In Russia, the armed rebellion against the government ended in less than 24 hours. However, the apparent disorder within the Russian military might help Ukrainian troops. It has also improved morale.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is leader of the Wagner group, a group of military fighters who are not part of Russia’s military but worked with it in the past. Prigozhin attempted what is being called a mutiny in the Russian military city of Rostov-on-Don late last week. Russia's struggle to protect Moscow were met with cheers by Ukraine’s military commanders, said a spokesperson, Serhii Cherevatiy.
“Any chaos and disorder on the enemy’s side benefits us,” he said.
More statements from Ukraine’s top commanders described the situation as a sign of more problems to come.
The crisis ended with a deal that would send Prigozhin into exile in Belarus. But Ukrainians were watching closely. They said that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreeing to a deal hours after calling Prigozhin a traitor made him appear weak.
The crisis did not seem to affect Russia’s army along the 1,000-kilometer front line in eastern Ukraine. But it could give Ukraine the energy it needs to strengthen the beginning of its expected counteroffensive. Military leaders have said it is going slower than expected.
Nigel Gould-Davies is a military expert at the International Institute for Strategic Affairs based in London. He said the crisis kept attention away from the war in the short-term. In the longer term, it shows a lack of unity among Russia’s soldiers.
“It’s terrible for Russia’s morale. The officers and soldiers alike. It’s very good for Ukraine’s morale,” Gould-Davies said.
Andrii Kvasnytsia is a 50-year-old Ukrainian soldier. “Everyone is excited,” he said.
Hanna Malyar is Ukraine’s deputy defense minister. She said as Wagner troops marched towards Moscow, Ukraine made progress in several directions along the front line where fighting has been going on for weeks. She said Russian gains were stopped further to the north.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week that a new reserve army would be formed by the end of June. The new troops would strengthen Russia’s military along the Ukrainian front. Russia has sent 90 percent of its forces there and they already outnumber Ukrainian fighters.
Experts say the Ukrainians need to remain quick and ready to change plans to hurt Russia along the front line.
With modern NATO weapons systems, strong morale is important to perform well.
Ukrainian commanders told their fighters they had indirectly caused the problems in Russia. Cherevatiy said, “The heroes of Bakhmut who held the city for 10 months and exhausted the enemy” are responsible for this.
The truth is more complex, however. The conflict between Prigozhin and the Russian military leadership began before the invasion. Wagner’s effectiveness compared to the regular army’s raised Prigozhin’s popularity. It may have led him to go ahead with the rebellion.
In Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhia area on Sunday, soldiers fired at Russian targets from their positions. They directed their anger at Russia with each shell.
I’m Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by the Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
morale — n. a feeling of hope and loyalty that a person or group has about a job or task
mutiny — n. a situation in which a group of people in an organization refuse to take orders and try to seize control from their commanders
chaos — n. a state of complete disorder and lawlessness
benefit –v. to be good for; to aid or help
traitor — n. a person who is not loyal to their country; a person who does something against the interests of their own people and supports the enemy
exhausted — adj. having spent one's energy; extremely tired; used up