An armored personnel carrier (APC) is seen on the streets of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24. Screenshot from CNN.
An armored personnel carrier (APC) is seen on the streets of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24. Screenshot from CNN.

Russia is in turmoil as Putin’s grip on power slips after nearly a quarter of a century of autocracy. In a shocking turn of events, the veneer of control that the Russian leader has maintained throughout his reign is crumbling fast. Putin’s critics are known to simply vanish, or worse – fall out of windows or get poisoned. But the crisis has now reached new heights as the fifth-largest army in the world, controlled by Putin’s Kremlin, is on the brink of collapsing as fratricide looms.

The opening salvos of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s disobedience were initially thought of as a feint by Putin to keep his generals on edge. But now Putin is being forced to admit that Rostov-on-Don, his main military hub, is out of control. It’s likely that Wagner’s units have been planning this rebellion for a while. Perhaps they were even behind the recent apparent air strike on a Wagner camp in the forest, which the Russian Ministry of Defense denies.

The war has been disastrous from the beginning, with Putin’s mismanagement making it inevitable that only a system as homogenously closed and immune to criticism as the Kremlin could survive such a heinous misadventure. But now, the misadventure has become a full-blown catastrophe. Putin’s ultimate selling point – control – has been exposed as a veneer. And with the fifth-largest army in the world now on the brink of collapse, Russia stands on the precipice of disaster.

This is now an existential choice for Russia’s elite – side with the all-powerful Putin or face the wrath of the dark, mercenary Frankenstein it created to do its dirty work. The choice is a daunting one, and the consequences unimaginable.

Buckle up, because it seems like disastrous times are fast approaching: Ukraine is about to celebrate a major win. As we all know, rebellions never end well, and this one is no exception. It is almost certain that Russia will fall apart, attempting to regain the support of its own armed forces. Predictions suggest that a weakened Putin may do irrational things to prove his strength, threatening Russia’s position as a responsible nuclear power. It’s hard to imagine Putin’s regime could ever return to its previous heights of control after this. In fact, there is much to fear, as this rare Jacobean drama plays out, including potential outbreaks of chaos and disruption.

The end result is far from guaranteed. Although the impact on Kyiv’s favor offers a glimmer of hope, the likelihood of the situation deteriorating is quite high. If Putin miscalculates, it could lead to catastrophe. And with a potential lack of control over their own military forces, there is every reason to be concerned. Even with the foundations of the Kremlin’s control potentially collapsing, Prigozhin may not win, and there may not even be any improvement. Somewhere between a weakened Putin and frustrated armed forces, a perfect storm for destabilization is looming.


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