High-ranking US national security officials already on Wednesday, June 21, knew about the intentions of the founder of Wagner PMC Yevgeny Prigozhin – two days before he announced his “march of justice”, according to The New York Times.
When exactly they received this data is unknown. According to the NYT, on Wednesday intelligence officials held briefings with representatives of the administration and the US Department of Defense, and on Thursday, “when they received additional confirmation,” with congressional leaders. Washington was concerned about how the actions of the PMC founder would affect control over Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
For several months, Washington has been following the development of Prigozhin’s relations with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the newspaper writes. The NYT, referring to a leak of classified American intelligence documents, writes that the United States managed to intercept the conversations of “high-ranking Russian military leaders” who were discussing the demands of the PMC founder to provide the group with ammunition.
The fact that the United States had information about Prigozhin’s intentions to “throw a serious challenge to the military leadership of Russia” is also reported by CNN. The channel reports that intelligence officials in the United States and other Western countries have seen similar signs; earlier this week, they warned congressmen “of the movement and buildup of weapons” of the Wagnerites near the Russian border. However, according to CNN, the actions of the PMC came as a surprise to Washington, as “everything happened very quickly.”
The US White House has previously stated that it is monitoring developments in Russia. President Joe Biden discussed them with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
On June 23, Prigozhin accused the “military leadership” of Russia of attacking the Wagner camps and killing fighters and promised to give an answer. The Ministry of Defense denied this information and regarded it as a provocation. On the morning of the next day, Prigozhin announced control over military facilities in Rostov-on-Don and the intention of the PMC to “go to Moscow.” He abandoned these plans in the evening, saying that his fighters were turning around and leaving for their camps.
Before that, Minsk reported on Prigozhin’s talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, during which an agreement was reached “with security guarantees” for PMC fighters. As they said in the Kremlin, they will not be held accountable, the criminal case on organizing an armed rebellion (Article 279 of the Criminal Code) against Prigozhin will be terminated, and he himself will be able to leave for Belarus.