Ukraine at D+490: Sergey Vladimirovich, phone home.
N2K logoJun 29, 2023

The future of the Wagner Group seems to lie in Belarus, if indeed it lies anywhere at all. Still, neighbors are concerned.

Ukraine at D+490: Sergey Vladimirovich, phone home.

The death toll in the missile strike against downtown Kramatorsk has risen to twelve, at least four of whom are said to have been children. Fifty-six others (sixty-one, by other accounts) were injured. Russia claims it killed two Ukrainian generals in the strike, but no one else sees evidence of anything other than a willful and brutal attack against a civilian target. The AP reports that "The attack also damaged 18 multistory buildings, 65 houses, five schools, two kindergartens, a shopping center, an administrative building and a recreational building, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said." Ukraine's Security Service have arrested a man they say filmed the pizza restaurant that was at the center of the attack and forwarded his video to Russian forces in order to inform them of its popularity.

Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty reports that Ukrainian defense officials say they're making slow but steady progress along the line of contact.

The Wagnerites in Belarus.

The Wagner Group hasn't signed its proffered contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense and therefore will be denied any further role in the fighting against Ukraine, the Guardian reports. As the contract military organization increases its presence in Belarus, NATO strengthens its eastern flank against the possibility of operations from Belarus as well as from Russia. Poland is particularly concerned. How the Wagner Group will continue to function, or what form it will take, remains unclear. The Wall Street Journal interprets recent outreach by President Putin to African governments who've employed Wagnerite mercenaries as part of a bid to take control of the organization as a whole.

Uneasy times for those suspected of supporting Mr. Prigozhin's march.

The New York Times reports that, whatever remission of sins President Putin may have promised Mr. Prigozhin and his besotted Wagner grunts, such forgiveness may not be extended to those within the Russian establishment suspected of sympathizing with the march on Moscow. A leading suspect is General Sergey Vladimirovich "Armageddon" Surovikin, former commander of the Ukrainian theater and now the current commander's deputy. Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty says his whereabouts are unknown, the Guardian says he's "missing," and the Financial Times says he's been taken into custody by the Russian organs. The Kremlin officially calls the talk about General Surovkin "gossip and speculation." General Surovikin was the first prominent officer to denounce Mr. Prigozhin's mutiny, but that may have been an attempt to cover his own arguably guilty tracks: US intelligence sources are said to believe the general had advance knowledge of Mr. Prigozhin's intentions.

As far as the Wagnerites' intentions are known, it's now believed by many that indeed the march on Moscow was a war on REMFs, and that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Mr. Prigozhin planned to capture big-wigs in the Ministry of Defense, notably Defense Minister Shoigu and General Staff Chief Gerasimov. Business Insider breathlessly writes that Mr. Prigozhin had a better plan that fell through--he's believed to have expected regular formations to flock to his march instead of merely standing dumbly aside. And the source of that expectation may have been General Surovikin.

Minor operational fallout from the march on Moscow.

This morning the UK's Ministry of Defence discussed the implications of losing an airborne command-and-control platform during the Wagner Group's mutiny. "On 24 June, air defence forces of the Wagner private military company reportedly shot down Russian military helicopters and an Ilyushin Il-22M airborne command post aircraft. The Il-22M is part of a relatively small fleet of up to 12 aircraft, heavily utilised for both airborne command and control, and radio relay tasks. These special mission aircraft have played a key role in orchestrating Russian forces in their war against Ukraine. As high value assets they have operated within the safety of Russian airspace, far beyond the range of Ukrainian air defence systems. The loss of this aircraft is likely to have a negative impact on Russian air and land operations. In the short term the psychological shock of losing a large number of aircrew in this manner will almost certainly damage morale within the Russian Aerospace Force. In the longer term, there is a possibility that current tasking levels may have to be reduced to safely manage the remaining fleet. This will likely undermine Russia's ability to command and coordinate its forces, particularly during periods of high tempo operations."

Unconfirmed reports say the Wagner Group hacked a Russian satellite communications provider.

Cybernews reports that the Wagner Group claims to have conducted a destructive cyberattack against Dozor-Teleport, a satellite firm that provides communications services to some elements of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Discussions of the (reported) incident should be treated with caution if not outright skepticism. They appear to originate with a Telegram channel having few followers and no obvious connection to the Wagner Group. They've been amplified by Ukrainian social media accounts.

Anonymous Sudan is wounded by reports that it's a Russian front.

We'd say "cat's paw" except we don't want to be offensive in suggesting that someone's like an animal. “Everything that is hostile to Islam and all countries that are hostile to Islam are hostile to Russia,” a representative of the allegedly Anonymous and allegedly Sudanese group told Bloomberg. Contra Anonymous Sudan's denials, Bloomberg quotes Stockholm-based security firm Truesec to the effect that "Anonymous Sudan is a Russian information operation that aims to use its Islamic credentials to be an advocate for closer cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world – always claiming that Russia is the Muslims’ friend. This makes them a useful proxy.” In this Truesec represents informed opinion. Anonymous Sudan has lately taken to calling its opponents "dogs" in the evident belief that the characteristic Middle-Eastern insult lends them Islamist street-cred. Sure you're right, dawg....