On Friday evening, Evgenii Prigozhin, head of the ChVK Wagner mercenary troops, declared a vendetta on military generals leading the Russian army: head of the defence ministry, Sergei Shoigu, and the army general Valerii Gerasimov, who heads the military headquarters.
Reuters and the BBC have since reported that the troops seized control of military infrastructure in both Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh, the two largest cities in the south of Russia. Prigozhin demanded that the generals gave up their positions and be put on trial, or he would move his troops to Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin only reacted on Saturday morning with a five-minute speech, in which he declared the coup to be treason.
Global Voices has gathered Rusophone Twitter reactions to the current situation.
Popular opposition user Prof. Preobrazhenskii doubts the benefits of any outcome:
Кстати, вот те, кто надеются, что Пригожин сметёт Путина, вы там чему радоваться собрались?
Тому, что дряхлого и импотентного маньяка сметёт свора озверелых кровавых людоедов?
— Проф. Преображенский (@prof_preobr) June 24, 2023
By the way, for those who hold the belief that Prigozhin will overthrow Putin, what reasons do you have to celebrate? Are you rejoicing at the prospect of a decrepit and impotent maniac being swept away by a pack of brutal bloody cannibals?
Ian Matveev highlights that the Russian military gives up without a fight in some instances:
Погранпереход Бугаевка, Воронежская область. “ЧВК Вагнер” без сопротивления разоружил роту российских военных pic.twitter.com/2GGb3dd9Zc
— IanMatveev (@ian_matveev) June 24, 2023
At the Bugaevka border crossing in the Voronezh region, “PMC Wagner” managed to disarm a Russian military company without encountering any resistance.
Boris Bondarev, a former Russian diplomat who resigned after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, stated:
Чем дальше, тем все менее бесперспективным кажется мятеж Пригожина. Пока не видно и не понятно, какими силами располагают Минобороны и Кремль, чтобы остановить Вагнер и уничтожить их вожака.
Самое главное – очевидное отсутствие в Москве воли к действию, продиктованное…
— Boris Bondarev (@Vizlypuzly1) June 24, 2023
As time progresses, Prigozhin's rebellion appears increasingly less futile. Currently, it remains unclear what resources the Ministry of Defence and the Kremlin possess to halt Wagner and eliminate their leader.Most significantly, there seems to be a noticeable lack of resolve in Moscow, influenced by the longstanding tendency to evade responsibility by shifting it onto others. Prigozhin, on the other hand, takes decisive action and assumes accountability, which undeniably dampens the spirits of the Kremlin's audience. Undoubtedly, Prigozhin's ascension to power would likely result in an exaggerated military dictatorship. The only ray of hope lies in the possibility that its reign will be short-lived, yet it may still inoculate the population against a regime characterized by overt violence. Despite Prigozhin's appeals for the protection of the common people, his convicted mercenaries are well aware of their duties. For political exiles, there are no immediate changes on the horizon. It is premature to book tickets to Moscow. Observing the unfolding events and responding accordingly remains the prudent course of action.
Member of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team, lawyer Lubov Sobol, reacted to Putin's speech:
Бункерное чудовище, ты свой рот бы закрыл вообще о народе говорить. Ты российский народ ежедневно убиваешь.
Споил, стравил, в тюрьмах скольких сгноил. На всем этом горе себе дворцы строил, на трагедиях и костях, пока сам в бункере сидел и о славе Сталина мечтал. Корни четверть… pic.twitter.com/9OOzCozJmg
— Соболь Любовь (@SobolLubov) June 24, 2023
You, bunker monster, should refrain from uttering a word about the people in general. You bring death to the Russian population every single day. You have turned people into drunken pawns, manipulating and exploiting them, causing countless to languish in prisons. And amidst all this sorrow, you have constructed opulent palaces for yourself, built upon tragedies and the bones of others, while you comfortably sit in your bunker, daydreaming about the glory of Stalin. You have cowardly clung to power in the Kremlin for a quarter of a century, you despicable wretch. Leave, you monstrous being. It is now the duty of every person to rid ourselves of this decay. We must eradicate the cancer that has grown within our society. We have the capability to achieve anything, to accomplish it all. We are Russia—a diverse nation, bearing numerous scars and a history that surpasses your wildest imagination from your cozy beds and Rublev's dachas. People, triumph! Not through vengeance, but through kindness and love. Let us embrace the “fire” that purifies all. Onward, with the blessings of God.
Former oil industry oligarch and political prisoner in exile Mikhail Khodorkovskii has been in support of the coup. However, he predicts that the Russian army may now shell Russian cities. This used to be a joke among the opposition in 2011–2012 when draconian laws that harmed the population were introduced as a supposed answer to the ‘’Western sanctions.” The joke went that now, in response to some harm done by the “West,” Putin decided to bomb Voronezh (a large Russian city south of Moscow). Now this may very well stop being a joke.
Пишут, что в Ростове вагнеровцы захватили:
• Здание Южного Военного округа Миноброны.
• Администрацию Ростова
• Управления ФСБ и МВД.
• Полицейские участки.
Ростов вагнеровцам сдали почти бескровно, хотя информация Пригожина о сбитом вертолёте, похоже, правдива. А вот…
— Ходорковский Михаил (@mich261213) June 24, 2023
Reports indicate that in Rostov, the Wagner Group has allegedly seized various key locations, including the building of the Southern Military District of the Ministry of Defense, the Administration of Rostov, as well as departments of the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Surprisingly, Rostov appears to have fallen into the hands of the Wagner Group with minimal bloodshed, despite indications of a downed helicopter as mentioned by Prigozhin. However, in the Taganrog area, the situation is different, with “Akhmat” forces engaged in intense battles. The FSB leadership is being evacuated from Voronezh and Lipetsk, and gunshots can already be heard in the Voronezh region. For many, this unfolding scenario feels like a nightmare, yet it aligns closely with what I outlined a month ago in my video titled “Failed State: How PMCs Will Destroy Russia.” In that video, I warned that Putin's policies would transform Russia into a “Somalia with nuclear missiles.” Additionally, it is worth noting an important observation. Recall how the Ministry of Defense responded to the Legion and RDK fighters in Ukraine with airstrikes and indiscriminate artillery barrages? Unfortunately, it has become evident from that conflict that Putin and Shoigu's army lacks versatility in their combat tactics. It is a somber realization, but the once-joking remark about “bombing Voronezh” may tragically cease to be a mere jest.
Opposition politician Alexey Minailo noticed:
По всей Москве снимают биллборды с рекламой Вагнера. Так вот о каких жёстких и решительных действиях говорил Пыня.
— Алексей Миняйло (@AlekseiMiniailo) June 24, 2023
Billboards advertising Wagner are being taken down all over Moscow. So these are the tough and decisive actions Pynya [a derogatory name for Putin] was talking about.
Novaya Gazeta journalist Yulia Latynina said:
Путину, господа, конец. Так или иначе. Даже если наш новоявленный Муссолини с его маршем на Ростов не победит, Путину конец. Пригожин – это ледокол. Доплывет ли он до конца, непонятно, но лед под форштевнем треснул.
— Yulia Latynina (@YLatynina) June 24, 2023
It appears that the end is near for Putin, regardless of the outcome of this march on Rostov. Even if our recently emerged Mussolini fails to prevail, Putin's reign will come to an end. Prigozhin serves as an icebreaker, breaking through the uncertainties. It remains uncertain whether he will reach his ultimate destination, but the ice beneath the bow has undoubtedly cracked.
Twitter is blocked in Russia, and is a space where mostly people who are in opposition to the regime are present. There remains to be seen how the Russian society reacts.