The Importance of Wagner for Russia in the Context of Prigozhin’s Death

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It can be argued that there is a rivalry between the Wagner Group, which is used as a proxy actor in many of Russia’s deportation operations, and the Russian military bureaucracy. It was known that there had been a disagreement between Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for some time. In this context, Prigozhin blamed Shoigu for Moscow’s failure to get the results it wanted on the ground in the Ukraine War. Because of this situation, Prigozhin demanded the resignation of Russia’s military leadership.

Prigozhin then claimed that on June 23, 2023, Russia bombed Wagner troops in Ukraine. On the same date, Wagner announced his advance on Moscow under the name “Justice March” and about 5,000 Wagner soldiers took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. [1]But the attempt was a failure.

The Wagner leader declared that this march had no intention of overthrowing the Russian government and that he had ended the march to avoid bloodshed. However, especially considering the captured territories, it is known that this rebellion was brought to an end with the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

As a matter of fact, this rebellion shows that Wagner, although a mercenary group, was an important center of gravity in the Russian army. Although Wagner was not a fully independent actor, it can be said that he had a great importance in the Russian army. It can be argued that this disturbed the Russian military bureaucracy.

The revolt shows that the officers in Wagner were also dissatisfied with the state of the Russian army, and especially with the state of affairs in Ukraine. On the other hand, one could argue that there are serious differences of opinion between Moscow’s military and political elites. In addition to all this, the support given to Wagner by the people shows that the people are not satisfied with the Russian administration.

This whole process resulted in the crash of a private jet carrying Prigozhin near Moscow on August 23, 2023, killing the Wagner leader. Moreover, Dmitry Utkin, the senior Wagner commander and Prigozhin’s right-hand man, and Valery Chekalov, who was in charge of Prigozhin’s personal programs, were also reported to be on board.[2] It is noteworthy that Wagner’s entire senior management team disappeared in this way.

The Wagner rebellion and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that he pardoned Prigozhin are in need of scrutiny. As a matter of fact, it is known that private military companies are generally under the control of the state to which they are affiliated. These companies receive state support and have access to military as well as financial resources. However, these military companies usually operate abroad and act within the boundaries drawn by the state to which they are affiliated.

Wagner, on the other hand, does not want to remain under state control; it can be said that he chose to control the state and compete with the government. Therefore, it can be argued that Wagner turned into an important problem in the functioning of the Russian government and state. It can be inferred that even if the rebellion did not succeed, it brought with it the situation of punishing those responsible in some way.

As a result, of the Russian private military companies, the company that operates in the most countries abroad is Wagner with 18 countries. [3] Accordingly, Wagner; It operates in Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Congo, Mali, Belarus, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Venezuela, Nigeria, Madagascar, Botswana, Comoros, Rwanda and Lesotho. . On the other hand, it is known that the group has a role in military coups in different countries and even provides military security to the governments of the countries. Moreover, Wagner was also used quite actively in the Russian-Ukrainian War. This means that if Russia abandons Wagner, it will lose both influence and investment. Therefore, it can be said that there is a possibility that Moscow has made a revision in Wagner’s top management team instead of giving up on Wagner.

[1] “Timeline: How Wagner Group’s Revolt Against Russia Unfolded”, Al Jazeera,, (Erişim Tarihi: 24.08.2023).

[2] “Yevgeny Prigozhin: Wagner Chief Presumed Dead after Russia Plane Crash”, British Broadcasting Corporation News,, (Erişim Tarihi: 24.08.2023).

[3] “Catalog of Russian PMCs: 37 Private Military Companies of the Russian Federation”, Molfar,, (Erişim Tarihi: 13.07.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.