US gathered detailed intelligence on Wagner chief's rebellion plans but kept it secret from most allies

US intelligence officials were able to gather an extremely detailed and accurate picture of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's plans leading up to his short-lived rebellion, including where and how Wagner was planning to advance.

US gathered detailed intelligence on Wagner chief's rebellion plans but kept it secret from most allies

Washington CNN

CNN reported that US intelligence officials had been able to get a detailed picture of Yevgeny Prgozhin, the chief of Wagner, prior to his brief rebellion. This included where and how Wagner planned to advance.

CNN reported that the intelligence was held so tightly, it was only shared with a few select allies including senior British officials and not with NATO as a whole.

Sources said it was unclear when Prigozhin planned to act. He appears to have moved forward with his plans following a statement made by the Russian Ministry of Defense on June 10, which stated that all private military firms, including Wagner would be forced to enter into contracts with Russia's Military beginning in July, and be absorbed essentially by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The intelligence was kept so secret in the US that it was only shared with the highest ranking officials of the administration and the Gang of Eight Members of Congress who had access to the most sensitive matters of intelligence.

Sources said that the secrecy of the intelligence is what caught some senior European and US officials off-guard by Prigozhin’s attack and the speed at which Wagner forces swept into Rostov on Don and then up to Moscow in the early hours of Saturday morning.

One person who was familiar with intelligence said, "It was a very tight hold."

Some NATO officials were frustrated that intelligence wasn't shared. Sources explained that sharing the intelligence would have put at risk highly sensitive methods and sources. Officials said that Ukrainian officials weren't informed about the intelligence either because they feared conversations between US officials and Ukrainian officials could be intercepted.

Biden spoke with allies in the days following the end of the rebellion, including leaders from France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Officials say that during those conversations, Biden shared the information the US had on the rebellion to make sure the leaders understood what the US knew.

'Hiding in plain sight'

Prigozhin’s uprising was not a sudden event. US officials have been monitoring his growing feud between the Russian Ministry of Defense and him for months. They took note of threats that were exchanged back and forth. CNN reported that there were signs Wagner was stockpiling ammunition and weapons in the lead up to his rebellion.

Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and member of the Gang of Eight who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that Prigozhin’s rebellion was 'almost hiding in plain view'.

It was still surprising to US intelligence officials that Wagner received so little resistance.

Warner stated on CNN's "Inside Politics" that Putin was 'clearly weak'.

Warner stated that the fact that a mercenary force, which I do not believe had 25,000 soldiers as Prigozhin claimed but could march into Rostov a city with a population of a half million, the center for command and control in the entire Ukrainian war and take over the city without firing a single shot, was unprecedented.

CNN reported that multiple sources said that US and Western officials believed that Putin was caught by surprise by Prigozhin and that he did not have enough time to assemble his forces to fight the Wagner mercenaries who managed to take control of the military HQ in Rostov. Officials said that Putin did not want Ukraine to lose significant resources.

Officials believe that Prigozhin would have lost if he had tried to seize Moscow, or the Kremlin. Officials believe that Prigozhin likely agreed to strike a bargain with Belarus, and then turned his troops.

Former administration officials told CNN there were times when the US wouldn't have been surprised if the tensions between Prigozhin, the Russian Ministry of Defense and themselves erupted into localized violent skirmishes. US intelligence did not anticipate a situation of this magnitude until a few short weeks ago.

Biden told reporters on Monday that he had instructed his national security team members to prepare for "numerous scenarios" as the mutiny unfolded. White House declined to elaborate on the scenarios that were considered, but sources familiar with the situation said a variety of contingencies, including the possibility Prigozhin might reach Moscow, were examined.

Senior US officials scrambled to contact allies and partners after Prigozhin's rebellion. They also reiterated a key message, that the West must remain silent so as not to give Putin an opportunity to blame the US or NATO.

Officials said that US officials privately reassured the Russian government of the US's lack of involvement in the uprising and encouraged them to protect their nuclear arsenal.

Don't rock your boat

According to a Western official, on Saturday, before Prigozhin stepped down, allies reached out to Ukrainian officials at different levels to warn them against taking advantage of the chaos in Russia.

Ukraine and the west were worried that they would be perceived as supporting Prigozhin, and threatening Russian sovereignty.

The official stated that the message had been sent to the Foreign Minister, his deputies, and ambassadors.

The official reiterated what US and Western officials had publicly said. Allies warned Ukrainians not to provoke a situation. Take advantage of the opportunities that exist on Ukrainian soil, but do not get involved in internal affairs or attack offensive military assets within Russia.

Ukraine is suspected in the war of carrying out an increasing number of covert attacks on Russian military installations and sabotage, and even a drone attack on the Kremlin. Ukrainian forces have shelled Russian Belgorod, close to the border between countries.

The official stated that he did not want to be seen as a party who initiated this. It's exactly what the Russians wanted to prove that there were threats to Russian sovereignty.