Wagner revolt: The biggest crisis of Vladimir Putin’s 23-year reign

16 months ago, Vladimir Putin vowed to take Kyiv in three days.

He failed. Now the battle lines are closer to the Kremlin.

Last night as a barrage of missiles reigned down on Ukrainian cities, Moscow was dealing with its own assault. An assault led by one of its own.

Yevgeny Progozhin, Putin’s creation and once one of his closest allies, is now accused of treason. A patriot turned traitor.

Prigozhin with Vladimir Putin in 2010. Credit: AP

As the leader of the Wagner Group of mercenaries his fighters have been crucial to Russian gains in the war on Ukraine. They have been the muscle for all of Putin’s foreign military forays of recent years.

But the war on Ukraine has shifted the dynamic. For months now, there has been public and private infighting between Wagner and Russian army commanders. It seems Progozhin and his men have a different target now.

Their march on Moscow brings two armies into direct conflict on Russian soil.

The war Putin has waged on a sovereign nation now risks civil war in his own country.

Where this goes is impossible to predict but, for sure, this is the biggest crisis of Putin’s 23-year reign. He drew the battle lines, now the battle has come to him.

12 years ago as the Arab Spring toppled dictators, Putin was said to be obsessed by the fate of Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi.

Memories of his grim demise must be in sharp focus now.

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