Tania Krasnova, a single mother of two from Nizhny Novgorod, put her coffee cup on the table in amazement. Telegram is flooded with videos of tanks in Moscow, headlines saying “Wagner soldiers captured Voronezh” just 300 miles from the capital. “I thought: quick, they were in Rostov a few hours ago.”
That’s when she saw Putin’s angry face on television about a “betrayal” and an “armed rebellion” which she realized was serious. Oh, this isn’t just a joke, she thought.
First a pandemic, then a war and now a coup. Krasnova, knows exactly what to do: withdraw cash from a bank account, buy buckwheat – Russia’s favorite dish in any crisis – and go to the dacha; many Russians have some summer cottage in a quiet village, even if it is extremely modest.
The next question is if she has to go and hide to get through this, for how long? “How much buckwheat should I stock up on?” she asked.
Olga, a retired doctor in Saint Petersburg, also said that it was Putin’s sudden television appearance that caught the attention. It was the phrase “Prigozhin stabbed Russia in the back” that hit her. For years, Yevgeny Prigozhin was one of Putin’s closest allies, running the notorious Wagner mercenary group that carried out the president’s darkest missions. On Saturday, Putin announced to the world that Prigozhin—and his 25,000 combat men—had decisively abandoned their master.
“I think Putin spooked most people, his own words interest more Russians than all the videos of tanks in Rostov, because before his speech many people thought that it was a performance, a performance staged for some strange reason,” Olga told The Daily Beast. “I’ll see if there’s any buckwheat left in my grocery store on the block—that’ll be a sign.”
One woman in Moscow began jokingly, “My stock of good wine is pretty good, I can keep it for three to four weeks at the dacha,” she told The Daily Beast.
Then she added seriously. “But I think it’s time to fly to Türkiye while the airports are still open.”
For Russia’s top Kremlin scientists, Prigozhin’s coup plot was not a big surprise. The author of All the men of the Kremlin, Mikhail Zygar, foresaw it and endured The Daily Beast Putin’s reaction to the mess was remarkable. “We haven’t seen Putin this angry in a long time. It looks like there will be a real war and real bloodshed — Putin has no choice: if he doesn’t bring down Prigozhin’s rebellion in the most brutal way, that will be the end of it. all for his power,” said Zygar, who said. interviewed most of Putin’s allies and pocket oligarchs over the past two decades.
People in Russia’s southern district, where Wagner had apparently taken control of Russia’s Military Command, were confused and worried. Lyudmila of Rostov-on-Don said in a phone interview: “There were some shootings but other than that nothing special happened, except tanks were blocking the way to Moscow. “We hope our military will get the situation under control soon and it won’t turn into a long version of the Chechen war or a carnage like in Ukraine.”
City services worked quickly on Saturday to take down the advertisements for the Wagner draft – they appeared all over billboards in the Voronezh region, an area where the mercenaries themselves are now living. heading to Moscow.
In Sochi, a resort city in southern Russia, this weekend is supposed to be for the beach. Instead, everyone is glued to their phones and laptops. 36-year-old ski coach Maksim said he is watching both independent media and television news loyal to the Kremlin.
A lot of what he sees is surreal. He loves the image of the tank stuck in the circus gate posted by the propaganda website Life. “I’m glad YouTube is still up, we can keep up with the news,” he told The Daily Beast.
Local politician Vladimir Khrykov said everything was peaceful in Nizhny Novgorod. “Our region is quiet, without Putin’s speech: everyone is worried about his words. But my sources told me they agreed, Wagner would withdraw.”
The founder of Transparency International in Moscow, Yelena Panfilova, told The Daily Beast that friends and colleagues are urgently discussing possible next scenarios, drawing similarities. history. Some compare Prigozhin to Stenka Razin, the leader of one of the four great rebellions that Russia experienced in the 17th and 19th centuries, others to General Lavr Kornilov and his failed coup in 2016. 1917.
Others wondered why Prigozhin was so calm and speculated about whether some of Moscow’s major generals, including the commander of the Special Operations Forces, supported his uprising against the Kremlin. and quickly head to Moscow or not. “I don’t like historical parallels,” says Panfilova. “There was no Internet then and now people record videos of Prigozhin and tanks in Rostov, no one can keep it secret, the news spreads instantly.”
Panfilova said she has not seen anything strange looking out of her large window in a high-rise building in central Moscow. The city is said to be getting ready for its grand annual graduation weekend. “Just imagine how many teenagers are angry, they are talking on TikTok and other social media right now — many girls already getting dressed, looking forward to the party tonight, ” she said.
“Currently, the graduation prom has been postponed for only a week, movement around Moscow has been partially restricted.”
As far as Nizhny Novgorod, 300 miles east of Moscow, news of the closed balls is making waves. Krasnova said: “My friends in Moscow say that the graduation prom has been canceled this weekend. “This is really a big crisis that no one could have expected.”