On the night of June 23, Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was getting ready to provide the order for his males to march to Moscow and demand the elimination of Russia’s navy management after months of rising tensions.
In the meantime, a seemingly unremarkable occasion was unfolding contained in the State Duma’s imposing Stalinist headquarters a number of hundred meters from the Kremlin — one that almost turned an unprecedented political scandal.
At round 5 p.m., a number of dozen folks gathered for a roundtable within the State Duma’s Minor Corridor.
Sergei Mironov, the pinnacle of the A Simply Russia – Patriots – For Reality get together and a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin, opened the session with a pre-recorded video message that was adopted by remarks from a number of different MPs and functionaries.
Of their speeches, the MPs criticized Moscow’s inadequate help for mobilized and volunteer troopers preventing in Ukraine, suggesting introducing authorities bonds and a state monopoly on alcohol to spice up the navy’s funding.
Prigozhin had secretly deliberate to attend this session to ship a harsh criticism of Russia’s navy high brass from the ground of the State Duma in a last-ditch try to win again Putin’s approval — however his plans have been canceled on the final minute, The Moscow Occasions has realized.
These plans have been disclosed on situation of anonymity by an individual acquainted with Prigozhin and his plans and a supply within the State Duma. An individual near the management of the A Simply Russia get together confirmed this data.
“He was going to voice the entire array of issues with the SVO [special military operation’], with the Protection Ministry, the true variety of casualties amongst our fighters, and many others. The entire f****d up factor, actually,” the individual informed The Moscow Occasions. “His assistants have been getting ready his go to.”
With the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and Wagner’s elevated function on the frontline, Prigozhin’s affect grew quickly and peaked dramatically. Quickly, he had grow to be one in all Russia’s most seen public figures.
By June 2023, his reputation with Russians had reached a document degree. He appeared fifth — after Putin, the overseas minister, protection minister, and prime minister — on the rating of figures most trusted by the Russian public, in accordance to the Romir polling company.
Nonetheless, his rising affect and his aggressive method of doing enterprise provoked and exacerbated conflicts with the Russian military in addition to with members of Russia’s elite.
These included Yury Kovalchuk, Putin’s childhood buddy and main shareholder of Rossiya Financial institution; the Federal Safety Service (FSB); and Sergei Kiriyenko, Putin’s first deputy chief of employees and home coverage supervisor, the unbiased IStories information outlet reported in late 2022.
Kremlin-controlled media shops have been ordered from the start of 2023 to restrict how usually they talked about Prigozhin, particularly as his statements on Wagner’s ammunition shortages turned extra aggressive, the unbiased Vyorstka information outlet reported in late February.
By the late spring and early summer season of 2023, the Wagner chief all of the sudden discovered himself a pariah.
As his battle with Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu and Common Workers chief Valery Gerasimov got here to a head, the casual affect that had all the time been one in all his benefits was drying up. He was disadvantaged of the power to personally talk about and resolve points with the Kremlin and the federal government, and misplaced his entry to Putin.
“Even these places of work the place he used to have the ability to actually kick open the door have been off-limits to him,” a authorities supply informed The Moscow Occasions.
To get the president’s consideration and win his help, he must take extraordinary measures.
“The Duma, although it doesn’t make such choices, appeared to him in some methods a chance to leap into the final carriage of a departing practice,” a supply near the United Russia get together management informed The Moscow Occasions.
Prigozhin visited the State Duma within the spring to hunt permission to talk from the lectern. Nonetheless, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin turned down his request.
“Volodin rejected this, as there was a ban from the Kremlin on any exercise by ‘Putin’s chef’,” a supply within the Duma informed The Moscow Occasions.
After this, the choice was made to prepare Prigozhin’s presentation with the assistance of his allies from the A Simply Russia – Patriots – For Reality get together.
After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the get together was broadly perceived as sympathetic towards Prigozhin and Wagner. The get together tried to legalize Wagner, whereas Mironov himself boasted of his friendship with Prigozhin and posed with a sledgehammer — a image of Wagner’s cruelty.
The get together’s different chief, pro-Kremlin author and nationalist Zakhar Prilepin, posted a selfie with Prigozhin from a hospital, saying on his Telegram channel that they mentioned the course of the invasion.
“[It was] all ready in secret from the Duma management and get together management,” a supply within the get together mentioned.
The late Wagner chief was purported to enter the Duma by invitation from a celebration deputy.
His interior circle was critically contemplating the likelihood that he can be accompanied by Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the previous head of Russia’s invasion pressure, to make his tackle extra convincing, a supply acquainted with the plans informed The Moscow Occasions, including that the 2 had been very shut.
“Prigozhin wanted a high-status, official platform with the Russian coat of arms. In line with his plan, in that occasion, his uncensored statements would undoubtedly be delivered to and put proper on Putin’s desk,” an individual near the State Duma management informed The Moscow Occasions.
The footage of his speech on the get together roundtable with a recognizable entourage from the Russian parliament would have performed to his benefit. And the media protection of his harsh statements within the Duma would have pressured Putin’s aides to tell him of the incident.
On June 22, the day earlier than the deliberate speech, The Moscow Occasions’ sources have been informed that Prigozhin’s participation within the roundtable assembly had been canceled with out clarification.
“Prigozhin’s press reporters ought to have been on the roundtable. The package deal was not purported to be printed the identical day, however later. There was to be a serious scandal afterward,” a supply within the get together mentioned.
When requested if he knew of Prigozhin’s plans, A Simply Russia deputy Oleg Nilov, one of many roundtable’s audio system, responded with a hyperlink to a video of International Minister Sergei Lavrov telling reporters: “What would you like, moron?”
Different members of the roundtable didn’t reply.
The Moscow Occasions despatched requests for remark to the State Duma press workplace, in addition to to these of the A Simply Russia – Patriots – For Reality get together, Mironov and Prilepin. None have responded.
Inside hours of the roundtable, Prigozhin declared a “march of justice” on Moscow. Wagner mercenaries occupied a navy headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and ship a column of troops towards Moscow till Prigozhin agreed to face down some 24 hours later.
In two months, Prigozhin and different Wagner leaders would die in a aircraft crash northwest of Moscow.
Prigozhin had desperately wished to enter Russian politics as a professional and equal participant — and after he didn’t do it from the entrance door, he tried to get in from the again door, Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace, informed The Moscow Occasions.
“Each the key preparation of the failed Duma speech and his march on Moscow are makes an attempt to regain the president’s favor. He didn’t need to take energy, however to indicate his capabilities,” Kolesnikov mentioned.
“However he selected the incorrect means and miscalculated.”