Trouble in Putin’s Paradise: Wagner Mercenaries Rise Up In Defiance of Russian Ministry of Defense

By Francis Acadian

On the 23rd of June, following an alleged missile strike on a Wagner Private Military Corporation (PMC) camp in southern Ukraine by the Russian Ministry of Defense, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner PMC, started a “march of justice” into Rostov-on-Don, and then towards Moscow.

Prigozhin released multiple statements throughout the 23rd and 24th of June, describing his goals, motives, and ambitions, which ranged from a desire to get revenge for the alleged missile strike that killed Wagner PMC members, ousting Shoigu (the Russian MoD head), and broad proclamations of righting the poor running of the war. Prigozhin blamed Shoigu and others in the Russian MoD for starting the war out of personal ambitions. Prigozhin also broadly criticized Russian oligarchs who were getting rich and living in luxury, while common Russians died in the field.

A common theme in Prigozhin’s propaganda was not necessarily castigating the war itself, but rather, denouncing what is perceived to be the mismanagement of the war; troops are often without supplies and materiel, and they are effectively sent into a meatgrinder for the benefit of the Russian oligarchs. This rhetoric isn’t new, as the Russian nationalist “Club of Angry Patriots,” founded on April 1st, 2023, made these and like claims, lambasting the Russian government for its perceived inability to devote more to the war effort for a victory. Prigozhin had been making similar statements during his time in the fields of Bakhmut, denouncing Shoigu and the Russian military for not supplying his forces and therefore causing needless deaths.

Given that the majority of Russia’s influential “Communist” parties support their own bourgeois government’s imperial ambitions (in the name of supposed “anti-fascism”), it should come as no shock that the anti-government sentiment which evidently exists within the country is being mobilized largely via the far right and not the revolutionary left. Due to the wholesale surrender to imperialism by Russia’s “communist” parties, it is unfortunate (yet indeed unsurprising) that initiative is not being taken to turn this inter-imperialist war into a civil war, as was advocated and accomplished by the Bolsheviks during World War 1.

The Wagner PMC forces, ranging on paper between 25,000 and 50,000 members, quickly took control of Rostov-on-Don, securing the city and strategic locations like the airport. Then, a brief siege of the Russian MoD’s Southern Military District’s (SMD) headquarters in Rostov-on-Don ensued, with Prigozhin’s forces quickly securing the building. Prigozhin met with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov in the SMD HQ and discussed the events of the day almost cordially.

Into the night of the 23rd and the early hours of the 24th, Prigozhin’s forces then made a beeline straight towards the Russian capital of Moscow, mainly along the M-4 highway. The Russian MoD and various state forces attempted to stall the Wagner columns, erecting barricades, digging trenches, deploying military forces like helicopters, dropping bombs, and placing regions under martial law.

The entire confrontation between Wagner and the Russian Military has been somewhat costly, with the Russian military reportedly losing around five helicopters, a plane, and some various assorted materiel. 12 Russian MoD pilots are reported to have been killed due to Wagner anti-air weapons. There are also of course the various losses in infrastructure and the expenses to contain the rebellion. Full losses, however, are still unknown.

In a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he lambasted the whole ordeal as a rebellion, calling the Wagner forces traitors who stabbed Russia in the back, and stating that everything in the State’s power will be used to quash them. He did not name Prigozhin by name in his speech.

Then came quite a bizarre shock. In a surprising turn of events, for a government that had just denounced the entire ordeal as high treason, it appears that Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian Government have struck a deal, however tentative. After all, why not; what’s a rebellion between friends? Brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the deal stopped the Wagner PMC forces just hours outside the gates of Moscow.

The Wagner PMC seems to be backing off and heading back to their camps. What exactly Prigozhin has gained from this deal is not known in full, but it is commonly reported that immunity for Wagner PMC forces and Prigozhin himself has been promised. Shoigu may be removed from his post as head of the Russian military, or some other shakeup in the Russian MoD may occur, but this has been reportedly unlikely. It is also reported that Prigozhin will move to Belarus, and his forces stand to gain some political and organizational advantages. Wagner PMC soldiers who did not take place in the march are allowed to sign contracts with the Russian MoD, but those that did will not be prosecuted. Whether or not Prigozhin will retain full control of Wagner, or some other power-sharing arrangement is planned, is unknown. The full details of the deal are largely unknown, and much remains to be revealed.

It should be noted that all PMCs were slated to be absorbed into the Russian MoD, as there was a massive drive to have all mercenary groups, which by Russian law are technically illegal, sign contracts with the Russian MoD by July 1st.[1] This move would have given the Russian MoD more authority and oversight into these groups and formally integrated them into the Russian military. The Akhmat forces under Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, for example, signed the Russian MoD’s contract. Prigozhin, however, absolutely rejected this proposal, as it threatened his position and power. With a due date of July 1st and the looming threat of having no more power, the actions of Prigozhin become clearer. While he may very well believe his rhetoric about the mismanagement of the war, and certainly many Russians do, the actual cause for this event may have been more out of self-preservation. In that sense, Prigozhin’s “march of justice” appears to have partly succeeded, for now.

Undoubtedly, Prigozhin’s popular status has improved in the eyes of some Russians, which is another bonus for the man already hailed as a victorious conqueror due to Wagner’s heavy involvement and victory in the Battle for Bakhmut. Prigozhin’s popularity has been rising through the years, and he even received the “Hero of the Russian Federation” award back in 2022.

But Prigozhin’s popularity isn’t universal or set in stone. Some Russians are still staunchly on Putin’s side and will remain there, like Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who recently stated that “I thought some people could be trusted. That they sincerely love their Motherland as real patriots to the marrow of their bones. But it turned out that for the sake of personal ambitions, benefits and because of arrogance, people can not give a damn about affection and love for the Fatherland [Editor’s Note: Translated, errors might occur].” The sentiment of Prigozhin and his forces being turncoats is also a popular tune, especially in the halls of power in Russia. Prigozhin’s political future remains to be seen.

The entire situation, while being quite a surprise, is eerily reminiscent of events like the Kornilov Affair of 1917, when the dissatisfied Russian Provisional Government General Lavr Kornilov unsuccessfully marched on the capital of the Kerensky government, likely in an attempt to overthrow the broadly perceived ineffective government which had continuously failed to run the war (among other various failures that the Bolsheviks had continually critiqued) properly in the eyes of the broad populace.

The response of the American government and its vassal states have been somewhat silent and distant, mostly stating that they are “closely monitoring the situation.” There are reports, however truthful, that US intelligence services had been aware of Prigozhin’s plot since mid-June.[2]

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, while broadly popular in Russia, has not achieved its long-term strategic objectives that were laid out at the beginning of the war by Russian President Vladimir Putin, including “de-Nazification,” “pacification,” annexation, etc. Despite moderate military gains in the southeast of Ukraine, with the annexation of a few regions of the country, Ukraine persists and the conflict rages on, much to the chagrin of Russian “communist” parties like the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and pro-Russian social-chauvinist “communist” parties supporting the war (in our country, PSL, PCUSA, CPI, and others tow this backward line).

The Party of Communists USA (PCUSA), a firm backer of the current global trend of right opportunism in the name of “multipolarity,” reacted excitedly upon reports of negotiations being reached between Prigozhin and Lukashenko (ostensibly so that the fire can be focused back on the “main enemy,” Ukraine).[3]

The increasing cost of the inter-imperialist war on the Russian population has become a stinging point in the eyes of many Russians — not because most disagree with the war based on it being an inter-imperialist conflict but because they disagree with its apparent mismanagement and high cost. Prigozhin’s semi-popular rhetoric in Russia and his ability to swiftly move across Russian lands without much popular resistance is a testament not only to the broad appeal of this rhetoric, and the apathy and indifference of many Russians, but to the relative power that he holds as well, with his PMC operating all sorts of military equipment, vehicles, and war materiel.

However, make no mistake about Prigozhin’s anti-oligarch and broad quasi-populist rhetoric — he is no friend of the working class. Prigozhin is a fascist-adjacent figure, who has taken advantage of the deteriorating war situation to attempt to secure his status and power, possibly for greater ambitions, and most likely for simple self-preservation. Whether he is successful or not remains to be seen, but he is no working-class hero, even if pro-imperialist rags like The Daily Worker USA try to perform mental gymnastics to explain otherwise.

The extent of Prigozhin’s ambitions, and the repercussions of this bizarre event, are yet to be seen, but what is undoubtedly obvious is that the façade of stability, normalcy, and hegemony in Russia has been severely damaged, and the dissatisfaction with the management of the war continues among the populace. This has been one of the more peculiar, but real, challenges to Putin’s grasp on political power since his ascension over twenty years ago in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR. Regardless of the outcome of this scuffle, the working classes of Ukraine and Russia will continue to suffer as their capitalist governments send them to the slaughter for the benefit of their respective imperialist camps.

The Russian Marxist-Leninist outlet Politsturm made a correct assessment of the situation recently. In their article “On the Military Insurgency in Russia,” Politsturm lays down a six-point assessment of the situation:[4]

“1. The unfolding events are the result of contradictions that have accumulated in Russia for decades and were intensified by the military conflict that began in 2022.

2. Prigozhin’s actions are characterized by an aggravation of the struggle of individual factions within the capitalist camp. Each side is trying to appeal to the masses and gain public support.

3. Regardless of the outcome of these events, the workers and broad masses of the Russian population will lose. The struggle between the representatives of the ruling class will inevitably lead to a worsening of the situation of the people.

4. Once again, the main shortcoming of the Russian communist movement – the lack of a vanguard party – becomes apparent. It is only possible to seriously influence events in the interests of workers and communists if there is a strong organization.

5. Communists must refrain from mindless actions, hysterical urges, or passive observation “from above”, as single-minded revisionist groups and bloggers try to do.

6. The main tasks of the current day remain the same:

– Communist agitation and propaganda;

– Fighting against all kinds of distortions, against those who capitulate to bourgeois theories and represent their interests in the communist and workers’ movements;

– Uniting workers and communists into a single organization;

– Creating a Communist Party.”[5]

The Revolutionary Komsomol (Bolshevik) [abbreviated as RKSM(b)] communist youth league in Russia also released a succinct explanation of the ideological and political ramifications of this action, and its material, historical basis. We have quoted a small section, but the full report is available here:


4. However, the current ruling regime in Russia is also moving towards fascism, which we have repeatedly warned about. In other words, both parties are interested in establishing a fascist dictatorship. The only difference is who, when and by what means will lead Russia to the final establishment of fascism. Will it be fascism “from above” performed by the current regime, clumsy and burdened by a corrupt bureaucratic apparatus, or will it be fascism with elements of anarchy performed by PMC thugs.

5. Thus, the military conflict that has begun in Russia is not a “civil war”, not a “revolution”, but a struggle between two reactionary groups of the Russian bourgeoisie striving for fascism. Both sides of this conflict bring suffering and death to the working people. Both sides, for all their contradictions, are much closer to each other than to the peoples of Russia.

6. The labor movement in the country is still weak. The Communists are also weak and fragmented. That ideological, political, organizational work on consolidation, which is carried out by the RKSM(b) together with other communist groups, is still far from complete [Editor’s Note: Translated, errors might occur].”[6]

New Spark will monitor the developing situation and will provide any updates should they be necessary.


[1] Andrew Osborn, “Putin backs push for mercenary groups to sign contracts despite Wagner’s refusal,” Reuters, June 13th, 2023,

[2] David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Suspected Prigozhin Was Preparing to Take Military Action Against Russia,” The New York Times, June 24th, 2023,

[3] @PCUSA2016, accessed June 24, 2023,

[4] Politsturm, “On the Military Insurgency in Russia,” June 24th, 2023,

[5] Politsturm, “On the Military Insurgency in Russia.”

[6] Central Committee of the RKSM(b), “About The Rebellion of Prigozhin and PMC ‘Wagner’,” June 24th, 2023,

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