Kremlin Threats Against Families of Wagner Leaders Prompted Prigozhin’s Stand Down: UK Intelligence Services

kremlin threats against families of wagner leaders prompted prigozhins stand down uk intelligence services
Wagner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s decision to turn back from Moscow came after threats against the family members of Wagner leaders from the Kremlin, British security sources have claimed.

According to a report from London’s Daily Telegraph, the most closely connected British paper to the Conservative government, UK security services have come upon intelligence that suggests that prior to the decision by Yevgeny Prigozhin to turn back from his march on Moscow, Russian intelligence services made direct threats against the families of the Wagner group leaders.

Upon reaching the Lipetsk Oblast (region), which is just around 230 miles (370km) from Moscow, Prigozhin abruptly halted and turned back after coming to an agreement with Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, who reportedly negotiated the stand down on behalf of the Kremlin.

The British intelligence of alleged familial threats is one of the first real indications as to the possible motivation for Prigozhin to have called off the march to the capital.

The report also claimed that, according to UK estimates, the number of Wagner forces that actually engaged in the rebellion inside of Russia only amounted to around 8,000 troops. During the events on Saturday, Prigozhin claimed to have around 25,000 men loyal to him. The discrepancy suggests that either some of the Wagner forces remained in Ukraine, Prigozhin inflated his support, or perhaps both.

According to a pro-Putin military blogger, at least seven Russian aircraft were shot down and thirteen pilots were killed by Wagner forces during Saturday’s fighting.

It is still unclear as to the exact terms the Wagner chief agreed to with Lukashenko, other than that the Kremlin appeared to be willing to allow the mercenary oligarch to go unpunished (legally) for his rebellion on Saturday and that he would resign himself to exile in neighbouring Belarus.

It also remains to be seen if Prigozhin’s main demand, the sacking of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, will come to fruition or not.

The Wagner chief has long been at odds with the top military brass in the Kremlin, often criticising Shoigu and Gerasimov personally for what he saw as a sub-par strategy in the war in Ukraine. Tensions escalated during the battle for Bakhmut, at which Wagner forces were on the frontline for months in fighting that has been described as a “meatgrinder”. Prigozhin claimed that Moscow was — perhaps intentionally — undersupplying ammunition to the Wagner group.

Relations apparently deteriorated, however, this month with demands from the Kremlin that Russian paramilitary forces operating in Ukraine cede official control to Shoigu’s Ministry of Defence. While the Chechen forces of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Putin-aligned leader of the Russia-controlled Chechen Republic, agreed to sign contracts with the MoD, Prigozhin, perhaps fearing that he would lose control of his paramilitary group, refused to sign the contract.

It was then alleged by Prigozhin that the Russian military launched strikes directly on Wagner group units stationed in Ukraine, a claim he used to justify his “march for freedom” into the Russian motherland on Saturday, which he said was meant to seek “justice” against Shoigu and Gerasimov.

Since posing for photographs with civilians from his SUV on Saturday evening as he and his forces vacated Rostov-on-Don, Prigozhin has yet to appear publicly or indeed release any statements on his status. At the time of this reporting, Vladimir Putin, for his part, has also not appeared publicly, other than a brief pre-recorded interview on the status of the war in Ukraine believed to have been filmed earlier in the week.

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Authored by Kurt Zindulka via Breitbart June 25th 2023