Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private military company Wagner Group, staged a rebellion against Putin’s regime in Russia on June 24th. For a brief moment, the Wagner forces took over Rostov-on-Don, and came within 125 miles of Moscow before coming under heavy fire by the Russian military, and turning back. Putin struck a deal with Belarus president Lukashenko wherein Prigozhin was exiled to Belarus in exchange for amnesty. But who is Prigozhin? None other than Putin’s former caterer. If it sounds ludicrous, that’s because it is – and the media is still abuzz with theories as to what happened. Are there cracks in Putin’s regime? What were Prigozhin’s motives? Why the hell did Putin meet with Prigozhin a week after the purported coup attempt? Most troubling of all, US intelligence appears as perplexed as it was on day one.
Yaroslav Trofimov is the Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent of the Wall Street Journal. He covered the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 and has been working out of Ukraine since January 2022. He previously served as Rome, Middle East, and Singapore-based Asia correspondent, as bureau chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as a Dubai-based columnist on the greater Middle East. He is the author of two books: Faith at War (2005) and Siege of Mecca (2007).