An Alleged Goal By The Wagner Group For Their Russian Mutiny Is A Chilling One (For More Than Putin)

As Vladimir Putin possibly sat inside his secret “cosmetology center” on his “ghost” train, the fed-up (now-former) leader of his private army of mercenaries (the Wagner Group) went on a coup. That lasted less than a full weekend in May, and then Yevgeny Prigozhin supposedly went into exile after his life was spared, and it’s kind-of a miracle that he hasn’t mysteriously fallen out of a high-story window like so many who have dared to oppose the Russian president.

In the harsh light of June, Reuters has been doing leg work on alleged plans during this mutiny, and one of the reported attempted feats is truly chilling. This allegation comes by way of Kyrylo Budanov, the Ukrainian chief of intelligence, who claims that the Wagner fighters weren’t simply heading towards the Kremlin. Rather, they reportedly approached a nuclear base, Voronezh-45, “and that their intention was to acquire small Soviet-era nuclear devices.” When Reuters spoke with Budanov, he claimed that Russia was still hanging onto “backpack”-sized nukes that should have been destroyed by the Russians at the end of the Cold War, but perhaps that didn’t happen:

He said Voronezh-45 houses small nuclear devices that can be carried in a backpack. “This was one of the key storage facilities for these backpacks,” he said, without providing evidence for this assertion. Reuters was unable to establish if the backpack-sized nuclear charges, referred to by Budanov, are kept at Voronezh-45.

Such small nuclear bombs – light enough to be carried by a single person – are Cold War relics. American troops trained to parachute from planes with nuclear weapons strapped to their bodies and Soviet troops trained to deploy them behind enemy lines on foot. But by the early 1990s, both nations agreed to remove them from their arsenals as tensions eased, and did so, though Russia kept some to mine harbours, said Hans Kristensen, who leads the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, based in Washington.

Reuters also quotes a former U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration general counsel, David Jonas, who doesn’t quite believe that Russians would still have these devices, “but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.” That’s not an exactly encouraging response, but we may never know the full truth of the matter. That is, unless Putin actually is overthrown after the invasion of Ukraine finally ends. In the meantime, he’s still swearing that Russian troops would have crushed the Wagner Group if they hadn’t aborted their mystery missions.

(Via Reuters)