Russia is celebrating with multiple waves of Iranian-made Shaheed “doodlebug” drones. Kyiv’s mayor says all 20 in the first wave were shot down, though debris from one of them set a residential building on fire. A second wave on its way.
Russia’s two fiercest critics of their country’s war effort are literally two of its worst people.
The first is Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the mercenary group that is plundering riches and spreading misery across Africa, and architect of the bloody capture of Bakhmut—the only place on the map where Russian forces have moved forward in the last six months.
The other is Igor Girkin, an indicted war criminal, leader of the fake “rebellion” that launched the 2014 Russian invasion of the Donbas, and commander of the Luhansk and Donetsk militias until he was fired from that job and consequently indicted in The Hague for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298.
It’s unfathomable that they both have survived as long as they have given the fierceness of their criticisms, but they have two advantages. First, they approach their criticism from the nationalist right—Russia isn’t brutal enough, not aggressive enough, doesn’t kill enough. Criticism from the pacifist left is instant jail. The other is they never criticize Russian dictator Vladimir Putin himself. Everyone else can be at fault, but the buck never stops with the Big Guy.
These two have been on parallel tracks all war, but this week, that all ended, and a new feud is brewing.
Prigozhin has been increasingly hysterical these past several weeks, to the point of saying the quiet part out loud:
Revolution talk is a no-no, and he can’t be currying favor with the Russian elite by demanding they sacrifice their children to this godforsaken war. You can catch the whole interview, translated, here:
There is so much there for Putin to hate. On how the war will end?
There’s an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic one. I have little faith in the first one. [It looks like this]: Europe and America get tired of the Ukrainian conflict. China sits everyone down at the negotiating table. We agree that everything we’ve already snatched is ours and everything we haven’t snatched isn’t ours. The odds of this are slim.
Here’s the pessimistic scenario: the Ukrainians are given missiles, they train their troops, they no doubt continue their offensive, and they try to counterattack. It’s possible that this counteroffensive is successful in some places and they restore the borders to where they were in 2014 — that could easily happen. They’ll attack Crimea, they’ll try to blow up the Crimean Bridge, they’ll cut off our supply routes. So we need to be ready for a difficult war.
We’re currently in a state where there’s a danger of just pissing away Russia. So we should declare martial law, we should declare new waves of mobilization, and we need to transfer everybody we can to work on ammunition production. We need to cut the fat, stop building new roads and new infrastructure, and work only on the war.
In short, Prigozhin is arguing for the complete destruction of any semblance of a modern economy, and a single-minded militarization of society. And just in case you’re wondering if Prigozhin understands exactly what that means, he does:
Russia needs to take a page out of North Korea’s book for a certain number of years: close all our borders, stop pulling punches, bring back all our boys from abroad, and work hard. Then we’ll see some kind of result.
There is so much more in this video. For example, turns out that in Russia, it’s perfectly okay to bash your neighbor’s face in.
We started this fight. There were neighbors and they got into a fight. You go to your neighbor’s house and you can punch him in the face or you can break his dishes. But if your neighbor tells you to fuck off and you take an axe and smash his head in, that’s an odder situation. A nuclear bomb is like that axe. You shouldn’t run after your neighbor with an axe. Better to do it honestly: either beat him or admit that he beat you. The place to prove you’re right is on the battlefield.
Well, at least he’s arguing against using nukes and losing the war on the conventional battlefield. Presumably that makes him the Russian equivalent of a “moderate.” But predicting the return of the 2014 borders, or of a Russian revolution? Demanding that Russian society be turned into North Korea-style misery?
Girkin has apparently had enough, saying Prigozhin is stoking “mutiny.”
From that video:
Where is the reaction of the Armed Forces, the command, the reaction of the state, to the fact that a person with severely, I would say, low social responsibility, is directly insulting the Armed Forces, regardless of the state the are currently in? [...] insulting the whole army like this is a crime.
The lack of self awareness is hilarious—Girkin incessantly insults the Russian army.
A crime not against the laws, which appear to not notice the behavior and words of Prigozhin, but again the spirit of the army, against the fatherland.
And all our main defeats we suffered in this war are not a consequence of the lack of courage of our soldiers and officers, but a consequence of terrible leadership and occupation of the top of the art by bastards. Or, as Mr. Prigozhin calls them, cocks.
Girkin only insults the ones who deserve it! Prigozhin paints too broad a brush. Or something. At least they agree that the top brass are bastards … or cocks.
Prigozhin is a man close to the president, which he's very proud of and never stops repeating. But when among those elites appear the people who openly proclaim they do not obey the laws, people who call for redistribution of positions in this elite, that’s when mutiny starts.
It doesn’t come from the bottom, it always starts at the top. Yes, as they say, there’s plenty of gas and kindling placed to burn brightly. But the elites always start the fire.
Prigozhin practically declared war on a part of the military and state. Obviously, he’s not alone: If he was alone, if was a nugget that grew from the bottom, he would be long weeded out and thrown away. At best, he would have been blocked from everywhere, like I was
Oooh, there’s something there—a realization that he’s a beneficiary of the best case scenario—merely ignored—as opposed to being “thrown away” out of a top-story window or a long staircase.
[Prigozhin] is part of the ruling mafia, one of its groupings.
Doesn’t a mafia always have a don? And if he’s calling the Russian elite a mafia, who would be its leader? He’s certainly walking right up to the red “don’t criticize Putin directly” line.
Now we observe how one of the groups is forcibly breaking the current situation. Through this, I make a conclusion that mutiny has begun. Only thing left to do now is to miss the bus with another enemy offensive, now of a strategic scale, and by the end of summer, our political situation in the country can become unrecognizable.
These guys love to talk in code, and there are so many layers of intrigue we outsiders can scarcely begin to understand. But my reading here is—Girkin is accusing Prigozhin of conspiring against Putin, and if Russia loses significant ground this summer, that Prigozhin will make a move against Putin—because Putin in charge is the only political situation we recognize.
If Prigozhin remains the head of Wagner, the mutiny will come quickly and radically. Him declaring that [Gen. Sergey] Suroviking should become the Chief of Staff, while [Gen. Mikhail] Mizintsev—Minister of Defense.
Prigozhin is only making such appointments if he has overthrown Putin and installed himself as tsar.
A coup attempt has been declared [...] What will happen next I don’t know, specially as Wagner is urgently withdrawn to rear bases. And by the way, their rear bases are not near the frontline. Their rear bases are spread across the whole European part of the Russian Federation.
Wow. Note, Girkin himself isn’t out of the woods by seemingly defending Putin against Prigozhin, as he calls the Russian elite a mafia, hence implying that Putin is, also, part of that criminal racket.
So what comes next? Putin deciding the Prigozhin is, indeed, a real threat, and us finding him poisoned or otherwise murdered? Or Wagner taking Girkin hostage and murdering him with a sledgehammer? Or Putin and Prigozhin banding together to make Girkin disappear?
Or maybe none of that, because these two have proven to be Russia’s top survivors, and unlike the Highlander, perhaps there can still be two.
The significant uptick in rear-line attacks is all classic “shaping the battlefield” work. The bulk of these strikes continue to hit southeastern Ukraine, suggesting that Ukraine will indeed push to sever the land bridge between mainland Russian and Crimea.
Or, it could all be misdirection. Who knows!
Speaking of terrible people going after each other:
Boy, do the Taliban and Iran really hate each other!
Tensions are high over water rights, though it certainly feels like there’s a lot more to the story.
That’s the problem with religious fanatics—no one is ever good enough to meet their own personal standards.