Analysis: After Prigozhin three key conclusions and what comes next - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: After Prigozhin three key conclusions and what comes next

Abone Ol 

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s demise was only a matter of time, and it manifests as a tipping point for the beginning of a “witch hunt” but not likely to become a catalyst for any some sort of outbreak.

The elimination of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the so-called Wagner private military company, and this organization’s top leadership in general, which reportedly occurred on August 23rd, was a matter of time.

For Vladimir Putin personally, it was also a matter of survival, thus all guarantees of safety after the mutiny two months ago were no different from any other Kremlin’s promises. Because leaving Prigozhin alive would mean showing weakness – and impunity for those who attempt to overthrow Putin’s rule.

The rest is trivial. Take a private jet down with a SAM missile or an interceptor aircraft, or simply plant a bomb – all these details have little to no importance. As well as the fact that the Embraer Legacy 600 (registration ID RA-02795) jet reserved for Wagner’s elite was flying toward Valday, where Putin has a residence. In other words, there is a chance Prigozhin was being lured into a private talk with the Kremlin’s sole governor.

The route of the RA-02795 in process
The route of the RA-02795 in process / Infographics credit: FlightRadar24

This situation calls for three main conclusions which are more important than all the details of how it was executed.

Elimination of Prigozhin as an “Official” Beginning of the Purge

There is quite a widespread premise that Putin’s authority is based not on his total control but rather on his role as “moderator” and center of balance among the “Kremlin’s towers.” Maybe this hypothesis would be true as of the time he just came to power and during his first 15 years of rule.

However, now the russian leader’s actions demonstrate without ambiguity that he only prefers it in a full-blown autocratic way. It inevitably leads to a certain club of those unsatisfied with his policies, even among his associates. And any autocratic regime has to pull out weeds to keep its authority unwavering and safe.

This process triggers a snowball effect: the harsher purges, the more unsatisfied ones. Until the whole management system decays and is enveloped in a total atmosphere of fear and terror, in which the only survival factor is loyalty.

Yevgeny Prigozhin actively used Putin's methods of self-promotion, as here he recorded his flight in a combat aircraft
Yevgeny Prigozhin actively used Putin’s methods of self-promotion, as here he recorded his flight in a combat aircraft / Open source photo

But russia has existed in this state for all of its history, no changes should be expected. Furthermore, both history and current events make an implicit impression that ordinary russians consciously and openly support the opening of repression season, all until the FSB starts coming for them personally. This is especially evident in how the practice of writing denunciation reports became especially widespread in russia over the past year and a half.

Elimination of Prigozhin as Catalyst

Putin’s idea must be that any system relies on the central figure or a group of people at most who ensure its functioning. Once again, nothing else could come to his mind in an authoritarian system, where he could say “russia, that is me.”

Which is why the Kremlin might see the elimination of Prigozhin and the entire leadership of the Wagner Group as an ultimate solution to all the problems with the former insurgents and make an example for all the future ones.

And with all the anticipation that such a public figure, so popular in russia, who made a living and political career of sacrificing prisoners to the war machine, would turn into a catalyst for another rebellion or at least a protest, this won’t happen.

Prigozhin recruiting prisoners in a penal colony
“Putin’s Chef” Prigozhin recruiting prisoners in a penal colony / Still image from a video published by Wagner PMC press center

Prigozhin’s “march on Moscow” in June demonstrated that the entire campaign did not succeed because the main part failed – an active uprising inside the Kremlin. With the forces at hand (roughly 25,000 equipped personnel), it was too optimistic for the Wagner PMC chief to expect to take Moscow.

Of course, there is still room for the alternative scenario, in which Prigozhin’s coup was a staged performance aimed at finding out real traitors and trying how the others would react, paying close attention to those who were not so quick to publicly support Putin. Even if that were the case, the fate of Prigozhin would be the same.

Although after the first failed attempt of insurgency, there is always a pause for as long as the next ones in line need to bolster their determination and adjust the plan taking into account the mistakes made by forerunners.

A handmade memorial featuring Prigozhin alonside other russian war criminals and propagandists
A handmade memorial featuring Prigozhin alongside other russian war criminals and propagandists / Photo source Sota.Vision

Elimination of Prigozhin who will be Forgotten Anyway

It is also important to give credit to the Kremlin’s infamous but effective media control system. It was not created by Putin particularly, because back in the times of the USSR, defamation of those former comrades blacklisted as “enemies of the people” became a common practice and grew to a large scale.

Therefore, it won’t take much time for any mention of Prigozhin and Wagner PMC to disappear from the public. Just as no one will remember Surovikin who disappeared after Prigozhin’s coup.

Thus any speculations around possible internal quarrels among the russian authorities and major players with consequences in a short-term perspective have too little of a chance to become reality. The only realistic alternative is that all of Putin’s accomplices will look at Prigozhin’s fate and see their own prospects, like in a mirror, and start covert activities out of self-preservation instinct.

Abone Ol 

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