Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group mercenary outfit, has been subjecting Russian military leaders to increasingly audacious criticism, leaving many to wonder why President Vladimir Putin hasn’t taken action against him. A former Kremlin official suggests that Putin’s hesitancy stems from his fear of Prigozhin turning against him.
Prigozhin, whose private military force played a pivotal role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has recently launched a series of profanity-laden videos accusing Russian military leaders of mishandling the invasion.
In his latest statement, he boldly declared that his mercenary army would cease fighting if the war effort continued to be overseen by “clowns who turn people into meat.”
Such blatant acts of defiance are rare in Russia, where numerous individuals critical of the war have faced arrest. Consequently, Prigozhin’s brazen attacks have sparked speculation that he may be plotting a coup against Putin.
Abbas Gallyamov, a political analyst and former Kremlin speechwriter, shed light on Putin’s reluctance to punish Prigozhin.
Gallyamov pointed out that Putin cannot afford to alienate hardline nationalists like Prigozhin, as the regime is already facing discontent from the “patriotic” camp.
Repressing this faction would onlyy further strengthen their opposition and lend credibility to Putin’s critics, who accuse him of transforming into a dictator.
Criticism of the Kremlin’s handling of the war has been mounting, particularly from nationalists who believe that Russia’s pursuit of victory has been insufficient and that the invasion has been mishandled.
The Kremlin had initially anticipated a swift triumph in Ukraine, but the conflict has now devolved into a protracted stalemate. In recent days, Ukraine has made notable gains as part of its summer offensive, further complicating matters.
Insider recently interviewed former intelligence officials who warned that if Russia were to be defeated and ousted from Ukraine, Putin’s hold on power could be jeopardized. Prigozhin, among others, may be positioning himself to seize power in such a scenario.
Various analysts have proposed alternative explanations for Putin’s inaction against Prigozhin. Insider reported in May that the Kremlin heavily relied on the Wagner Group during the arduous battle to seize control of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
Additionally, Putin has long fostered intense internal competition, which may contribute to his tolerance of Prigozhin’s actions.
Gallyamov, who currently resides abroad in self-imposed exile, has been openly critical of Putin and the war in Ukraine. As a result, in April, he was placed on the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted list.