Russian Coup Will Give Ukraine an Opportunity to Step up Attacks

  • On Friday, Yevgeny Prigozhin sought to overtake the Russian military after months of infighting.
  • Military strategist Mick Ryan told Insider it will sow chaos in Russia, no matter the outcome. 
  • Ukraine could use it to their advantage but “this is the kind of thing where no one wins,” he said.

Regardless of whether the Wagner Group leader ousts Russian military leadership in an apparent coup attempt that began Friday, the outcome of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s bid for more control will have chaotic consequences for the war in Ukraine, according to a military strategist.

Mick Ryan, a retired major general in the Australian military and fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider that while exactly what is happening on the ground in Russia remains unclear, “this is the kind of thing where no one wins — everyone loses something.”

On Friday, the Wagner mercenary group leader issued a statement that said Russia’s “evil” defense ministry “must be stopped.” Early local reports from Russian media indicated Wagner troops had taken control of the city of Rostov-on-Don.

Russian state security is pursuing a criminal case against Prigozhin in response to his calls for “armed rebellion.”

The infighting between the mercenary leader and the Russian military leadership comes after months of Prigozhin feuding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the treatment of Prigozhin’s for-hire army.

“Prigozhin is likely to be the biggest loser,” Ryan told Insider. “But Putin and his inner circle will look like they don’t have their hands on all the levers of power in a way that some Russian elites would expect them to. And the Russian army will be looking forward at the Ukrainians attacking them and looking behind themselves and their nation, seemingly in chaos — whether that’s a reality or not — and it will cause deep disquiet among senior Russian leaders.”

Ryan said the deep unease felt by Russian troops after hearing a regime-affiliated official disparage military leadership could be used to Ukraine’s advantage as they continue to fend off Russian attacks. 

“There will be distraction at that level and the Ukrainians will clearly be wanting to put the pressure on the Russians in a tactical sense,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to see stepped-up attacks, or at least attempts to advance in the East and in the South from the Ukrainians if that’s not already occurring.”

He added that even if the reports of the coup are exaggerated — and “knowing Russia we’ll never know all the details” — the statements from Prigozhin will add “more uncertainty and more chaos at different levels of the Russian system, regardless of the physical realities on the ground.”

“I think Prigozhin probably crossed a Rubicon of some type. This is probably the end of the tolerance for his outbursts and demands of the military,” Ryan told Insider: “I think it’s most likely that things won’t turn out well for him. I certainly wouldn’t be booking or reserving places in an old people’s home if I was him.”

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