Vladimir Putin had a chaotic weekend

When your colleagues ask how your weekend was, you can say, “Much more chill than Vladimir Putin’s, that’s for sure.”

Driving the news: Russia was engulfed by unrest over the weekend when mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin led his Wagner Group troops to within a few-hours drive of Moscow before abruptly abandoning his mutiny and going into exile.

Catch up: If you were enjoying a nice patio beer rather than following all this on Twitter, here’s what went down…

  • On Friday, Prigozhin published videos on the social media platform Telegram criticizing Russia’s military leaders and claiming his troops were attacked by Russian forces.
  • On Saturday morning, Russia’s top security agency ordered Prigozhin’s arrest. He responded by pulling Wagner Group troops out of Ukraine and capturing Rostov-on-Don, a city around 1000 kilometres south of Moscow.
  • By Saturday afternoon, Wagner troops had advanced to Elets, a town 400 kilometres south of Moscow, meeting little resistance along the way. Putin’s presidential plane left Moscow during this time, though his spokesperson denied Putin fled the city.
  • Then a surprise twist: Prigozhin and Putin struck a deal that saw Wagner forces return to their bases and Prigozhin agree to exile in Belarus in exchange for amnesty. By Saturday night, it was all over. 

Why it matters: The aborted mutiny brought Russia to the edge of civil conflict and revealed cracks in Putin’s control of the country. 

  • There’s also the not-so-small matter of the nearly 6000 nuclear warheads in Russia’s arsenal, and what could happen to them if the country were to experience more upheaval.
  • “You want to know who has control of the nuclear weapons because you’re worried that terrorists or bad guys like (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov might come after them,” a former senior CIA official told Reuters.

What’s next: For now, Putin is still on top, and Kremlin officials insist that the events of the weekend will not change anything with regard to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, but it’s unlikely that there won’t be more fallout to come.