U.S. intelligence expected the Wagner PMC mercenaries to meet more serious resistance from the Russian army during the march on Moscow, and the mutiny itself would be more “brutal and bloody”, CNN reported, citing an informed U.S. official.
He said Washington was surprised at the inability of Russian Defense Ministry troops to withstand the group of mercenaries that had captured Rostov and then advanced in several columns to Moscow. Surprise was even greater by the speed with which the Kremlin made a deal with the head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“I know our estimates were that what was going to happen was going to be more brutal and bloody [than actually came out]”, the American official said.
According to U.S. intelligence, Prigozhin had long been preparing for a serious confrontation with Russian military leadership, but his specific goals were unclear. U.S. intelligence agencies knew in advance about the movement of mercenaries located in Ukraine, closer to the Russian borders, where weapons and ammunition were being taken.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also knew that Prigozhin was going to do something, The Washington Post wrote, citing informed sources. According to them, Russian special services knew about it “more than 24 hours in advance”. But it remains unclear why Putin did nothing until the last moment.
Authorities have been negotiating with Prigozhin in one form or another since the evening of June 23, when he announced the start of the “march of justice” on Moscow, said a source close to the Kremlin “Meduza”. In the afternoon of June 24, the head of the PMC himself “already tried to call Putin, but the president did not want to talk to him. However, Rogozhin still did not get additional support from the army and faced with the vague prospect of marching on the capital.
After that, the Kremlin started negotiations with the President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko, the head of the presidential administration Anton Vaino, and Russian Ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov.
As noted by analysts of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the agreement reached, according to which the Wagner PMC leaves for Belarus, could lead to the elimination of the mercenary army as an independent player under the leadership of Prigozhin. The head of the PMC may lose control over the group in exchange for the removal of criminal charges of sedition.