Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenaries, has lashed out at military leaders and even fired a veiled bullet at President Putin.
Putin makes fun of his own factions, which could lead to more factional anger. The anger was made public.
Russian leaders can’t afford to target Prigozhin, war experts say, but the Kremlin has other ways to keep him in check.
Against the bloodiest Russian mercenary forces of the Ukrainian war, the tables are turning and their superiors are going astray.
He has infiltrated military leaders and even launched a veiled shooting at the Russian president, withdrawing his troops if they could not get the ammunition they needed, and making Russia’s military made shocking threats to publish details of the blunder. . He doesn’t follow through to the end, but his words and actions are incredible. Russians die or go to prison for far less money.
The insults and rants against Evgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the militia Wagner Group, who has become one of Russia’s most prominent voices in the conflict, are increasingly exposing fissures and glaring problems in the war effort, and his political You risk undermining your benefactor, Russian President Vladimir Putin. .
But it was Putin who caused the chaos, and Russian leaders have little choice but to leave things alone, according to Russian military expert and Institute of War Studies analyst Katerina Stepanenko. It may be.
Mr Stepanenko said of Mr Putin, “He has created a very toxic environment in which only one faction can be given attention at a time.” “He goes back and forth between teams, so you have two factions competing against each other,” she said, all the while hanging “hope” that the team that let him down can somehow regain his ground. It pointed out.
At the moment, the Russian leader oversees most of the military and appears to be taking the side of the defense ministry, which has come under heavy criticism for its failed operations.
Putin appears to have shifted from his previous higher level of support for Wagner. Fuel Prigogine’s wrath He strives to achieve his ambitions, but is now rumored to be political, and his influence is waning. Although he has attacked the Ministry of Defense most viciously, his complaints seem to be directed at Putin as well.
Prigogine’s Endless Fury
The Wagner unit plays a key role in Russia’s combat operations in Ukraine, which causes Prigozhin to expand its force at the expense of Russia’s military resources, often bypassing the Ministry of Defense and forcing command decisions directly on Putin. I was able to In recent months, however, the mercenary force, including Wagner’s convict legion, has been bogged down in the Battle of Bahmut. A terrible battle with many casualties.
During the fierce battle in Bahmut, the mercenaries suffered great lossesescalating tensions between the Russian Ministry of Defense and Wagner bosses, boiled down. Succeeding General Sergei Slovikhin, notorious Russian leader Pushed by ultranationalists like Prigozhin, the Russian Defense Ministry regained control in January.
Prigozhin, a notorious militia company investor and long-time Putin ally, posted a video showing: Wagner’s pile of corpses Ash Blow up the Russian military leadershipin particular Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, Slovaikin’s successor He is also the latest commander of Russian operations in Ukraine. Under this leadership, support for Wagner plummeted, and Prigogine was furious.
He blames them for the lack of ammunition and essential supplies in his army, which he calls “artillery starvation.” sacrifice one’s life A man in his company. At one point, things got so bad for Wagner that experts speculated that Russian forces had attacked. intentionally thin out group.
More recently, with Wagner’s continuing problems, Prigogine threatened to withdraw His army from Bahmut, daring threats against him. then walked back It is believed that he obtained a promise to deliver the necessary ammunition from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Beyond the possibility of jeopardizing operations around Bahmut, the Institute of War Studies I wrote in my latest update As for the Ukrainian war, “chain of command problems” caused by irregular commanders like Prigozhin appear to “have a significant impact on the ability of Russian forces to conduct coherent operations across the theater.” Stated.
Prigozin said he was threatened with treason over claims that Wagner’s forces would withdraw from Bahmut. The threat did not delay him, restrained his rant But.
When his army did not receive the promised supplies and ammunition, Prigozhin posted a video threatening to release details of Russia’s military failures if ammunition was not obtained. He also ridiculed the Russian Victory Parade. President Putin suggested, the mercenary boss does not criticize him by name, but may be a “total asshole” rather than a kindly “grandfather”. He later said he was not talking about Putin.
ISW’s Stepanenko suspects Putin likely gave the permit because the Russian military was stockpiling ammunition ahead of an expected Ukrainian counterattack.It is unclear if the ammunition issue has been resolved. But it seems possible that the Russian leader is having commanders sparring to gain influence.
Mr Stepanenko said of Putin’s manipulation of Wagner and the Ministry of Defense that “he is definitely putting these two factions against each other”, adding that Putin “provided Russia to provide shells to Wagner in Bakhmut”. It is likely that the Department of Defense authorized the suspension,” he added. Central to much of the recent infighting.
“Putin is definitely the mastermind behind these two,” she said.
But even if Prigogine’s concerns may have some truth, questions remain. How can he say what he does without affecting the outcome? And he’s not the only one who finds himself in this situation. Former FSB officer Igor Gilkin, also an outspoken nationalist, is now somewhere in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
“It’s clearly a long-standing question,” Stepanenko said. “If Russia can be so repressive, crush all protests, arrest so many opposition leaders, why are they able to do that?”
Putin cannot risk upsetting ultranationalist allies
“Ultranationalists like Prigozhin serve as a source of mobilization for Putin’s build-up efforts,” Putin said, desperate for new mobilizations that had previously caused considerable discontent within Russian society. She explained that she wants to avoid
Prigozhin is a leading figure in the Russian ultranationalist network, a source of recruits and a firm hold on a major part of Russia’s online information space. As head of the Wagner Group, he has promoted its culture of extreme violence. symbolized A reference to Wagner’s method of executing deserters with a sledgehammer.
“President Putin does not want to disrupt an ultranationalist society,” Stepanenko said.
“He can’t just kill Prigogine and hope that it doesn’t provoke some reaction,” she said. “Of course he could, but it would undermine his appeal to the nationalists, the only people who were intrinsically zealous for his ideology and his belief in this war.”
Russia has created a tightly controlled information space by tightly controlling domestic television, press, and radio, and restricting social media platforms, while the rest of the social media space, which is less restrictive, is characterized by ultranationalism. I found a place where people share both information and information. Disinformation about this war.
“Imagine if Putin decides to kill Prigozhin and turns it into an accident, that side of the information space will explode,” Stepanenko said. Prigogine knows how to weaponize information, and these spatial properties are carefully crafted for a purpose.
Even in the midst of his rants, Prigogine sometimes shows discretion and is clearly self-censoring to some degree when it comes to Putin, but perhaps there are potential points where he risks being more of a hassle than helpful, so those You don’t want to cut the relationship off completely, especially if he’s devalued.
“If surgery is possible, Prigogine is still worth it,” Stepanenko said. “I don’t know if he will be able to maintain his authority after the military is gone, and how long that value will last.” completely exhausted Or it will have to go through a restructuring, or if through Russia his recruitment rate declines and Wagner is no longer an attractive private military company. ”
At that point, Putin could choose to replace Prigozhin. Russia has already opened its doors to new private military companies, which could be part of softening Wagner’s emphasis.
Remarkably, however, Putin has not actually fired anyone, as the ISW has found in its analysis of recent command changes.
“Despite the huge military failures on the battlefield, instead, he rotates them and sends them to Syria or elsewhere,” Stepanenko said. “Putin’s approach seems to apply to his view of Prigogine.”
“I think Putin’s style of leadership is that he definitely doesn’t want anyone to hate him outright,” she said. “President Putin’s approach is different in that it gives hope. It gives me hope.”
But even if President Putin is unable to actually punish Prigozhin at this point, a significant part of why the Russian leadership tolerates ultranationalist insurgencies like Prigozhin is that these leaders are exiled from the Kremlin. The Kremlin recognizes that it is not independent and needs support to function.
According to a recent interview with an official by Russian independent media, “Prigozin and all these ultranationalists are allowed to operate because the Kremlin really thinks they can be controlled.” said Stepanenko.
When Prigozhin takes some action, the Kremlin makes other moves, such as allowing the distribution of artillery shells at his and his army’s expense, or cutting off access to the recruitment of prisoners of war.
The Kremlin “thinks this is acceptable because ultranationalists like Prigozhin and Gilkin depend on some kind of material or military supply from the government,” she said. “I think the Kremlin is playing it right.” But for now, feuds and fights continue.
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