On June 24 of this year, thousands of soldiers from the Wagner paramilitary group advanced towards Moscow. President Vladimir Putin condemned the uprising, which some saw as an attempted coup. In a televised speech, he called Wagner’s actions “treason” and vowed to put down the rebellion.
Already later that day, the parties came to an agreement and the column of soldiers heading towards Moscow was stopped. Since then, Wagner top Yevgeny Prigozhin has been keeping a low profile, but he should still be alive and well. According to the Russian authorities, he met Putin a few days after the uprising.
Bellingcat journalist Christo Grozev is convinced this case will have consequences for Prigozhin in the long term.
– Putin appeared on TV and called Prigozhin a traitor. Everyone knows what to do with traitors, and Putin did not. He wants to see him dead. He can’t do that yet. In six months, Prigozhin will either be dead or there will be another coup, he says in a recent interview. financial times.
In the aftermath of the uprising, many questioned why Prigozhin was allowed to be released. Although the uprising was halted before the Wagner Group arrived in Moscow, at least 13 Russian soldiers were said to have been killed, according to estimates by pro-Russian military bloggers. In addition, the uprising damaged the image of Putin and the Russian regime. Mykhailo Podolak, an advisor to the President of Ukraine, is among those who called Wagner’s uprising “humiliating” to Putin. So did Kristian Outland, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Research.
– First of all, I think that Putin has been weakened and humiliated politically. He does not have the power he had before this incident. It was proven to the whole world, and to Russia, how weak his system was. He told Dagsavisen shortly after the uprising that an elite coup was a real possibility, and could be the end of his regime.
I think the Russian elite will get bored
Grosev is responsible for covering Russia for Bellingcat, an international network of investigative journalists.
In recent years, he has been behind a number of major revelations. Among other things, he contributed to revelations that pro-Russian separatists were behind the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, in which 298 people were killed. He also appeared in the documentary “Navalny”, where he was able to link the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in 2020 with a number of Russian intelligence officers.
Grosev and Bellingcat also made acquaintances with Russian Mikhail Mikosgene, who was affiliated with the University of Tromsø. There was a guest researcher by the name of José Assis Giammaria from Brazil. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) believes the man is linked to Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, and has charged him with espionage.
Bulgarian journalist Gruzev was designated a foreign agent by Russia in 2022 and now lives in the United States. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said that a future coup attempt could come from the Russian elite, but that has not happened yet because no one wants to take the first step.
– He says it is inconvenient that the rest of North Korea’s 2.1 elite live with frozen bank accounts.
He still has a lot of power and influence
Jacob M. Gudzimirski, a researcher and Russia expert at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (Nupi), has little confidence that other power actors will try to stage a coup in Russia. On the other hand, he believes that it is very likely that Prigozhin will be subjected to an assassination attempt.
– The question is when and under what circumstances, says Gudzimirsky to Dagsavisen.
He believes the reason Prigozhin is still alive is because the Wagner Summit still has too much power and influence to take away.
– It was much easier to try to kill Navalny. Navalny does not have many armed soldiers to protect him. Prigozhin has it. Therefore, he must be negotiated, he cannot just be taken away, says the researcher.
Another theory is that Prigozhin is sitting on compromise information about Putin or his regime. For example, about money. In this case, it gives him a kind of protection, Gudzimirski explains.
– Putin took the opportunity to meet with him. It may mean that Prigozhin is sitting on information that gives him some kind of protection. After all, he was part of this system for many years and received a lot of money from the Russian state budget. It is possible that he knows something that Putin does not want to be made public.
– depend on each other
Inna Sangadzhieva, head of the department and Russia expert at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, notes that Prigozhin never attacked Putin directly, but rather on the country’s official institutions, such as the Ministry of Defense. Prigozhin represents an informal institution that Putin has relied on for a long time. Sangadjieva believes this will continue in the future.
– Putin needs a military army that does not care about human rights, laws and regulations, and this will help him win, you say.
There is speculation as to whether this is the reason Prigozhin is still alive. Allowing the Wagner Summit to be sanctioned for the uprising will make it difficult for Putin to achieve his two most important goals in the near future: to end the war in Ukraine with some kind of victory and to win the next elections in Russia next March. .
– Putin still needs Prigozhin. The more support he loses within the state, the more he needs informal institutions like Wagner’s. So I think both Putin and Prigozhin have a very stressful life now, but they still depend on each other.
Facts about the Wagner Group
- The Russian Wagner Group is a private military company with mercenaries.
- How many of the group participated on behalf of Russia in the war in Ukraine is unknown. Many of the group’s soldiers are recruited from Russian prisons.
- And the Wagner Group sent soldiers to a number of countries, including Syria, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Mozambique.
- Mercenaries from Wagner are accused of war crimes in Syria, Libya and Mali.
- The group was founded by former GRU officer Dmitry Utkin and is led by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.
- Prigozhin challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to lead Wagner’s forces against Moscow on 24 July.
- The rebellion was put down after an agreement allowed Prigozhin to move to Belarus.
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