Speculation rife about Shoigu and Prigozhin’s whereabouts in absence of any clear direction from Putin

The dust is settling. The damage is deep. And the question remains, especially in the absence of any clear direction from Vladimir Putin – what happens next?

Expect the Kremlin to deliver a bit more of the “business as usual”, “nothing to see here” Putin diary appointment videos.

Russia-Ukraine latest: Wagner boss Prigozhin’s whereabouts unknown as rival seen for first time

We have video of the defence minister Sergei Shoigu inspecting a Western command forward operating base apparently in the “special military operation zone”, supposedly this morning, though Telegram chatter is busily debating whether it was filmed before the coup took place.

And Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was presumably told in no uncertain terms to keep his head down in Belarus for the time being, even if he is not the type who likes to keep quiet for long.

So what will happen to the top military command, who have just weathered weeks of criticism and a short-lived but dangerous armed rebellion?

How much credibility do they still have in the eyes of their men when thousands if not hundreds of thousands serving in the Russian armed forces must have watched those Prigozhin videos and felt a few home truths?

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Has Wagner rebellion weakened Putin?

Prigozhin was good at taking the side of his troops, pointing out the pointlessness of the whole Ukraine exercise, raging against the hideous and unnecessary loss of life.

That must mean a good deal if you’re sitting on the frontlines wondering if you’re next.

Read more:
On the streets of Moscow, people seem shaken up by Wagner Group rebellion
What does the aborted Russian mutiny mean for the war in Ukraine?

Putin famously favours loyalty and Shoigu and his chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov have been nothing but loyal.

The commander-in-chief will also not want to look as though he has been forced to bow to pressure, especially not from Prigozhin who he has just denounced as a traitor.

But there is now speculation that he is casting around for alternatives.

Governor of the Tula region, Alexei Dyumin, is one of those mentioned as a possible Shoigu successor.

If there is a reshuffling, then it will probably happen once the dust has settled.

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It was also apparent from the whole contracts debacle that Shoigu – and therefore Putin – must have decided that the Ukraine war could and should now only be handled by the ministry of defence and that all other freelance units, Wagner being the most prominent, should be incorporated into the fold.

That was an indication that Shoigu was on the up.

It was probably also the reason why Prigozhin decided to chance it, demanding Wagner be seen on an equal but separate footing to the Russian armed forces. Folie de grandeur, perhaps.

So if Putin replaces Shoigu now, he looks weaker still.

Though I will finish with the caveat, given Saturday’s lightning events, that all is unpredictable and remains so, despite the apparent calm of the last 24 hours.