Live forecasting: Wagner mutiny

Russian officials have accused Wagner Group of staging a mutiny, with some calling it an attempted coup. What happens next?

Monday 26 June 0700 UTC With the situation somewhat stabilised, we'll return to our regular update schedule. Thank you to everyone who joined us over the weekend

20:18 UTC:

A Swift forecaster on whether the negotiated deal will hold for the next 2 weeks:

45%. As far as I can tell at this point, the negotiated deal seems to leave Prigozhin in Belarusian exile with few (or none) of his demands met: the MoD leadership is poised to stay in place and Wagner troops may still have to sign MoD contracts.
From my understanding of the chatter on Telegram, a lot of military bloggers/analysts as well as military personnel (Wagner and otherwise) fully believed in Prigozhin's claims and feel betrayed. As such, I struggle to see this deal holding over the long-term, though the chance of it holding two weeks are higher, at around 45%.

19:15 UTC:

A Swift forecaster expects the deal will hold for the next 2 weeks (55%), and it looks like it will result in Wagner's main goals (of removing Shoigu and Gerasimov from power):

Russian state media is apparently reporting changes will be made to military leadership as part of the deal.

18:47 UTC:

Swift forecaster:

Claims that a deal has been reached and Wagner are retreating seem pretty legitimate. I don't think they'll take Moscow and (in keeping with my earlier rationales). I expect the outcome will be (1) Prigozhin having a considerable say over military operations and (2) Putin will stay in office but have considerably less power.

18:36 UTC:

We are pausing our forecasting on whether Wagner forces will control Moscow, and whether the mutiny will be ongoing/successful in the next two weeks. For now we'll be focusing on the claims that an agreement has been reached between Moscow and Wagner.

18:27 UTC:

15:30 UTC:

Swift forecaster:

With first reports of Wagner being in Moscow Oblast already without serious opposition, I'm moving my forecast up. Airforce interventions may be too late quite soon.

14:31 UTC:

Swift forecaster:

In my understanding, the Russian military bases/units that are between Wagner and Moscow are the air force and some anti-air units, with most or all mechanised brigades serving in Ukraine. This leaves primarily national guard and police/security forces left to defend the city, which I do not expect them to be able to do on a large-scale basis. Though Kayrov’s regiment may arrive in time and provide some additional support, I do not think this will be numerically large enough to make a difference. As such, I anticipate that Wagner controls the majority of Moscow by early in the week, and quite likely by Friday evening. The only way for the MoD to prevent this would be heavy usage of their airborne capabilities, but even these are not primarily air-to-surface, as those are deployed elsewhere too.

nb: while we will make a best effort to ensure that information contained within our forecast analysis is accurate, this is a fast-moving situation with many hard-to-verify claims and it's possible that early reports will need to be revised later on.  

14:08 UTC:

Two views from Swift forecasters on the likelihood that Moscow falls to Wagner control by Friday:

I don't think there's anything much in the way to stop them in terms of military assets, and the political-military response to the coup seems to be near-total paralysis thus far (perhaps apart from the Chechen convoy apparently heading to fight in Rostov). Nudging up my probability that the coup essentially succeeds from earlier forecasts. Haven't seen any major footage of air attacks on the Wagner columns.
If the Kremlin was espeically concerned, would we have expected to see Air Force involvement with Wagner forces moving to Moscow? My sense is that we might have a better sense of this question within the next 12 hours. The convoy appears as though it will reach Moscow within the next few hours and once it makes it there, we'll have a better idea of the kind of resistance they'll be greeted with.

13:05 UTC

Swift forecaster:

I expect deadly fighting to pick up later today (Saturday 24) as the chance of a quick peace (with Wagner taking over the MoD, etc) seem extremely slim based on previous orders by Putin to resist the uprising. This might involve shooting down a transport helicopter (which has already happened on the way to Moscow). If the coup is ongoing, I definitely expect a deadly confrontation in Moscow.

12:01 UTC

Swift forecaster:

61%. One doesn't usually pull of a coup hundreds of miles away from the nexus of power and without any control over the critical tools of the state, such as the media and air forces. However, Wagner does have experience of coup-proofing regimes in Sudan and the Central African Republic, so Prigozhin might have more of an idea of what could work than one may traditionally assume. For instance, they may have secured more military cooperation than is currently clear, and the rumours of Prigozhin lying about the munitions shortages in order to stockpile them for this uprising may be true

11:21 UTC

Swift forecaster:

27%. With all the uncertainty and conflicting information, I think you have to ultimately fall back on the base rate of coup success, which these days seems to be about 25%-30%. Wikipedia has a list here. I typed the past 10 years into a spreadsheet. If you list everything Wikipedia has (e.g., even this in Austra which probably never had any real chance of success ) you come up with 26%. Throw a few of them out and you get more like 28%.

07:55 UTC

Swift forecaster:

42%. Very uncertain about this right now. It’s striking that Wagner had met so little resistance. In general I think most coups tend to either succeed or disband quickly. The 1991 coup lasted three days. But compromise seems unlikely at this point and it seems possible that different factions might be able to hang on to different regions indefinitely.

07:32 UTC

Swift forecaster:

45% -> 46%. Appreciating more now the density of the cities that Wagner now at least partially controls—even if Russia reacts quickly (setting aside that its ability to do so is currently nonobvious) it will be very difficult to thoroughly mop up Wagner positions in the middle of large cities full of RU civilians.  Still expecting a faster resolution than some others here, perhaps because I am more bullish on a cascade of defections that would render the coup a success fairly quickly.

07:15 UTC:

A Russian company is reported to have surrendered to Wagner

07:09 UTC

Swift forecaster:

The Wagner Group appears to be in Rostov-on-Don. The city has a population of 1.115 million people. If Wagner controls it, they are also likely to have access to a key logistical hub.

07:07 UTC

Forecaster update on Putin speech:

Update: Putin calls it an armed mutiny/treason and promises to repel Wagner for the security of Russia and its territorial integrity. Updating upwards to 75% as there does not seem to be a quick conciliation.

06:31 UTC

Swift forecaster:

65%. This is a fast-moving topic, but from what I am seeing now is that Wagner is making fast successes in Rostonov and areas further north, having shot down up to 3 helicopters. The Kremlin’s response also seems to be primarily hard and not conciliatory (the latter of which might have defused the situation quickly), though there have been little actual confrontations. Also, the Russian MoD is calling this an ‘Armed Revolt’, suggesting that the chance of this fizzling out soon is very low and violence might start up soon. A central point of contention that will determine success are the numbers of non-Wagner combatants joining, and there are conflicting reports on this. Putin is scheduled to speak soon, which will most likely influence how the rest of this goes over the weekend and into early next week.

05:44 UTC

Swift forecaster:

35%. Tremendous uncertainty on this one.  Thoughts here are very preliminary and changing rapidly. The speed with which Rostov has apparently fallen, and with which Wagner has advanced on Voronezh, has surprised me (everyone?).  Current view is something like (a) 30% that the Putin government fairly quickly (<2 weeks) extinguishes the coup attempt, (b) 35% that there is a cascading defection and/or desertion amongst Russian Armed forces (initial evidence that this is happening abounds on Twitter, hard to say how real/widespread it is) resulting in a quick (<2 week) toppling of the Putin government and (c) 35% that this becomes a slow grind (> 2 weeks).