Key Takeaways

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have launched an armed rebellion on June 23 to force a leadership change within the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) which is unlikely to succeed.
  • Early reports following Prigozhin’s statements suggest that Russian internal security forces are activating in response to Prigozhin’s statements and possible Wagner moves, primarily in Moscow and Rostov, and the Kremlin appears opposed to Prigozhin’s actions.
  • Prigozhin set informational conditions for this effort earlier in the day by accusing the Russian MoD and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public in order to launch the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Prigozhin likely intends to truly conduct an armed rebellion against the Russian MoD, rather than expecting Kremlin support to compel MoD leadership changes or only escalating rhetorically.
  • It is therefore most likely that Prigozhin fully intends for Wagner to move against MoD leadership and forcibly remove them from power, more likely against the Southern Military District command in Rostov-on-Don but possibly also against Moscow.
  • An armed Wagner attack against the Russian military leadership in Rostov-on-Don would have significant impacts on Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
  • Prigozhin’s apparent start of an armed rebellion is the culmination of his campaign to retain control over his military forces, and he likely views the rebellion as an existential survival effort.
  • Prigozhin’s likely intention was to gain the allegiance of senior Russian officers and military personnel, but he is unlikely to secure sufficient military support considering that Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin denounced Prigozhin’s call for armed rebellion.
  • Even if the Wagner Group can credibly threaten the MoD, Putin is incredibly unlikely to acquiesce to a successful effort by Prigozhin to topple the MoD.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on June 23.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on June 23, primarily targeting a Ukrainian airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks in the Kupyansk area, and Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to skirmish south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian federal subjects and the Wagner Group continue efforts to conceal the true scale of Russian and Wagner losses in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian and occupation administrations continue to disregard the lives of Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories.

Authors: Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark.

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