Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and founder Dmitry Utkin reportedly died after Russian forces shot down an aircraft transporting senior Wagner commanders over Tver Oblast.

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Kremlin have been destroying the Wagner private military company (PMC) and weakening Prigozhin’s authority since the rebellion – and the assassination of Wagner’s top leadership was likely the final step to eliminate Wagner as an independent organization.

  • Prigozhin was likely attempting to counter the Russian MoD’s and the Kremlin’s destruction of Wagner and Wagner’s future remains uncertain.

  • Putin almost certainly ordered the Russian military command to shoot down Prigozhin’s plane.

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  • Putin's almost certain order for the Russian MoD to shoot down Prigozhin’s plane is likely a public attempt to reassert his dominance and exact vengeance for the humiliation that the Wagner Group’s armed rebellion on June 24 caused Putin and the Russian MoD.

  • Specific individuals who may have planned to oppose Putin, the Kremlin, or the MoD have likely taken note of Prigozhin’s ultimate fate and other recent measures to reassert the Kremlin’s backing for the senior Russian military leadership.

  • The Kremlin appears to be setting conditions to deflect overt responsibility for Prigozhin’s assassination away from Putin and the Russian military.

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  • Further tactically significant Ukrainian gains in and around Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast are widening the Ukrainian breach of Russian defensive lines in the area and threatening Russian secondary lines of defense.

  • Ukrainian forces likely struck a Russian S-400 air defense system in Crimea on August 23.

  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in the Bakhmut area, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on August 23 and did not make any confirmed advances.

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Authors: Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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