KYIV -- Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin's unsuccessful march on the Kremlin last month has exposed long-running feuds and fault lines in Russia's national security community.
The short-lived and ultimately aborted revolt marked the most dramatic challenge ever to Russian President Vladimir Putin's rule.
Prigozhin has feuded with the Kremlin on how to conduct the troubled Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Belarus-brokered deal to halt Wagner's march June 23-24 toward Moscow prevented a major clash, yet details about that agreement remain murky.
The Kremlin said Monday (July 10) that President Putin had met with Prigozhin on June 29 in the Kremlin, days after the mercenary group attempted to topple Russia's military leadership.
"The president gave his assessment of the events of June 24," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring to the failed insurrection, adding that Putin also "listened to accounts given by [Wagner] commanders".
Just over two weeks after the aborted mutiny, there is still significant uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Wagner Group and the deal that ended the rebellion against Russia's top military brass.
Under the plan, the mercenary chief and some of his fighters were expected to be exiled to Belarus.
Wagner mercenaries who wanted to keep fighting for Russia meanwhile would sign contracts with the regular army.
During the three-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Kremlin with Wagner commanders, Putin "offered them alternative options for employment", including in combat roles.
Prigozhin, however, has not been seen publicly since the night of June 24, when he left Rostov-on-Don -- the strategic southern city that Wagner held for a day -- and senior Russian defence officials seen as supportive to the Wagner Group have remained out of the public eye.
On Thursday, Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka -- who mediated the deal with Wagner -- said that neither Prigozhin nor his men were in his country.
Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russia's Aerospace Forces and deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, has not been seen in public since the mutiny, according to a British intelligence update tweeted by the UK Ministry of Defense on July 5.
Deputy Defence Minister Yusu-bek Yevkurov was also notably absent from a televised appearance by the Ministry of Defence's leadership on July 3, it added.
"Reports of Surovikin's arrest cannot be confirmed, but authorities will likely be suspicious of his long association with Wagner dating back to his service in Syria from 2017," London tweeted.
"Similarly, Yevkurov was filmed talking to Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin during the group's uncontested takeover of Rostov-on-Don."
"Although largely known in the West by his brutal reputation, Surovikin is one of the more respected senior officers within the Russian military; any official sanction against him is likely to be divisive," the update said.
"The suspicion that has potentially fallen on senior serving officers highlights how Prigozhin's abortive insurrection has worsened existing fault lines within Russia's national security community."
'Just the beginning'
Prigozhin's rebellion was just the first stage of more massive upheavals within Russia, say observers.
"Prigozhin is not the one who benefits from everything that happened," Viktor Yahun, former deputy director of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and now director of the Agency for Security Sector Reform, told Caravanserai.
"In fact, Alexey Dyumin is behind Prigozhin. The current governor of Tula province is Putin's former aide and bodyguard. He and Prigozhin have a very close, tight relationship," Yahun said.
"Surovikin and Dyumin certainly knew about Prigozhin's insurrection. There's not even a doubt," he said.
The plan was to remove Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu and Russian military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov and replace them with Dyumin and Surovikin, respectively, according to Yahun.
"And then comes the next step. Perhaps not a rebellion but a full-fledged seizure of power, and the replacement of Putin with Prigozhin or someone else," said Yahun.
"Everyone has already seen and realised that the chair under Putin wobbled ... this is just the beginning," he said.
The conflict of interests between Russia's elites will ultimately lead to the complete collapse of the Russian regime, according to Vladislav Seleznev, a war correspondent and former spokesperson of the Ukrainian general staff.
"We remember how ... at the beginning of the last century, the same conflict within the Russian elites actually led to the destruction of the Russian empire," said Seleznev.
The same situation could repeat itself, given Putin's weak response to the mutiny, he said.
"Now the Russian authorities are telling all sorts of tales and trying to restore Putin's image, but it's unlikely to work," Seleznev told Caravanserai.
Russia's complete collapse is a very possible scenario, according to Seleznev.
"Putin miscalculated. That is clear. Now the main trigger for Russia's collapse will be the Ukrainian army's success at the front. I think Putin understands that the situation is extremely difficult," he said.