The big news over the weekend was a coup launched against the Russian government by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner private military group.

Prigozhin and a few thousand of his men crossed into Russia proper and surrounded a Russian military headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

From there, part of Prigozhin’s forces formed a convoy and set out for Moscow, about 675 miles away.

Russia deployed national guard forces around Moscow in preparation and reports indicate that seven Russian military aircraft, mostly helicopters, were shot down by Wagner forces as the convoy headed north. Between 20 and 30 Russian crewmen were reportedly killed.

But when the convoy was within 125 miles of Moscow, Prigozhin ordered the convoy to turn around and return to their bases in Russian-occupied Ukraine. The coup was over almost as quickly as it began.

What happened?

The Coup That Failed

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, brokered a deal between Putin and Prigozhin.

Under the deal, Prigozhin would not face criminal charges for instigating the insurrection, but would be exiled to Belarus. Meanwhile, the Wagner forces who participated in the action would be granted amnesty.

Those are the basic facts that we know as of today.

What we don’t know is Prigozhin’s motivations for leading the insurrection. It’s true that the targets of Prigozhin’s efforts were Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov. He never mentioned Putin by name. Still, the Shoigu feud was likely a cover for the real threat against Putin. Advancing toward a capital city with infantry and armor can only be described as a coup attempt. There’s no other word for it.

Prigozhin has publicly and loudly attacked their leadership, even accusing them of denying Wagner forces ammunition during the battle for Bakhmut. He actually posted a furious video denouncing them with dead Wagner troops in the background, essentially saying that these officials were responsible for his men’s deaths. Yet, those ammunition complaints may have been a ruse. There’s no evidence that ammunition shortages slowed down Wagner’s efforts in Bahkmut. It may have been ploy to get more ammo to stockpile for the coming coup.

And in fact, Prigozhin claimed that the Russian military deliberately launched an airstrike on Wagner positions, which caused him to lead the insurrection.

He released a video claiming it showed the damage that this airstrike caused. But many experts instantly questioned the veracity of the video, claiming it looked like a poorly staged scene.

I agree with that assessment. The video isn’t convincing at all. It looks like it was staged. The question then becomes why would Prigozhin stage the incident as a pretext to launch the coup?

Is Putin Playing 4D Chess?

The internet is naturally full of speculation. Some don’t even believe it was even an insurrection at all, that the whole thing was staged. They believe it was a Russian “psyop” and that Putin is simply playing four-dimensional chess to accomplish this or that objective.

That’s a case of overthinking the problem. Given the damage caused to Putin’s reputation, it seems extremely unlikely that this was al elaborate psyop. It’s important to recognize that Prigozhin is an egomaniac with a massively inflated sense of self-worth. As the head of Wagner, he’s achieved something of legendary status after his forces took Bakhmut.

Yet, the Russian government was about to take the Wagner group away from him. The government is requiring that all Wagner forces sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense by July 1.

In other words, rather than remaining a private military company led by Prigozhin, Wagner would be incorporated into the actual Russian military command structure.

It’s possible that Prigozhin can’t accept that reality and that he launched the insurrection in a temper tantrum against his imminent loss of Wagner.

It’s also been reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense has been canceling contracts on Prigozhin’s business ventures that help supply the Russian military. Those are lucrative deals for him.

Maybe that factored into his decision? It’s possible, but it’s all speculation at this point.

But if Prigozhin staged an attack on his forces by the Russian military, which he used as a pretext to conduct the coup, that would strongly indicate that this wasn’t a spontaneous reaction to the supposed airstrike.

It means he must have been planning this action in advance. That would explain a lot of things.

Prigozhin Goes off the Reservation

For example, Prigozhin has been making extraordinary criticisms of the Russian military that go far beyond insubordination. In fact, he sounded more and more like an outright propagandist for Ukraine.

He’s even recently claimed that the Russian government lied about its reasons for invading Ukraine and basically undercut the entire “special military operation.” He was essentially scoring propaganda points for Ukraine.

But his recent comments have gotten even more bizarre. In fact, they make absolutely no sense and I myself couldn’t figure out why he was saying them. Here’s what I mean…

It’s widely acknowledged that the much-anticipated Ukrainian spring offensive has been a disaster for Ukraine. They’re losing massive amounts of men and equipment, all for little to no gain.

After about three weeks, Ukrainian forces still haven’t penetrated Russia’s forward positions. They haven’t even reached the first line of heavily fortified defenses that Russia’s constructed.

Ukraine may have taken some tiny hamlets in the forward area, but that’s it. Not even Ukraine or its cheerleaders in the Western media claim that the offensive has been a success. Here’s where it gets interesting…

Now It Makes Sense

While the offensive has been a near total failure so far, Prigozhin has been screaming about how the Russian army is collapsing and that Ukrainian forces have taken key towns deep within the Russian defense zones.

In response, Russian soldiers in those towns posted videos showing them in the towns, saying that there hasn’t been any fighting there at all and that it’s completely quiet. Ukrainian forces aren’t anywhere near them. They certainly aren’t occupying the towns.

So why would Prigozhin make such preposterous and demonstrably false claims about Ukrainian gains? Remember, not even Ukraine itself or the Western media are making these claims.

Before the insurrection, I couldn’t figure out why he was saying these things. But now, in retrospect, I think there’s an explanation.

It seems likely that Prigozhin was trying to create the impression that Russia’s military effort was collapsing due to corrupt and incompetent leadership, so that he could mount his proverbial white horse, ride to Moscow and present himself as a savior.

I think that’s a reasonable interpretation given the known facts.

At the time when he probably conceived of the idea, he assumed, like so many on the pro-Ukraine side, that the offensive would show at least some initial gains.

Even military analysts who believed the Ukrainian offensive would fail believed that it would make initial gains.

Prigozhin probably thought he could leverage those gains to construct a false narrative about a Russian military collapse. Unfortunately for Prigozhin, Ukraine hasn’t made any gains to speak of.

But he apparently decided to go ahead with the plan anyway. Of course, I admit that this is all speculation. But I don’t know how else to explain Prigozhin’s absurd and demonstrably false comments recently.

Was the West in on It?

There’s another question. If Prigozhin was plotting this action in advance, was anyone else in on it? Might he have even been in cahoots with Ukraine and NATO?

It’s widely believed that Prigozhin has contacts with Western intelligence agencies. Might they have put the idea in his head, convincing him that he’d have the support of factions within the Russian government and military?

I can’t say — let me say it again, this is just speculation. I’m only working with limited information. But it’s curious that outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post ran articles this weekend claiming that U.S. intelligence agencies have known since mid-June that Prigozhin was planning an insurrection.

It could be that these agencies are just trying to make themselves look good by saying they knew it was coming when in fact they didn’t. But it’s been reported that intelligence officials briefed key congressional leaders about the plot last week.

How did they know about it? Maybe they were working with Prigozhin? Regime change in Russia has long been an objective of the West. Maybe they thought Prigozhin could bring it about.

Again, I’m simply raising the possibility. I have no evidence to support it.

But if that’s the case, they were dead wrong. Not one Russian military unit or government official supported Prigozhin’s insurrection. Realizing that he had no support whatsoever, he backed down.

Rather than proving Putin’s weakness, which the mainstream was arguing as the insurrection unfolded, it only proved Putin’s strength. Everyone backed him. In fact, this episode will only strengthen him.

Back to the drawing board for the anti-Putin propagandists! I’m sure Victoria Nuland is deeply disappointed by the complete collapse of the insurrection.

There’s much we don’t know about this story. Some of it still doesn’t make sense. I’ll try to give you a better idea of what happened in the days ahead.

But there’s one highly disturbing development that may be occurring in Ukraine right now that should worry everyone. Make sure to check back in tomorrow, when I’ll break it all down for you.

The Daily Reckoning