Ukraine at D+491: Sorting out the Wagnerite mutiny.
N2K logoJun 30, 2023

The question answers itself, but the head of Russia's National Guard asked it anyway: if the West knew what Prigozhin had in mind, shouldn't they have warned President Putin? (No, General Zolotov, no way.)

Ukraine at D+491: Sorting out the Wagnerite mutiny.

Ukrainian forces continue to make slow but steady progress against Russian-held territory. Ukraine's General Zaluzhny advises patience and explains the need for more Western weapons.

Last night the AP reported that General Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin, Commander of Aerospace Forces and one of General Gerasimov's deputies in Ukraine, is still unaccounted for. He and several of his principal subordinates haven't been heard from for three days, and informed speculation holds that he's probably been taken into custody in connection with what Moscow probably perceives as complicity in the mutiny of Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner Group last Saturday. The Telegraph, citing other media reports, says that he's not (yet) in jail, but is being "held in one place" while he's being put to the question concerning his relations with the Wagnerites.

Should General Surovikin indeed be imprisoned, that would mark his second tour as a yardbird: he was arrested as a junior officer in connection with his role in the failed 1991 coup during the final months of Soviet power. In that case he was on the side of Soviet hardliners seeking the overthrow of Mikhail Gorbachev. President Yeltsin subsequently pardoned then-Captain Surovikin on the grounds that he was only following orders.

If General Surovikin is, as he seems to be, the big Russian institutional loser, the Wagner mutiny's big winner seems to be General Viktor Zolotov, commander of the internal security troops of Russia's National Guard. Newsweek reports that General Zolotov continues to paint "the West" as the real instigators of the mutiny. They knew all about it, he says, and he's furious that "the West," especially the Americans, didn't give President Putin the courtesy of a warning.

NoName057(16)’s DDoSia campaign grows, and targets Wagner, post-insurrection.

Since NoName057(16)’s distributed denial of service (DDoS) public recruiting campaign, “DDoSia,” began in early 2022, its participants have grown significantly. BleepingComputer reports a 2400% growth in  active users (10,000 as of June 29th) and its telegram channel has swelled to over 45,000 people. Sekoia released a detailed report regarding the paid DDoS service offered by NoName057(16), and writes “We clearly identify that the pro-Kremlin hacktivist group NoName057(16), primarily focuses on Ukraine and NATO countries, including the Eastern Flank (Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic and Latvia). It is highly likely that this stems from the fact that those countries are the most vocal in public declarations against Russia and pro-Ukraine, as well as providing military support and capabilities.” The group has been noted to reactively target countries as they express their support to Ukraine with arms shipments and anti-Russian sentiments.

These “pro-Kremlin hacktivists,” as Sekoia calls them, began to attack Wagner sites on June 24th, which coincided with the Wagner mutiny and subsequent march on Moscow. “This is the first observed attack against one single victim, as the NoName057(16) group usually targets an average of 15 different victims per day. Another considerable difference can be noted, while they usually do so for other victims, the attackers did not communicate about the attack on their Telegram channel,” writes Sekoia.

Update: Unidentified hackers attack Russian satellite communications company, claiming to be Wagner.

Unidentified hackers, claiming to be the Wagner PMC group, targeted the Russian satellite communications company Dozor, and have defaced several websites with the Wagner logo. “The group posted a link to a zip file containing 674 files, including pdfs, images and documents. On Thursday morning, the group also posted three files that appear to show connections between the FSB and Dozor, and the passwords Dozor employees were to use to verify that they were dealing with actual FSB representatives, with one password valid for every two months in 2023, according to a Google translation,” writes CyberScoop. Dozor-Teleport was confirmed to be disconnected from the internet on June 29th by Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for Kentik. The Record reports, “The hackers claim that they damaged some of the satellite terminals and leaked and destroyed confidential information stored on the company's servers. The group posted 700 files, including documents and images, to a leak site, as well as some to their newly created Telegram channel. One of the documents reveals a purported agreement that grants Russian security services access to subscriber information from Amtel Svyaz. Recorded Future News was unable to verify the authenticity of these documents.” InformNapalm has also reported on the attack on their telegram page, however they refrained from naming Wagner as the group responsible. It should be noted that, at the time of writing, no Wagner social media have claimed credit for this attack. A Ukrainian false flag operation remains very much a possibility.

The role of OSINT in tracking Russia's war.

One of the lessons taught by Russia's war against Ukraine has been the utility and prominence of open-source intelligence (OSINT) in following the action. Observers have learned not to confuse cost with value, and a multitude of new sources, networked and equipped with smartphones, has altered the way in which journalists and even intelligence services follow developments. Flashpoint has an overview of how OSINT has enabled the formation of a tolerably accurate picture of even so murky an event as the Wagner Group's mutiny. Social media, and especially Telegram, have been a principal source of information about the march on Moscow and its sequelae. They've also provided a useful check on official statements.

A look at Russia's rising military budget.

The morning situation report from the British Ministry of Defence looks at Russia's military budget. "In a June 2023 report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) assessed that Russia’s military spending budget for 2023 is around 6.6 trillion rubles (USD $85.8bn). This equates to about 4.4 per cent of Russian GDP compared with 3.6 per cent in 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s true military expenditure remains uncertain due to a lack of transparency, including the use of classified budget lines, which account for approximately 22 per cent of the Russian Government’s total budget. Although only part of the defence budget is spent on the war in Ukraine, the increase in spending highlights the cost of Russia’s activity in Ukraine. In addition, Russia almost certainly faces extra direct budgetary defence costs due to the war, including security expenses in the occupied regions and defensive measures in regions bordering Ukraine."