Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner PMC, finds himself living under the looming threat of assassination following his leadership of a significant “armed protest” that posed a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s regime. Despite official claims from the Kremlin that Putin pardoned and exiled Prigozhin’s former ally for swiftly abandoning the insurrection, experts and analysts are skeptical about his safety. The geopolitical risk firm Eurasia Group, led by Ian Bremmer, warns that Putin has imprisoned and assassinated individuals for lesser offenses, indicating a grim fate for Prigozhin.
Prigozhin’s Changing Allegiance:
As a former ally of Putin, Prigozhin had enjoyed the support of the Kremlin and lucrative government catering contracts. However, his perspective shifted during the Ukraine war when he accused the Russian military of withholding essential equipment. Growing frustrated, he openly criticized both the military and Putin himself, even accusing the Moscow establishment of deception. These disagreements ultimately led to his proactive role in the recent march towards the Kremlin, accompanied by armored vehicles and mercenaries.
Demands and Unfulfilled Hopes:
During the protest, Prigozhin outlined the reasons behind the Wagner group’s grievances, demanding that Moscow not dissolve his organization. He also called for the removal of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and sought autonomy for Wagner, along with additional funding. However, the Kremlin perceived these demands as vague and unconventional. Contrary to Prigozhin’s expectations of receiving support from a significant portion of the Kremlin’s troops, Wagner’s forces halted around 120 miles outside Moscow. The failure of his predictions shattered any hopes of compliance, and his calls went unanswered by Putin.
Assassination Risk and Retaliation:
Geopolitical experts and analysts, including Ian Bremmer, express grave concern for Prigozhin’s safety. Given Putin’s track record of imprisoning and assassinating individuals for lesser offenses, it is unlikely that Prigozhin will be allowed to live for an extended period. Furthermore, it is speculated that Putin may retaliate against the Wagner Group, whose involvement in the protest presented a significant challenge to his authority.
While Russian state media TASS reported that Wagner Group recruitment centers have resumed conscripting fighters, indicating a continuation of their operations, a criminal case against Prigozhin remains active. The situation surrounding Prigozhin and the Wagner Group underscores the tensions and power struggles within Russia’s military and political circles. The incident has left lingering questions about the future of the group and the potential consequences for its members.