The Knives Come Out for Putin - The Monday AM Quickie 6/26/23

Hope y'all had a good Pride weekend! - Corey

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Fascist-on-Fascist Violence Hits Russia

The world looks different now than it did last week. Close readers of the newsletter were already familiar with Wagner Group mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin before this past weekend, when he launched, then quickly abandoned, an open mutiny against Russia's military leadership. It was also, possibly, an attempted coup d'etat targeting Aspiring Tsar Vladimir Putin himself. This is definitely not what Putin hoped for when he decided to invade Ukraine, leaning heavily on Prigozhin's brutal mercenaries, many of whom were recruited from prison, to do so.

Tensions had been building for months between Wagner and the Russian military, and Prigozhin frequently disparaged Russian military leaders, casting himself as an aggrieved patriot. On Friday morning, Prigozhin took to social media to accuse Russian generals of ordering airstrikes against Wagner fighters. The Russian state responded by ordering Prigozhin's arrest. Then, on Saturday morning, Wagner forces took control of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don with little resistance, seizing a key military installation there. From Rostov, Prigozhin's mutineers pushed on toward Moscow in a large column with tanks and other heavy weapons. Prigozhin called it a "march for justice," but Putin, on television that night, called it treason. The Russian capital declared an "anti-terrorist operation regime" and began preparing for possible invasion and civil war.

Then by Saturday night, with his mercenaries within 125 miles of Moscow, Prigozhin ordered his men to turn around. He claimed he wanted to avoid bloodshed and that the abrupt reversal was all part of his plan, but who knows whether that's true. What we do know is that the Kremlin confirmed that it had agreed to a deal that will see Prigozhin exiled to Belarus and his mercenaries granted some kind of amnesty and the unenviable opportunity to join the Russian military. It sure looks like Putin, who came to power in post-Soviet turmoil, survived an attempted coup -- but he still looks weaker than he did before all this happened. Per the Financial Times:

"It's a huge humiliation for Putin, of course. That's obvious," said a Russian oligarch who has known the Russian president since the 1990s. "Thousands of people without any resistance are going from Rostov almost to Moscow, and nobody can do anything. Then [Putin] announced they would be punished, and they were not. That's definitely a sign of weakness."

Are Putin's days now numbered? Maybe, but if so, what then? The U.S. government, which claims some advance knowledge of Prigozhin's plot, is among those concerned about what happens with Russia's nuclear weapons if the Russian state collapses. In the short term, the mutiny is probably good news for Ukraine and its war effort. The weakening of Wagner also promises some relief for people in a number of African countries where the mercenary group operates. Beyond that, it's hard to say. The thing is, "we don't know if it's over," as Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, tells the Washington Post. "We can speculate all we want, but the fact is we have little idea of what happens next."

2024 Watch: Newsom Has an Eye on 2028

  • Trump Leans on Small Donors to Pay His Legal Bills The campaign finance rules Trump may or may not be breaking "are both dizzying and somewhat in dispute." via the New York Times.
  • Trump's GOP Primary Lead Grew After Indictment Between April and June, floundering fascist Florida Gov. RonDeSantis lost nearly 10 percent of his support among likely Republican primary voters. via NBC News.
  • 'Boo All You Want,' Chris Christie Tells Evangelicals The crowd at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. jeered the New Jersey Republican after he said Trump "let us down." via Politico.
  • Gavin Newsom's Staff Celebrates Whenever Ron DeSantis Takes Their Bait "Democrats nationally view Newsom's [feud with DeSantis] as helping the party and helping Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris win reelection." via the Los Angeles Times.

Benefits Cuts Keep Americans Hungry, Uneducated

More Americans are going hungry this year, NBC News reports. The latest consumer spending data shows 47 percent of households earning less than $50,000 per year got food stamp benefits in May, up from 39 percent in February. But benefits have declined due to the expiration of federal pandemic aid, and households on both sides of that income divide are spending more of their income on food due to inflation. Nutrition is likely suffering as a result; more than half of low-income households report eating less food due to the cost of groceries. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that new work requirements could force a million university students off of the food stamp rolls. Combined with other expanded work requirements for federal benefits, these right-wing policies will deter Americans from attending college and getting higher-paying jobs. Which no doubt suits the Republican Party donor base just fine!


  • Conservatives on Track to Win Greek Elections The right-wing New Democracy party polled at 40 percent, 20 points ahead of the leading left party, Syriza; a new far-right party, Spartans, will enter parliament for the first time. via BBC News.
  • Montana Bridge Collapses, Hazardous Train Cargo Spills No injuries were reported when the train, carrying hot asphalt and molten sulfur, plunged into the Yellowstone River on Saturday. via the Associated Press.
  • Radioactive U.S. Navy Site Slated for Housing Development Public health groups are accusing the government of covering up the dangers at a former shipyard in San Francisco's Hunters Point neighborhood. via the Guardian.
  • Hollywood Actors Guild 'Optimistic' About Contract Talks SAG-AFTRA leadership told members over the weekend that talks with studios have been "extremely productive," suggesting a strike may be unlikely. via the Los Angeles Times.


2.5 million

That's how many people are participating in this year's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the highest number on record. Christian tourism to Saudi Arabia is also up, according to the New York Times.


6/26: Happy Monday! Sam and Emma speak to Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, history Ph.D candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, to discuss the recent developments in the Russian/Ukraine conflict that have transpired since Friday.


Why Hateful Anti-Trans Bigots Are Going to Lose

Kansas is the latest battleground for human rights.

Obama's Syrian Assumptions Were Very Wrong

In fairness, I suppose, he wasn't the only one.


"I know one thing: poor people would take this deadly journey again as they are living in misery in Pakistan and economic conditions are unbearable. The governments would do better to stop this, rather than drowning them in the open sea."

-- Pakistani law student Anees Majeed, who lost five relatives in the migrant boat that sank off the Greek coast this month, speaking to the Guardian about the desperation that drove them on a journey they knew could end in death.

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