Putin accuses Wagner chief of stoking ‘armed rebellion’

Russian National Guard officers patrol outside the Kremlin in Moscow on June 24.
Russian National Guard officers patrol outside the Kremlin in Moscow on June 24. AFP/Getty Images

Chaos in the Kremlin couldn’t come at a better time for Ukraine.

What Russian President Vladimir Putin described as an “armed rebellion” by Wagner mercenaries is a godsend for a country that has been preparing for months to launch a counteroffensive aimed at dealing a body-blow to the Russian military.

A video clip widely circulating on social media in Ukraine shows then-actor-now-President Volodymyr Zelensky sitting down in a comfortable chair, popping open a beer and picking up a bowl of popcorn, smiling in anticipation at what, we assume, is a television set.

Late Friday evening as the drama was unfolding in Russia, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry sent out a simple tweet. “We are watching.”

Suddenly, after 16 months of full-scale war, there is something else for Ukrainians to watch — the Russian invaders fighting among themselves.

The word of the day in Ukraine is “schadenfreude” — pleasure felt at another’s misfortune.

Earlier this month Ukraine announced the start of its much-anticipated counteroffensive. Until now the results have been modest—the liberation of eight small villages, 113 square kilometres or 44 square miles of territory, according to the Defense Ministry.

The CNN crew in southern Ukraine was up near the front lines Friday. What we saw was an extensive concentration of troops and weapons (many of them the latest Western weapons systems) and other equipment poised to advance.

Before the offensive has even entered its main phase, however, it is already bearing fruit, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelensky.

“The launch of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has finally destabilized the Russian elites, exacerbating the internal split that emerged after the defeat in Ukraine,” he commented in a statement to the media.

Midday in Kyiv, President Zelensky tweeted “the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later.”

Those problems, it seems, are mounting by the hour.

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