SensusQ analysis: Why Yevgeny Prigozhin started his “march for justice”?

Rainer Pihlakas
Jun 26, 2023

Yevgeny Prigozhin published a half hour long interview in which he accused the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public. Prigozhin decided to launch a desperate act in an attempt to get the Russian military leadership replaced with his own loyalists and get one step closer to his ultimate goal and hoped that control of the Russian army would pass to his loyal supporters, Mizintsev and Surovikin, in order to create better conditions for a successful coup.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mobilization, Casualties, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Open Sources Intelligence (OSINT), Ukraine, Russia, Conflict.

On the morning of June 23, founder of Wagner private mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin published a 30-minute interview in which he accused the Russian MoD and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public into launching a Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Prigozhin claimed that the Russian MoD deliberately deceived the Russian public and Russian President Vladimir Putin about an impending NATO-backed Ukrainian offensive in 2022 and the intensification of Ukrainian aggression before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin argued that the situation in eastern Ukraine on February 24th in 2022 was no different from the previous eight years of hostilities. Prigozhin suggested that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was ready to negotiate with the Kremlin, but the Russian leadership refused to abandon their maximalist positions. Prigozhin accused the Russian military leadership of launching the full-scale invasion for the sake of self-promotion and said that Shoigu advocated the invasion in order to receive a higher rank and state awards. Prigozhin accused Russian oligarchs of supporting the invasion of Ukraine for similar reasons of personal gain. Prigozhin claimed that Russian oligarchs wanted the Kremlin to appoint a former Ukrainian politician and Kremlin ally Viktor Medvedchuk as Ukraine’s new president after the Ukrainian government was ousted so that Medvedchuk would divide the assets of the occupied Ukrainian territories among the oligarchs. Be that as it may, Prigozhin still claimed that the fighting in Ukraine is a “holy war against those who insult the Russian people.” [1]

Prigozhin’s attack on the Kremlin’s justifications for the war may have been designed to legitimize the potential removal of the Russia’s security and business elite from power, because a few hours later he amplified a video from a Wagner-linked Telegram channel, which can easily be produced for information operation purposes, showing the aftermath of a missile strike on a Wagner’s rear camp. [2] Prigozhin accused the Russian MoD for carrying out the strike. [3] Prigozhin used the video to then justify his most explicit rhetorical escalation to date and a call to action against the Russian MoD. Prigozhin claimed that the Wagner Council of Commanders had decided to stop the “evil being perpetrated by the military leadership” that neglects and destroys the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers. [4] Yevgeny Prigozhin has a long-standing feud with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Prigozhin has repeatedly accused both of insufficient supplies of shells to the Wagner group, which has led to a high number of casualties. On May 23, Prigozhin said that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu should be replaced by Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov should be replaced by Sergei Surovikin. [5]

A week later, on 29 May, Yevgeny Prigozhin declared that his mercenary forces could not topple the Kremlin because they lacked the manpower, after former Russian military commander Igor Girkin said they wanted to do so. There have been many types of coups in the world, but armies have always been involved, said Prigozhin. He vaguely hinted that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu could stage a coup as he controls the Russian Army. [6]

FIGURE 1. Yevgeny Prigozhin - head of Wagner group and "Putin's Chef".

Prigozhin has never openly criticised Putin and has so far not declared his political ambitions. But this is likely because he feels that he does not have enough power yet to oppose Putin. Putin is very powerful, and in Russia he is like a god. Prigozhin is also a powerful man, but he is still like a demigod. There is not a single demigod who does not dream of becoming a god – it's just that not all of them are brave enough to take a step against the god. Prigozhin, as an ex-convict, has repeatedly shown near the front lines that he is a very courageous man, and therefore he is someone who may try to challenge Putin when the conditions are set for it.

SensusQ is assessing that Yevgeny Prigozhin may have inadvertently discovered on May 29 why he so vehemently accuses Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and tries to replace them with people loyal to him. Prigozhin knew that while the Wagner Group was the most powerful private army in Russia, it was not powerful enough to take over the Kremlin. But if the Russian army had been controlled by Mizintsev and Surovikin, loyal to Prigozhin, a coup would have been possible.

Prigozhin has used Wagner’s responsibility for tactical successes in Ukraine to promote greater influence and responsibility for himself and Wagner, and the effectiveness of this mode of self-promotion likely declined after Wagner withdrew to the rear after the capture of Bakhmut. Recently, the MoD ordered Wagner personnel to sign contracts with the MoD in an attempt to bring Wagner fully under the MoD by 1 July. [7] The MoD’s demands would entail Prigozhin’s loss of control over his parallel military structure, and thus his main source of influence and means of avoiding the consequences of his public self-promotion. Viktor Sobolev, a member of the Defence Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, claimed that the Russian MoD would not permit volunteers to participate in combat operations without a military contract with the Russian MoD, which could make the actions of the Wagner forces on the fronts illegal. [8] Therefore, Prigozhin was probably at a point of decision between the surrender of his armed forces and the active resistance to the MoD and appears to have chosen the latter. The dire consequences to which a failed armed rebellion would lead suggest that Prigozhin viewed the alternatives as no less threatening. Perhaps that is why Yevgeny Prigozhin decided to launch a desperate act in an attempt to get the Russian military leadership replaced with his own loyalists and get one step closer to his ultimate goal – seizing power in the Kremlin.


[1] Пресс-служба Пригожина. #1829. Jun 2023. [Online]

[2] Разгрузка Вагнера. Нанесен ракетный удар по лагерям ЧВК Вагнер. Jun 2023. [Online]

[3] Пресс-служба Пригожина. #1833 Jun 2023 [Online]

[4] Пресс-служба Пригожина. #1834 Jun 2023 [Online]

[5] Говорит Долгов 18+: Сегодняшнее интервью с Евгением Пригожиным. Полная версия. May 2023 [Online]

[6] Пресс-служба Пригожина. #1707 Jun 2023 [Online]

[7] Минобороны России: Статс-секретарь – заместитель Министра обороны РФ Николай Панков провел селекторное совещание по вопросам комплектования Вооруженных сил Российской Федерации военнослужащими по контракту. Jun 2023. [Online]

[8] МОБИЛИЗАЦИЯ I Мятеж | Новости: Добровольцы не смогут принимать участие в боевых действиях, если они откажутся подписывать контракт с Минобороны. Jun 2023 [Online]

This website uses cookies

SensusQ uses cookies to enable the use of functions of our website and improve user experience. Read more