There was a little excitement in Russia over the weekend. At last, the hoped-for victory was in sight, or so some people thought. But on the 24th, Eugene catered his last meals in Russia and the folks anticipating regime change in Moscow saw their hopes dashed by ‘Sasha’ Lukashenko – another leader they had hoped to overthrow. So, Eugene (Yevgeny) Prigozhin is now in Belarus, facing parts and a future unknown. To understand this saga, we start with this old favorite. For more, read on after the song…
Who is (was) Yevgeny Prigozhin and why did he choose the path of mutiny over a change of career? And what exactly happened? Was it a grand maskirovka and 5D chess move by the grandmaster himself in cahoots with Prigozhin as the Russian fans in the West like to think, or did Putler drop the ball and expose the weakness of the Russian state, as ‘analysts say’? (Those ‘analysts’ are the same ones who say China is about to collapse any day and Russia is running out of weapons, Ukraine’s victory thus being ‘immanent’.) There is still confusion and a lot of guesswork taking place at the moment regarding this whole affair and quite a lot of ‘stuffing’ and trolling in social media on all sides. We start with Prigozhin’s chart, below (bigger):
The first item that stands out is the Sun/Moon combination, which inclines itself to business, and an ambitious personality at that. Along with that the Sun is trine Jupiter, one of the aspects of great wealth, as well as a tendency to pride and hubris, and is also square Pluto, marking a very forceful yet controlled personality. In addition Jupiter is quincunx Pluto. All this together is what one would expect to find chart of the oligarch, which is what Prigozhin is, in 1990s Russian style.
What Prigozhin is not is a military commander. He has essentially made his fortune through catering, logistics, and supply. He does not command Wagner’s troops. The Wagner PMC was created by the Russian GRU (secret services) and is essentially subordinated and commanded by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), though Wagner works autonomously especially in other nations.
The other main notable feature in his chart is the out-of-bounds Mercury. Mercury is trine Neptune, so the man knows how to spin a good story, in other words how to sell himself and his services, at which he has been quite successful. He has amassed a fortune of over $1 billion. Not bad going for a cook – ‘Putin’s chef’.
The other side of the Mercury out-of-bounds can sometimes indicate a more nervous temperament which in his case would be exacerbated by the opposition to the Moon, though we do not know the exact degree of the Moon. We do not have a birth time for Eugene. At its most extreme Mercury out-of-bounds can simply indicate a loudmouth. Although such a person as we see here is very good at blowing his own horn, he can be vociferous in his criticisms when he is felt to be wronged, which has been the case here. In his chart with directions and transits, the picture for him in particular becomes clear. The chart is below (bigger):
What we have in the above figure is a clear case, showing losses and the reactions to them. To begin, directed Saturn is sesquisquare to his natal Mars, activated by the approaching conjunction of transiting Neptune to the directed Saturn, which all combined points to grievous and great losses. In addition transiting Pluto is conjunct natal Saturn, with Saturn in any chart representing a person’s ambitions. Clearly, there was to be a change in his sense of security and ambition. Then, we see transiting Saturn conjunct his natal Chiron, which also represents a painful event.
As to his reactions to what was coming, or what was shown in the directions and transits just described, we see transiting Mars conjunct his natal Uranus, in turn activating a direction of Jupiter by sesquisquare. Transiting Mars to Uranus is an extremely reactive transit, boding miscalculations, accidents, injuries, hasty and premature actions and willfulness. The combination with Jupiter makes for quick and decisive actions, with a mind toward securing one’s fortunes.
Transiting Uranus ties the Mars/Uranus/Jupiter combination with the Saturn/Chiron combination described above, creating a Saturn/Uranus/Chiron combination. Saturn/Uranus (in this case a semisquare) points to irritability, inhibitions and tensions, often accompanied by violent outbursts. With Chiron, it shows that on the day, Progozhin was his own worst enemy, and he was very likely unhinged, taking all the above transits and directions into account. However, there is one more indication, which is quite telling with regard to what is being speculated by more than a few commentators, discussed below.
On the day, transiting Jupiter was opposite Prigozhin’s natal Neptune. It is a combination that is often indicative of political conflicts, and when negatively activated, as we saw from the preceding points, it can lead to a poor speculation, seduction, a scandal which is caused through one’s own instability, and losses thereby. This transit is probably the linchpin to what transpired to bring about the mutiny. What do we know in that regard? Before we get to that, consider this from a previous grandmaster of strategy, Machiavelli:
“I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men…The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.”
There were two main streams of events at work here: the ego of Prigozhin, which was used by external forces to their own ends (most likely and speculated) and the fact his organization and thus his bread and butter were about to be taken away from him. Regarding the latter, the Russian MoD was set to dissolve and absorb the Wagner group fully into the regular Red Army. Prigozhin was thus like the gambler who had been dealt a bad hand – he could either fold (and find other avenues to ply his trade in sales) or he could double down and bluff. He chose the latter, to his detriment. There was no way his little plan was going to work, and there were indicators foreign actors were egging him on to double down and go for broke.
We won’t go into all the analyses of events as to the how and why here. There have been several very good and plausible analysts commenting on the affair which one can read through for background:
- Big Serge: Unpacking all the theories and separating the wheat from the chaff, and noise from substance.
- Rostislav Ishchenko: Why the end of the events are only an intermediate finish and what was going on elsewhere as the Prigozhin drama was unfolding. There were outside forces involved.
- Alastair Crooke: American and European reactions to events (vid), the Western narrative on them and how the war will end
- Simplicius: His post-mortem analysis of events
- Larry C. Johnson: Background on Prigozhin and why the Oscar for best actor needs to go to Prigozhin. Also one on how Western intelligence may have swayed Prigozhin.
- Thierry Meyssan: How Prigozhin is both a patriot and a proven swindler, convicted in the Soviet Union. There is also the bit about traitors being arrested in flagrante delicto at the start of the fiasco.
- John Helmer: The coming reality check as a result of Eugene’s adventure
But just to summarize, there were four main theories about what happened and why, and why all we have at the moment is only speculation. We will probably not get to the bottom of this affair until after the war is over and some time has passed:
- Prigozhin was used as bait to draw out traitors in the ranks. The whole affair was maskirovka, put on by Putin and Prigozhin
- The uprising was used to mask deployments by Russian troops in preparation for major offensives
- Putin staged the uprising so he could escalate the war and increase mobilization
- The events were staged so the Kremlin and MoD could consolidate power.
Or perhaps it was a combination of all the above. None of these theories by themselves holds water, ultimately, as ably explained by Big Serge, linked above. All of the above analyses are worth reading, though, to get the fuller picture of what transpired. But there are several things to note as aftereffects.
The West was in a momentary delirium of excitement (from Crooke, above) about the events in Russia: “This was the pièce de résistance, after the Ukrainian offensive Russia was going to be in complete chaos, Russia was going to be boiling in civil war, it was going to be the end of Putin, the uprising was wonderful, now we can put aside the Ukrainian offensive because now we have Putin in the sights and he is going to be destroyed in the civil war…” and then?…nothing happened. However, on the day and unnoticed there was a mini-congress of national security officials in Copenhagen, including 3 BRICS members and 3 BRICS hopefuls, headed by Jake Sullivan. Coincidence? If they were hopeful it was time to divide the Russian pie, they were to be sorely disappointed.
Alas, it was time for damage control for the Western powers, and the West is now spinning the narrative that Putin has been weakened, Russia is crumbling, Russia’s prestige has fallen across the world, NATO is strengthened, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a strategic failure (one must insert ‘Russia’s unprovoked, brutal invasion’ into any propaganda piece about Putin and Russia), blah, blah. Blinken mentioned those memes four times on the morning talk show circuit/circus after the events in Russia had been resolved. They are now singing another old favorite and refrain in the beltway think tanks and the EU (shame Tom isn’t with us any longer):
What has happened in Russia is in sharp contrast to how the West is trying to spin Eugene’s tantrum, which is really what he was on about. Putin’s approval rating has climbed to 90%. All of Russia united around Putin and the government instead of Wagner. The populace praised Wagner for their efforts in Ukraine, as did Putin, but the support of the public is decisively behind the Russian state. Putin isn’t going anywhere.
Russia is stronger for the events of the 23rd and 24th, rather than weakened. Shoigu and Gerasimov, the two men Prigozhin wanted deposed, are still there, functioning as normal (though there may be some changes later). What was demonstrated to the Russian people was continuity (even of the Union-State), calmness in the face of potentially disruptive events, quick resolution and respect for all sides. What of Wagner and Prigozhin, then?
When Prigozhin saw he had no support and all of Russia united behind the state and the MoD, he did as any good gambler would do – he initially bluffed, but when he was called out, he folded and walked away. Even though he tried to blackmail the Russians, there was no way the Russian leadership was going to make a martyr out of Prigozhin. That would have divided Russia. Wagner has since been largely absorbed into the MoD, where it will likely form a core group of special services, which was largely its role anyway, except now it doesn’t have any autonomy.
A small contingent of Wagner loyal to Prigozhen will go the Belarus, where camps are being set up for them. Those camps will be used for cross-training between Wagner troops, now considered some of the best soldiers in the world, and Belarusian forces. It is quite possible the organization will survive, though in lesser numbers, to work overseas and covertly. Africans love the Wagner group, being much preferred over the old colonial military and Western ‘peacekeepers’. Lukashenko has said he doesn’t mind having Wagner in Belarus. And those troops now provide a hedge against NATO encroachment on Kaliningrad.
“…you have to be a complete idiot not to understand a very simple thing: what it would mean if such chaos, if a civil war broke out in a country like Russia with its nuclear arms. And it is not those whom they want who would come to power, quite the contrary. Only the most radical, nuclear-minded people would take over. They wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. They would send the Poseidon to where it should go. And the Sarmat…[Russia’s heaviest and most advanced strategic nuclear missile]. Maybe this mutiny will clear minds somewhere about the danger. You have to be a complete idiot not to see this could be a catastrophe for the whole world.”
The real casualties of the Wagner uprising/mutiny/coup attempt/whatever-it-was were the Beltway ‘experts’ who, “exploded with seemingly libidinal excitement about a supposed “civil war” that was certain to feature “Russians…killing Russians,” along with “lots of casualties” and Putin “probably hiding somewhere.” Instead it looks like the neocons tried to give a civil war in Russia, but nobody came.
In closing, the title of this post is a play on the title of a 1989 film. Eugene’s excellent adventure in Russia did not end so well, and his last play of the cards was a not-so-excellent adventure. But now he can party on in Belarus, at least for now, where no doubt there will be further grift for his mill.
And perhaps some redemption can come from his latest misadventure if the group that follows him to Belarus plays a hand at stamping out the alleged Polish-planned coup against Lukashenko. Perhaps the wily Sasha had that in mind when he offered Wagner safe haven in Belarus. The move has also made the Poles and the Baltics very nervous. Instead of being 200 km from Moscow, now Wagner is only 100 km from Kiev. Oops! Or perhaps Sasha just wants better catering services for Belarus.
No matter how you spin it, this past weekend was one full of excitement for all, ‘exciting’ meaning different things according to one’s perspective. For now the war drags on, but we can probably expect there will be some reckoning at the NATO summit in Vilnius next month, and probably not in favour of Ukraine. As for Eugene, I hear the weather in Minsk is quite pleasant this time of year. He had better hope his financial dealings are in order, though, as a can of worms may be served up to him instead of fine French cuisine. Time alone will tell of his future. Once again, we pray and meditate for peace.
Update: There are two things to consider further with this episode: Firstly there is the Wagner group, and secondly a ‘6th column’ in Russia known as the ‘The Club of Angry Patriots’. As to Wagner, it was originally thought Prigozhin had been stripped of Wagner and exiled to Belarus. That turned out not to be the case. Instead he was actually the stripped of some of his domestic business along with his media company, but he was allowed to keep his wealth and still heads Wagner, albeit outside of Russia. Wagner still gives Russia plausible deniability. He was recently seen hobnobbing with the Africans at the recent Russia-Africa summit. And it is currently rumored that Wagner may set up an office in Niger.
His main purpose in Belarus appears to be to irritate the Poles and the Baltic states, in order to keep them out of Ukraine. His rant has been used to good effect in that it keeps the Western commentary off guard and masks over other Russian initiatives. Wjat those may be, the Russians keep close to their chests. We won’t go into that here. However, his rant also played into the sixth column mentioned above, headed by a man named Victor Strelkov.
Strelkov gained notoriety just after the Maidan coup in 2014 for his efforts against the Ukrainian Army in the Donbas republics. He also gained notoriety for being blamed as the commander who downed Malaysian flight MH17, for which he was falsely accused. Strelkov is an interesting character. His astrology describes him to a ‘T’. To begin, he has a Sun/Pluto square, showing his desire for authority and power, with Sun in Sagittarius, marking him as an adventurous sort and Pluto in Virgo. We don’t have a birth time for him, but the Sun may be in trine to the Moon which makes for a large amount of luck. The Moon is probably also square to Saturn, giving him a very strong and creative personality. He is known as a narcissist and romantic.
But one of the things that characterizes him most is his big mouth, shown by the Mercury/Uranus square. He enjoys a good argument and likes to talk back to authority. That square also is an indicator of a hair-trigger temper. Along about the time Prigozhin was complaining about the General Staff, Strelkov was also complaining about the slowness in the perceived inadequacy (as he saw it) of the special military operation. His complaints eventually landed him in prison, charged with extremism, which may have been as much for his own protection as it was for what he said. But such is the nature of the sixth column in Russia, who would rather see an American-style offensive, shock and awe, against Ukraine with a swift end to the conflict. The latter is what Putin and the general staff are trying to avoid, as it would spook NATO into doing something drastic, along with seriously escalating the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine as well as military casualties on both sides. Prigozhin now works out of the public limelight, while the General Staff continues as before.
Featured pic from News 4 San Antonio