Prigozhin, “Putin’s Chef” and The Wagner Warlord, cooks up a global political storm
Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing a new crisis, this time from within his ranks. The Wagner Group, a Russian private military company (PMC) accused of war crimes and human rights abuses, has turned against the Kremlin.
Prigozhin shocked the world by leading an armed revolt on 24th June 2023, an event that numerous Western leaders saw as Putin losing the iron grip on his mercenary group after invading Ukraine sixteen months ago.
Prigozhin and his Wagner militia had begun marching towards Moscow in an armed rebellion aimed at ousting Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu. However, after getting within 200 kilometers of the Kremlin, the Wagner chief asked his troops to turn around to “avoid bloodshed.” Prigozhin had earlier said his mercenaries seized “all military facilities” in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and were also deployed in Voronezh as the group moved northwards towards Moscow.
The revolt arose against Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov because the pair were withholding ammunition supply and resources from Prigozhin’s forces in Bakhmut. The town is situated in eastern Ukraine, the focus point of Russia’s persistent attempts to seize control over the past several months.
Putin’s Lukewarm Reaction
In his televised address, Putin made his first public statement since Saturday, expressing concern that the rebellion posed a significant threat to Russia’s survival. He also emphasized that those responsible for the uprising would face severe consequences. He denounced Prigozhin’s actions as “treason” and “armed rebellion.” He warned that those who follow Prigozhin will face “inevitable punishment.”
The Wagner Group’s rebellion is a significant challenge to Putin’s authority. The group is well-armed and well-trained and has a history of conducting covert operations on behalf of the Kremlin. If the Wagner Group were to turn against Putin, it could destabilize the Russian government. The Wagner Group is seen as a de facto private army of the Russian president, and its rebellion suggests that Putin’s grip on power is not as firm as it once was.
Putin’s deliberate efforts to cultivate a macho, take-charge superhero image are well-known. Considering that, Prigozhin’s futile attempt to overthrow the defense ministers has now forced him to take refuge in a hotel room with no windows and live in fear of assassination lifelong.
What is The Wagner Group?
The Wagner Group first emerged in Ukraine in 2014 when unidentified soldiers wearing unmarked uniforms appeared to assist pro-Russian forces in illegally annexing territory for Russia. 62-year-old- Prigozhin, a former convict and Wagner’s Chief has longstanding ties to Putin and won lucrative Kremlin catering contracts that earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef.”
The group is believed to have supported Russian military operations in Syria, Sudan, Libya, Venezuela and East Africa.
During the 2022 invasion, the Wagner Group played a significant role, even recruiting fighters from Russian prisons and offering them pardons to bolster their numbers on the battlefield. However, Prigozhin stated in February that this practice would be discontinued.
Current Status of the Wagner Warlord – Prigozhin
On Sunday morning, Prigozhin was set to leave for Belarus under the deal brokered with the Kremlin. As part of the deal, Wagner’s troops would be pardoned and criminal charges against Prigozhin would be dropped.
Over the past few days, Russia has lurched from dictating military power to a politically insecure nation. Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a swift armed rebellion before ordering his troops to march back.
Prigozhin said his troops were on a “march for justice” at one point. They were reportedly headed toward Moscow. This led to intense defensive preparations. However, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko intervened, prompting Prigozhin to say his troops were turning back to avoid “Russian bloodshed.”
Is this the beginning of the end of invincible Putin’s era?
Observers around the world are unanimous that Putin is weakened. His image as a leader with an iron grip is under a cloud. The Wagner Group crisis is a significant challenge to Putin’s authority. If the group were to turn against the Kremlin, it could destabilize the Russian government. This would have a substantial impact on the future of Russia.
The country could descend into civil war or be plunged into a period of chaos and instability. This would hurt the Russian economy and could lead to losing international prestige. The Wagner Group crisis could lead to a change in leadership in Russia. If Putin is forced to step down, it would be a significant turning point in the country’s history. However, it is clear that this is a major challenge to Putin’s authority and will significantly impact the future of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War and global politics.