Wagner mutiny: Some of Prigozhin's soldiers scream conspiracy, while others are furious

File photo of Prigozhin and soldiers in Bakhmut

Yevgeny Prigozhin might have boasted that all 25,000 members of his mercenary army were loyal to him, but it appears that may have changed just as quickly as the Wagner Group's uprising fizzled out.   .

Wagner soldiers and their family members railed against Prigozhin's choice to end his dramatic march on Moscow and withdraw from the seized city of Rostov in online messages analyzed by BBC Verify. "The bald waste of space personally destroyed Wagner PMC. On a Telegram channel with 200,000 subscribers, one online poster who identified himself as Wagner's fighter raged, "And screwed everyone he could.".   .

They added, "Yet another senseless uprising.". Wagner soldiers and Russian pro-war groups prefer Telegram as their preferred social media channel because it enables frequent anonymous communication with large numbers of users at once.

It was the location Prigozhin picked to declare his purported "March of Justice" against the Russian government, but it has since turned into the scene of many people turning against him.

Mark Krutov, a reporter for RFE/RL's Russian Service, has access to the Telegram group chats used by the fighters' relatives. Some of their messages were delivered to the BBC by him.

One woman wrote, "They were just betrayed. "Prigozhin earned my trust, but his actions were dishonorable. ".

"This was wrong for him to do. Another user concurred, calling this a blatant betrayal.

A network of pro-Wagner influencers had long supported Prigozhin loudly. They have supported him and criticized his Ministry of Defence rivals for months, especially his sworn enemy, Sergei Shoigu, the defense minister.

Their response was surprisingly subdued, however, as the Wagner mutiny began to take shape.

Two of the biggest groups, Grey Zone and Reverse Side of the Medal, which together have almost 900,000 followers, held off on endorsing his actions in favor of taking the more reasonable middle ground of attributing the bloodshed to Mr. Shoigu and his supporters' hostility.

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard outside the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023.
In the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Wagner Group fighters keep watch outside the Southern Military District's headquarters.

Some people turned to conspiracies for solace.

One of Wagner's soldiers is in charge of the channel Wagner PMC Briefs, which Prigozhin has acknowledged as the official Wagner page. It questioned why Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, avoided naming specific individuals when he denounced the mutiny. "The mutineers and traitors," it claimed, were not mentioned by [Putin]. "Perhaps the failure [of Russia's invasion of Ukraine] was to allow Prigozhin to restore justice and punish those responsible for real betrayal," one might speculate.

On social media, the idea that Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin planned to stage a coup attempt in an effort to "test the loyalty of the Russian elites" quickly gained traction. Girls, I thought maybe it was all planned to get rid of Shoigu through Prigozhin so Putin wouldn't have to do it himself, a woman wrote on the Wagner family chat.

Head of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research in Kiev, Volodymyr Fesenko, disagrees.

If it was staged, for what purpose, he questioned, "So that everyone could see how weak Putin is?". "Putin was publicly humiliated by what happened. And Prigozhin, who used to show his power, lost some of that reputation by merely retreating. "However, online rumors are still being fueled by Prigozhin's final public statement on the mutiny day, which was recorded after he decided to step down. We've had a good outcome today, he said. "Everyone was uplifted.

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