directing combat operations in Ukraine was taken over by the rebels, who then threatened the capital of Moscow.
It is not clear whether Putin's regime will continue to guarantee Prigozhin's safety after he relocates to Belarus. After all, it is a close ally of Russia. Be that as it may, for the time being, Prigozhin apparently has no choice but to accept de facto asylum in an attempt to survive the debacle.
Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the prestige of Putin himself, his regime, and his military have suffered a major blow.
The Bigger Picture
Russia is rife with PMCs in addition to Wagner. There are over 30 such groups currently in operation. Discontent is also simmering within the ranks of the Russian military. Incursions into Russia proper by the Russian Volunteer Corps and other groups have also begun from the Ukrainian side.
The Putin regime's feet of clay have been revealed. Furthermore, awareness is spreading within Russia that it is embroiled in a war that cannot be justified. Consequently, the possibility of a second rebellion or coup d'état cannot be ruled out.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted to the revolt by saying, "There is now so much chaos [in Russia] that no lies can hide it."
In a Twitter post, Zelenskyy also wrote, "Everyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself."
Nothing could be more true.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun