21 February 2024

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Putin’s dragnet may be ready to capture the Russian pilots who refused instructions to strike Wagner forces.

  • Senior officials and generals with direct ties to Prigozhin aren’t the only ones who appear to be under suspicion of dishonesty.
  • For refusing orders to fire on the Wagner columns during their revolt, some pilots and airmen reportedly face questioning.
  • Some Russian bloggers thought it was unfair to punish the aviators while letting the mutineers off the hook.

Questions about how thousands of Russian mercenaries could approach Moscow and pose a danger have cast a shadow of suspicion over Russia’s vast security apparatus, and it appears that this distrust extends well beyond the senior officials and generals who had close contacts with the coup leader.

Russian jets launched fire on Wagner Group mercenaries to try to stop their advance over the weekend, but several pilots and airmen are now facing charges for refusing orders to fire. At least two mil bloggers, who are well-known for their reporting and analysis on Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine, claim that to be the case.

According to a blogger who goes by the name Romanov, as many as four Russian aircrews disobeyed orders to attack the column out of concern that their attacks might damage nearby civilian vehicles. “Concerning the pilots who refused to carry out the order to strike at the column, there is also the threat of initiating a criminal case,” the blogger wrote. No details about these airmen’s identities or jobs are provided in the entry.

According to another blogger, the information from these investigations was “not fiction.”

Investigations are also being launched into the acts of the Russian border guards who gave up the Wagner columns in front of their checkpoint rather than trying to hold off a stronger and more numerous army, which unquestionably would have resulted in suicide.

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As Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts to regain his authority following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s violent revolt, Russian officials have mainly remained silent about a broad dragnet that looks to be in action. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, one of Ukraine’s senior military leaders, who have connections to Wagner and was reportedly aware of the Prigozhin-led uprising, is among those who appear to be undergoing interrogation while detained.

Russian pilots who refused instructions to strike Wagner forces

Controversial questions surround investigations including police with lower ranks. Wagner’s fighters are said to have fired down up to six helicopters and one command plane, killing at least 13 troops, including all 10 airmen onboard an Il-22 airborne command plane. However, in a compromise to prevent additional bloodshed that was accepted by Putin, the FSB state security service closed the criminal investigation into Prigozhin and his mutineers and let them depart Russia for safety in neighboring Belarus.

Military bloggers, who frequently represent the opinions of Russian servicemen, aren’t happy with the radically different treatment.

One milblogger said, “Tell me, is it possible to save the officers who did not allow bloodshed from such a selective application of criminal law if the criminal case against Prigozhin is closed and all the participants in the rebellion are forgiven?”

The blogger who claimed that the inquiries into the activities of the Russian aircrews were legal also drew attention to the apparent hypocrisy of prosecuting the Russian aircrews while letting “the main rebel,” a.k.a. Prigozhin, off the hook for the mutiny.

In addition to saying that Prigozhin is being investigated for stealing from the Russian government, Putin is reported to have spoken of assassinating the creator of Wagner. Even though it is unknown where Prigozhin is right now, he seems to be safe in Belarus.