Initially fighting as “allies,” the Wagner Group has now made a power play against the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the Kremlin. Having had enough of battlefield disagreements and grievances, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Private Military Contractors (PMC) are now fighting on Russian soil, calling the actions of the MOD a ‘betrayal.’

Reciprocating Prigozhin’s rhetoric, the Federal Security Services (FSB) opened a criminal investigation on the former and his mercenaries. Putin has labeled Wagner’s actions as a ‘mutiny,’ and his generals and close warlords such as Ramzan Kadyrov, Shoigu, Suvorokin, and Gerasimov have condemned the PMC’s coup.

A Wagner Group contractor fires a machine gun.

The Brewing Conflict Started in 2022

During the initial stage of the full-fledged invasion, Russia faced stiff resistance and significant combat losses in Hostomel, the Kyiv suburbs, and Mariupol. Battlefield setbacks led to various reconstructions of forces and low-level finger-pointing. The Kremlin and MOD could keep the conflicts at a minimum due to Russia scoring victories in the Donbas region, such as Severodonetsk—though they came at a pyrrhic cost.

Towards the summer of 2022, Ukraine’s Armed Forces (ZSU) was equipped with HIMARS and created drones capable of reaching long distances. The innovations and resupply allowed the ZSU to strike the “unsinkable” Crimea with drones multiple times throughout the summer, which sent shockwaves into Russian society.