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Wagner Group Revolt

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In June 2023 the Wagner Group, a private military corporation closely associated with the Russian government, revolted against the senior leadership of the Russian military. The mutiny was instigated by the inept prosecution of the Ukraine conflict by the senior Russian military establishment as well as a June 10, 2023 edict that Wagner Group members sign a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense by July 1, 2023.

On Friday, June 23, 2023, thousands of Wagner Group fighters entered the city of Rostov and took over the Russian Southern Military District Headquarters. On Saturday, June 24, 2023, Wagner Group fighters began a convoy north to confront senior military officials in Moscow. During this time, the leader of the Wagner Group - Yevgeny Prigozhin - held several news conferences that were televised explaining his actions. He called his military excursion a "March to Justice". By Sunday, June 25, 2023, the coup was over.

There was little opposition to the paramilitary organization in Rostov and along the road north to Moscow. Russian military aircraft destroyed one truck in the convoy and the Wagner Group shot down 3-5 Russian mlitary aircraft. The convoy stopped short - 120 miles from Moscow, before it turned back after a negotiated agreement between Putin and the Wagner Group leader.

Agreement. A deal between the paramilitary group and the Russian government defused the situation. The leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had charges dropped and was 'exiled' to Belarus. The members of the Wagner Group that participated in the military action would not be prosecuted. Those members who did not participate in the military action would still be allowed to sign a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry. Some will be demobilized, some absorbed into the Russian military, and others likely to join Prigozhin in Belarus.

Chechens. At one point, members of a Chechen paramilitary organization, led by Ramzan Kadyrov, left the frontlines of Ukraine to confront the Wagner Group fighters in Rostov. Once an agreement to end the 'coup' was reached these Chechen fighters returned to Ukraine.

Characterization of the Event. The military action by the Wagner Group has been characterized as a 'protest', 'mutiny', 'rebellion', 'attempted coup', and more. It certainly damaged President Putin's reputation and revealed fissures within Russian support for the Ukraine conflict.

Background Info. The paramilitary group had largely pulled back from the frontlines in Ukraine and had been in rest and refit camps for several weeks. U.S. intelligence had learned of plans of the 'armed operation' several weeks earlier but kept the information closely held.


CRS, Wagner Group Muntiny in Russia, Congressional Research Service, CRS IN12186, June 28, 2023, PDF, 3 pages.

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