With events in Russia moving at pace this Saturday, a lot of media attention is focused on the movements of the Wagner Private Military Group, but it’s timely to also look at how Russia’s population – from the propagandists to the ordinary people – are reacting.
Firstly, official Russian media and propagandist reaction to to Wagner Head Yevgeniy Prigozhin's mutiny is entirely predictable – to toe the line and get right behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's official position.
One of Putin’s most faithful followers and active propagandists is Russian TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov. Then there’s the Russian puppet and so-called Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who did not immediately express his position.
“I fully support every word of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!" Kadyrov later wrote on Telegram.
Unlike the mainstream official Russian media, regional Telegram channels re-broadcast in detail all of Prigozhin's reports and events happening in real-time, including the capture of Rostov by Wagner fighters, the entrance to Voronezh enroute to Moscow along the M4 highway, and even about the Russian Guard’s apparent shooting of a car carrying civilians.
For the first few hours after Prigozhin's capture of Rostov, the public reaction was muted. Russians appeared to simply be in shock, not having expected such a rapid and dramatic development. After Putin effectively declared Prigozhin a traitor during a live TV broadcast on Saturday morning, and gave the go-ahead for his liquidation, promising a harsh response, Russians were – surprisingly – in no hurry to condemn Prigozhin's actions.
Public commentary has mostly relayed a sense of confusion, fear, and even panic.
"The interesting thing about life is that we know what's coming next” said one person.
“God save and keep the Russians from shooting Russians,” another retorted.
“The country is being ruined, and you are laughing. We're all f***ed! It's going to get worse” came an additional comment.
“Looks like something bad is coming!”
Other commenters expressed disappointment with Prigozhin's actions. “It's not his time or business! Traitor! Pity him! He was a hero! We're with the President!”
Conversely, some Russians are keen to see Prigozhin take over the Kremlin as soon as possible.
“Time for the Wagner to get their planes up from Rostov and bomb the Russian Defense Ministry and Red Square.”
Meanwhile in Ukraine
Ukrainian authorities for their part have taken a positive view of the ensuing chaos inside Russia and attributes it to the aggressive war Russia has unleashed upon Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on Ukrainian territory, the more chaos and problems it will create for itself:
Posting on Twitter, Zelensky said: “Russia has long masked the weakness and stupidity of its rule with propaganda. And now there is so much chaos that no amount of lies can hide it. And all of this is due to one man, who repeatedly scares us with 1917, although he cannot lead us to anything else."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, commenting on the on-going rebellion in Russia, stressed that any problem in Russia's rear is in Ukraine's interests.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that events in Russia are developing according to a scenario previously discussed over the past year.
"The launch of the Ukrainian counter-offensive has finally destabilized Russia's elites, exacerbating the internal split that emerged after the defeat in Ukraine," he stated.
Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar also expressed her view:
"How should we view the events that began in Russia? As the inevitable degradation of the Russian state. What does this mean for us? A window of opportunity. Should we rejoice? It is better to be cautious and prepare for any scenario."
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