United States intelligence officials believe Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had been planning a major challenge to Russia’s military leadership for quite some time, three people familiar with the matter tell CNN — but it was unclear what the ultimate aim would be.
Intelligence officials briefed congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight earlier this week concerning Wagner movements and equipment buildups near Russia, two of the people said.
US and Western intelligence officials saw signs Prigozhin was making preparations for such a move, including by massing weapons and ammunition, one western intelligence official and another person familiar with the intelligence said.
The official said they believe Prigozhin’s claims of an ammunition shortage for operations in Ukraine was deliberate deception, to help lay the groundwork for a potential military challenge to Russian leaders.
A source familiar with the intelligence said “it all happened very quickly,” and it was difficult to discern how serious Prigozhin was about threatening the Russian military and where he would take his troops.
As CNN has previously reported, US officials were caught off guard by the speed with which the situation unfolded Friday night and escalated into Saturday, causing senior officials to cancel planned international trips and convene emergency meetings across the government.
Update: This post has been updated with the latest information from sources.