27.06.2023 Author: Phil Butler

Prigozhin: Washington’s “Manchurian Candidate” Inside the Halls of Russian Power

Prigozhin: Washington’s “Manchurian Candidate”

Who has the inside track on why the head of Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, went turncoat the other day? Prigozhin, whose mouth has gotten more significant with each small victory of his skilled fighters, betrayed his fellow citizens, his president, and hundreds of thousands of Russian military personnel, laying it on the line in Ukraine. The recent past and the current news cycle of the days surrounding what Vladimir Putin called “an armed mutiny” give us clues as to Prigozhin’s motives.

June 24th, 10:00 Moscow time, President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation to inform the people of what he termed “a knife in the back of our country and our people” by the head of the Wagner PMC organization, a man the West once called “Putin’s Chef,” Yevgeny Prigozhin. For those unfamiliar, Prigozhin decided to march his forces toward Moscow to topple the military leadership and the government. Fresh of a critical victory against Ukraine’s armed forces, this “would be” Putin ouster sought to ride a tide of popularity to the top. But was it a rebellion of his own making, or the carrying out of a plan from the outside?  A criminal case was opened against him immediately, but a midnight deal brokered by Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko sent Wagner forces back to their camps. However, the damage is done.

Prigozhin will go into exile in Belarus in a deal approved by Putin. The effects of the betrayal have yet to be assessed, but the unprecedented nature of Priogozhin’s villainy suggests unseen factors. Now, how the geopolitical news cycle can reveal a lot. You can grasp why this mutiny occurred now by reading the timeline in the English version of The Economic Times. But this is not the only damning evidence that Prigozhin is something more than a well-placed buffoon of a Putin ally. After all, what or who would be more valuable to Washington and the CIA than a deep plant, a Russian Manchurian Candidate? I’ll elaborate further momentarily.

As to the news cycle and Prigozhin’s timing, at about the same time, Russia’s latest version of Rasputin reared his ugly bald head to take over the Russian Air Force headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. Subhrakant Panda, President, FICCI on PM Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US, was quoted saying:

“PM Modi’s landmark visit to the US has been very successful with several substantive outcomes relating to semiconductors defense acquisitions, access to critical technology, the Artemis Accord for space cooperation, and the resolution of six outstanding trade disputes. I’m confident that this is the start of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship, with mutual trust and convergence of views on strategic issues.”

He said the U.S., India, and the world will benefit from a future that is “AI America and India.” At about the exact moment in time, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it warned Western countries against using the Wagner mercenary group’s mutiny “to achieve their Russophobic goals.” Modi in the United States, America is staggering at the thought of the BRICS dumping the dollar, and all of a sudden, a critical Russian figure makes an insane move that can only harm his country. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary parade to Moscow never made it far, but it probably never was meant to. Not now, anyway. The mission, if we can call it that, was completed. Russia, geopolitically and internally, was set back a few steps just before the ultimate collapse of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Does anyone reading this smell that familiar rat smell? It’s no coincidence that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was just in New Delhi leading up to the Modi visit to the White House. Just days before the Wagner PMC uprising, Sullivan was at a hush-hush peace summit in Denmark called by Zelensky. The writing was on the wall there, as the invitees included top security officials from the United States, the European Union, and other countries that have backed Ukraine since Russia launched its special military operation. Ukraine is losing and losing badly as its highly touted counter-offensive fizzles. Thousands more casualties are now clogging Ukraine hospitals as Zelensky throws the last of his reserves and mercenaries at impenetrable Russian defenses. The United States and its European allies are in dire need of leverage for the imminent peace deal. So, instead of forwarding several tens of billions more to Kyiv in a desperate effort, Washington got a better idea.

Buy a ruthless, big-mouth oligarch who has no loyalty whatsoever. I need the back-channel circuitry to determine how Sullivan (or George Soros) communicated the deal to Yevgeny Prigozhin. Still, his selling out is the only logical explanation for this mutiny. The Biden team needed some kind of win, and a revolt in Russia at the very moment India and the other BRICS are ready to wave goodbye to American hegemony is light years beyond coincidence. Now the mutineer goes to Minsk to collect some ungodly reward and to wait for his next opportunity. The Russians are a step backward from victory in establishing a multipolar world. At least, this is my view. Only the current play using Prigozhin is not the first time his name and one of his operations have caused Vladimir Putin and Russia big problems.

Back in 2016, the New York Times got a scoop about an alleged troll farm the Russians were supposedly using to influence, among other things, the U.S. presidential election. The Internet Research Agency, owned and run by Prigozhin’s people, allegedly had hundreds of social media operators pecking away at keyboards to kill Hillary Clinton’s chances to become president. “The Agency” was at the center of the whole Russiagate fiasco, casting a dark shadow over the Trump administration. I wrote a bestselling book entitled “Putin’s Praetorians,” debunking the idea Russia’s internet people were or are sophisticated enough to carry out some integrated troll plan. If Putin had such an agency in action, then people like me, Pepe Escobar, Russia Insider founder Charles Bausman, and RTTV’s Peter Lavelle would have Tweets echoing thunderously across social media. If there were a viable “troll army” out there, this list of Russian trolls compiled by Vox would have been following us all. To my knowledge, none of them has ever been on my follower list. You get the picture, I know. At one point, I was supposed to be the top Putin Troll in the world, so how come my every tweet was not amplified by 500,000 RTs?

But what if “The Agency” was a construct created for a kind of St. Petersburg Manchurian Candidate? I never considered that Prigozhin might be a deep plant with intentions and ideals like the oligarchs Putin exiled before they sold the Russian legacy. If he is such a deep plant of Washington, I must say the move was brilliant. This is true even if the ultimate use of such an agent is an act of desperation rather than an actual action to take over Russia. Remember that in February, Prigozhin finally stated that he financed the IRA and was instrumental in its operation.

 “I’ve never just been the financier of the Internet Research Agency. I invented it, and I created it, and it managed it for a long time.”

Prigozhin had already admitted to Russian interference in U.S. elections some months earlier. The question is, why would he do that? Now that I recall, I once worked with some associates of Prigozhin, who set up one of the dumbest information sites on planet Earth. In 2018 Prigozhin launched the project “USA Really. Wake Up Americans!” I was asked to write for the publication, and I did until I realized something was very wrong with the project. At a point, I was interviewed by Daily Beast about the project, when I assured them the site’s traffic and other characteristics could not influence anything, much less a presidential election.

As I see it now, the site was a sham designed to grab the attention of the U.S. Treasury, the F.B.I., and anyone who wanted to link Donald Trump to the Russians. At the time, I was one of the most influential Russophiles seeking to moderate the craziness about Russia. I did understand why my name was picked out of the hat to play a role in a ridiculously useless website until now. So, we see again an operation launched by Prigozhin, which could only have benefitted the U.S. deep state, Hillary Clinton, and the same elites trying to get rid of Putin and carve up Russia. Interesting, isn’t it? One of the Russian oligarchs closest to Vladimir Putin may be groomed as a Western puppet dictator. You tell me, what makes more sense?

Putin and Russia will recoup and ultimately win in Ukraine and in the quest to be a player in a multipolar world system. Russia has no choice but to succeed. The hegemony has, however, gained a bargaining chip in the eventual partitioning of Ukraine and the chess game against the BRICS. What Vladimir Putin does next will be a critical move. My only question is, “How is Yevgeny Prigozhin still breathing?” I guess he’ll now join Yukos Oil mafioso Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Bill Browder, and a slew of opportunists bent on carving up Russia. Ironically, Khodorkovsky immediately urged all Russians to support the Wagner PMC insurrection. I sense that Vladimir Putin and the Russian elites trying to save their country have an entire underworld of Washington (London, Brussels, and Berlin) plants just waiting for that phone call with the secret code words to activate them. It’s too bad that they have, as usual, underestimated the camaraderie and character of the Russian soldier.

When I presented my theory here to my old friend, former Spetsnaz (Alpha Team) Colonel Stanislav Stankevich, he nodded his head and then gave me some insight into how Russians from all walks feel about this betrayal. More importantly, he gave me his view, which is undoubtedly the view of almost all the soldiers and regular citizens of Russia. Here is what the highly respected soldier told me. Please bear with me on its length.

“A military team is a special kind of team. The leader of the team is the king, God, and everyone’s father. The father of PMC Wagner is not Putin, but Prigozhin. He created the team, fanned it with the glory of victories, protected and developed its ideas, and then sent the team to Moscow for those ideas.”

Stanislav (Stas) explained how Wagner’s soldiers found themselves in a peculiar situation where their commander got ideas of how to achieve these developed ideas. He says that even if the soldiers disagreed with the march to Moscow, they were compelled to follow orders. The Spetsnaz special operator pointed out how Prigozhin had not directly criticized Vladimir Putin, but instead blamed the leadership of the Ministry of Defense. Then, he says, this “idea that the leaders of the MOD have to be changed” not only became a feasible solution for Wagner’s fighters but also for a big part of the Russian population.

Colonel Stankevich insisted, however, that almost no one supported Prigozhin in his raid on Moscow. He says this was surprising for Prigozhin. By the day after the attempted uprising, “His authority all over the country and in the Wagner team has fallen.” Stankevich also pointed to parallels between today’s situation and the October Revolution during WW1, when German agents destabilized the country.  Stas continued by reminding me that all soldiers who defend their homeland are heroes. Then he left me with the memorable quote I share with you below.

“The day before yesterday, I respected and appreciated Prigozhin. Yesterday I would have shot him in the forehead without a doubt. Because of his ambitions, he betrayed his guys and his country. He risked our loved ones and everything we fight for and live for. No one will forgive him for that. Living with such a load is also a hefty punishment.”


Alexander Khodakovsky, one of Russia’s most respected military men, Deputy Head of the Main Directorate of the Rosgvardia in the Donetsk region, gave his take on the situation via his Telegram channel. Here is a part of that post:

“Our country will no longer be the same as before. The Wagnerian column was not moving on asphalt – it was moving through the hearts of people, cutting society in half. We prayed to God that the enemy would not take advantage of the situation and throw all the resources into battle – there would be almost no chance. It’s not easy for us as it is, but yesterday everything hung on a very thin thread.”


He also said that tens of millions of Russians will never again be able to look at the people who cheered Wagner after the group shot down Russian armed forces helicopters, killing their own comrades. Still further proof, of a kind, that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former thief, burglar, and convict, and all the time liar, was put in place for just such a mission as Khodakovsky describes, to cut through the heart of Russia.

This analysis/opinion would have sounded unbelievable in 2014, but today I believe I’ve hit on the central theme of all this Russophobia. Tell me your thoughts. Was Yevgeny Prigozhin promised a Romanov crown for his disloyalty and subterfuge?

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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