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The Downfall of Prigozhin and Girkin
Dust off your "Technotronic" CDs, the 1990's are back! At least in Russia.
As I wrote here on many occasions, the so-called “separatism of Crimea and Donbas” was actually an operation planned and executed by Russian intelligence. However, being a sceptical-minded person myself, I always felt certain discomfort, because until recently, I had no good answer to the question “How do I know this for sure?”.
The answer I provided hitherto, “it’s because Girkin is with FSB” is not helpful. How do I know that? “Citation needed”, as they say on Wikipedia. After all, it’s not something one would advertise in their LinkedIn profile.
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The downfall of Prigozhin and Girkin had an interesting side-effect: an abundance of source material. I have more citations than I ever needed.
A very warm farewell to “Wagner” from his brother in arms. The caption says: “Future Hero of Russia, four times awarded Order of Bravery, at the time of the photograph commanding the reconaissance group of the 876 separate company of GRU spetznaz, Dmitry Valerevich Utkin. Norhtern Osetia, end of 1990’s. Via Telegram Channel “Grey Zone”.
Dmitri Utkin, callsign “Wagner”, the military commander of the namesake mercenary organisation, was bid farewell by his brothers in arms. They wrote interesting eulogies praising his courage on the battlefield - apparently once in Luhansk Utkin was heavily wounded by shrapnels and he did not lose his fighting spirit even as he was holding his own intestines in his hands.
The story of Utkin’s intestines, as told by his another brother in arms. Via Telegram channel Reverse Side of The Medal.
From the point of view of the discussions that we have here, there are two interesting points in these eulogies. First: his own friends do not deny his involvement in the so-called “separatism”. On the contrary, they portray him as a person who saved the “separatist republic”. Remember: nobody takes this “separatism” seriously in Russia; this is purely for clueless Westerners who don’t speak Russian.
Second: nobody denies he was a GRU operative. GRU stands for “Main Intelligence Directorate” and they are not to be confused with civilian FSB (Federal Security Service), a direct successor of KGB. GRU is a successor to GRU, they saw no need to rebrand after 1991.
At the time of writing, Girkin callsign “Strelkov” seems to be still alive, although in Russian jail you can never be 100% sure. He has to write his own eulogies, but that’s fine for him. You can accuse him of many things, but not of being too modest.
Prior to his arrest he wrote a lengthy post in praise of himself, stylised as a “CV of a Russian patriot”. Again, we see two interesting things.
A snippet from extensive “CV of a Russian Patriot”, in praise of Igor Girkin by Igor Girkin. Translated and discussed below. Via Girkin’s Telegram channel.
First: he actually discloses his engagement with the military activities of FSB. Between 1996 and 2014 he participated in 7 assignments (you can brush up your Cyrillic skills and spot the word “komandirovka/i”), mostly in Chechenya and Dagestan.
Second, the interesting part. “By the end of February 2014 - an informal advisor to the chairman of Crimean Republic Supreme Council, S.V. Aksyonov (…) Initiates the volunteer special purpose battalion, participating in many activities in order to establish and protect people’s authority in the Republic of Crimea. Later on, this [unit] was used in order to create a Separate Company <<Crimea>>, consisting of 52 warriors, accomplishing a raid on Sloviansk in the night of 11 to 12 April of 2014”.
A snippet from extensive “CV of a Russian Patriot”, in praise of Igor Girkin by Igor Girkin. Translated and discussed above. Via Girkin’s Telegram channel.
That’s your “Donbas separatism” in a nutshell. The whole “Donbas people republics” started on 12 April, when “Donbas militias” (as the Western media still tend to describe them) occupied government buildings in Sloviansk, proclaiming this city the capital of separatist Donbas.
Crimea, their base of operation, was also not a “separatist state”, but an artificial Girkin' creation. Sergey V. Aksyonov was “elected” on 27 February in a very peculiar “session” of the council. Let me quote Wikipedia:
“on 27 February an emergency session was held in the Crimean legislature while it was occupied by Russian forces without insignias. After sealing the doors and confiscating all mobile phones, the MPs who had been invited by Aksyonov to enter the building, passed the motion in the presence of the gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket launchers (…) Various media accounts have disputed whether he was able to gather a quorum of 50 of his peers before the session convened that day, and some Crimean legislators who were registered as present have said they did not come near the building. Others denied being in the city, and claimed that duplicate voting cards stolen from the Parliament's safe were used in their name (…) Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Mohyliov was barred from attending the session”
Our dear friend and contributor Formosa might be willing to point out that after all, Aksyonov was a local politician, so you can’t say that there was no local separatism. But Vidkun Quisling was even more local in Norway - at least he held no German passport, while Aksyonov has dual citizenship.
Can I say that Norway was under German occupation during World War II? Can I call Quisling “a quisling”? If so, then I can say that Crimea was under Russian occupation once Girkin’s thugs arrived there “at the end of February”. And Aksyonov is simply another quisling.
Reading pro-Russian Western propagandists makes you frequently raise the question: just how stupid one can get? Via Twitter channel of Jackson Hinkle.
These eulogies can answer another question, frequently raised by the pro-Russian Westerners on Twitter. About half a year ago, when things were still looking pretty rosy for them, they expressed their admiration for both Prigozhin and Girkin (two great Russian patriots!), but they were worried that these two men hated each other.
They could not understand, why. Shouldn’t we all be united in our anti-NATO-anti-woke-anti-LGBT-anti-vaccine-pro-MAGA camp?
The explanation is very simple. Girkin is/was FSB. Utkin was GRU. Both agencies for decades were engaged in the traditional rivalry, just like in the West.
A random example of a clueless comment on Twitter
While Girkin can be praised in some circles that he occupied Crimea “without firing a shot” (that’s not exactly correct, shots were fired), his operation was seen by many as a failure. They were forced out of Sloviansk in July - and there is no realistic scenario for Russia to recapture this city ever again.
The concept of “Little Green Men” was effective during the first half of 2014, but soon it displayed its limitations. Most of Girkin's thugs had no military training. They were effective in terrorising deputies and aldermen, maybe even policemen, but when confronted with real soldiers from Ukraine, they retreated.
Enter Utkin. In mid-2014, another three letter agency started to handle things in “the separatist republics”. They were better trained, better equipped, even more ruthless. The Russian troops were no longer retreating, on the contrary, the launched the 2014/2015 offensive. The battle of Debaltseve in February 2015 was the first notable success of “Wagner group”.
By the way, literally NONE of these eulogies ever mentioned any particular interest Dmitri Utkin might have had in music. None of his friends shared memories like “I remember when we saw Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre together”. It really seems that the only interest Utkin might have had in Wagner is that this was the favourite composer of his favourite German politician. Because, you know, there are no Nazis in Russia.
But I digress. “Wagner group” provided Putin with the same plausible deniability he got from Girkin’s “Little Green Men”. He could always say “we’re not there”, because until September 2022 “Wagner group” officially did not even exist.
After all, mercenary activity is forbidden until Russian law. You don’t think anything illegal could be happening in Russia, do you?
It seems that until late March 2022, “Wagner group” played no significant role in the invasion. What for, since Kyiv was supposed to be captured in 3 days? Only in late March they were engaged in battle of Popasna, ending their combat trail in Bakhmut.
Having your own mercenary company, looting Syrian and African cities at your whim, can be a gold mine. Sometimes even literally. Therefore other oligarchs and politicians, including Shoigu himself, wanted to have their own private armies and it seems that Wagner efforts were indeed suppressed by the “unfair competition”, as Prigozhin complained in his famous videos.
One thing remains certain: the other private mercenary armies were a massive failure. PMC “Redut” and PMC “Patriot” were supposed to capture Vuhledar in February 2023. The whole pro-Western world enjoyed the results. In general, Russia had no successes ever since July 2022, other than those achieved by Wagner group.
It seems that running a successful private military company requires some know-how and personal skills. Without a doubt, Utkin had it all, but he’s no longer a worry. I sincerely hope the remnants of the Wagner group will be now transferred to the people who brought us the Vuhledar offensive or the Kherson gesture of good will.
Because… who else? Let me reiterate: no Russian success since July 2022 (capture of Lysychansk), other than Wagner trail Popasna-Soledar-Bakhmut. If they have any competent generals, where are they hiding?
Which Girkin do you feel today? I take “chaotic good”. Posters prepared for the - rather anaemic - campaign “FREE STRELKOV!”. Via Girkin’s Telegram channel.
Girkin himself, in a statement allegedly smuggled out by his lawyer and published on his Telegram channel by his wife, expressed his doubt that Putin is responsible for the death of Prigozhin and Utkin. The probability that Ukraine or the West did it is even smaller. His thesis is that this is the sign of “return of the dreadful 90’s”.
What does it mean? The fall of Soviet Union resulted in a chaotic all-out war of criminal organizations. “Bellum omnium contra omnes”.
Even those who disagree with Putin in other issues, appreciate his achievement of ending this war. Just like a good “pakhan”, he introduced a lasting peace among the various criminal groups.
Soloviev is trying hard to convince himsel (and his viewers) that the West is responsible for killing Prigozhin. Just as if reading my Substack, he vehemently denies Russia is a mafia state. Via Youtube channel “Russian Media Monitor”.
It lasted two decades, but it started to crumble even before the second invasion. The creation of Donbas “separatist republics” made some people very rich all of a sudden, which prompted the other oligarchs to plot against them. A good example is the meteoric rise and fall of one Vladislav Surkov. The gang equilibrium was disturbed in 2014 and now it seems gone.
I don’t want to speculate on who killed Prigozhin or who will take over his enormous wealth. I’m a “citation needed” guy and there is simply too early for good citations.
But I agree with Girkin in one point. The 90’s seem to be back in Russia with a bang. Literally.
We will quite likely see more Russians killing Russians, Russians planes shot down by Russian missiles, Russian generals disappearing, Russian propagandists attacking each other...
We're gonna need popcorn. Lots of popcorn.
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