UPDATE! From Prigozhin:
We marched out on 23 June on the Justice March. In one day, we got within 200 kilometres of Moscow. During this time we did not spill a single drop of blood of our fighters. Now comes the moment when blood may be spilled. Therefore, understanding the responsibility that Russian blood will be spilled on one side, we are turning our columns around and retreating in the opposite direction to the field camps according to the plan.
The above was supposedly agreed between Prigozhin and Belarus's Lukashenko. The Wagner Group leader is reported as having expected more people to rise up and join him. Under the terms of his agreement with Lukashenko, Prigozhin will be moving to Belarus with the assurance that his mutineers back in Russia will not be punished. Nevertheless, having ordered the Red Army to crush the uprising like a bug, can Putin buy the Lukashenko deal and survive?
~This weekend there appears to be a mutiny underway in Russia. That's the term Vladimir Putin used, and it fits. A year ago western governments exaggerated, laughably, the fragility of Putin's regime in the face of economic sanctions. But this is different. Whether or not it expands into a coup or full-blown revolution, it is the first serious challenge to the current iteration of the Russian state since it came into being in the wake of another attempted coup three decades ago. Putin is colloquially known as "the Tsar" - ie, he wields absolute power. But Russian leaders are vulnerable to bungled warmongering: You could ask the real Tsar, if he hadn't been shot in a basement, stabbed, soaked in acid, burned, and tossed down a disused mineshaft for three-quarters of a century.
The Wagner Group are mercenaries and only 25,000 strong. But they're effective, which is more than you can say for the Russian Army. They have spirit and swagger - again in contrast to the demoralised and defeatist regulars - and are battle-hardened not only from Ukraine but from Syria and Central Africa and various other undercovered spots on the map. After taking Rostov-on-Don, down south near the Ukraine border, Yevgeny Prighozin's men then apparently covered half the ground between there and Moscow in nothing flat, and as of now are reported to be north of Lipetsk - or within 250 miles of the Kremlin.
Twenty-five thousand men cannot take the largest country on earth without backing from the 800,000-strong regular army and/or the people. On their quickstep march to the capital, the Wagner troops are not encountering any serious resistance - which is not quite the same as getting active support. The poor bloody infantry are sick of the Ukraine war and want to go home. Prighozin, on the other hand, thinks it has been fought ineffectually and insufficiently seriously by hack commanders in the Kremlin; he is in favour, for example, of putting Zelenskyy & Co on the receiving end of tactical nukes. So the Wagner Group and the regulars are not really on the same page, but they have the same enemies, which may be enough.
Russia in 2023 is not Romania in 1989, when it took just four days from Ceaușescu's final speech to propping him up against a wall and putting 120 bullets in him. But perception of power is what matters: the Romanian "strongman"'s balcony moment, when the boos of the crowd forced the abandonment of his speech, signaled to the army's commanders that it was safe and, indeed, prudent to switch sides. Putin is a great student of history, and knows in detail the final hours of doomed leaders.
In Washington, meanwhile, unlike the QAnon shaman, the man on the march is an insurrectionist western liberals can really get behind - notwithstanding his increasingly Gollum-like appearance:
And that is more or less where we are as of this hour. All the rest is speculation, which is already galloping far ahead: The Wagner Group are mercenaries after all, and are paid in cash. Would it be possible, therefore, for someone to pay them more cash and redirect them from Bakhmut back to Rostov? You would need a lot of the folding stuff - but then, thanks to the US Government, Ukraine is more liquid than any other place on earth. From here, the conspiracies run their merry ways:
a) The Ukraine war is over. With Russia's least worst soldiery marching on Moscow, what's left on the western front can't do diddly;
b) The Ukraine war is about to metastasize. There are generals in the Kremlin awaiting Prighozin with open arms, because, like him, they're itching to nuke Kiev.
And these are merely the most obvious possibilities. The ease with which Wagner have taken the military facilities of a state with more nuclear weapons than anywhere on earth raises all kinds of darker scenarios.
UPDATE! But then again - from The Daily Mail:
'We are turning back': Wagner chief sensationally agrees to END his mercenary group's march on Moscow.