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Prigozhin’s revolt of the Wagnerians. What will happen in Russia? What about the power of Vladimir Putin? Tomasz Piechal about scripts

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Perhaps this is an introduction to something that we will see in a few months or so, i.e. a play-off in the process aimed at weakening Putin. It will certainly be very difficult for Putin to erase – in terms of the thinking of the Russian elite – a certain disgrace that he has covered himself with – commented for tvn24.pl Tomasz Piechal, an expert on Eastern affairs, former OSW analyst, currently the author of the Szkice Wschodnie blog.

On Saturday, the head of the Wagner Group – a private Russian military company – Yevgeny Prigozhin led an armed rebellion in Russia. The forces under his command departed from Ukraine in the “March of Justice”, the goal of which was to be Moscow. The Wagnerian troops approached the Russian capital to a distance of 200 kilometers. Ultimately, as a result of negotiations with Vladimir Putinmediated by the Belarusian dictator Alankandr Lukasheka, Prigozhin held off the assault and agreed to go to Belarus to, as he stated, “avoid bloodshed”.

READ MORE: 36 hours of “justice march”

The events in Russia were commented on in an interview with the tvn24.pl portal by Tomasz Piechal, an expert on eastern affairs, former OSW analyst, currently the author of the Szkice Wschodnie blog.

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“You have to give yourself some time to be able to clearly say what exactly happened. Perhaps we will never know. There are several scenarios and they can all be equally likely, he argued.

Prigozhin’s revolt of the Wagnerians. “Putin’s power is weakening”

According to Piechal, “Vladimir Putin’s position as a leader has been seriously weakened.” – We are talking about a country that has a specific political culture, which in many respects resembles a criminal organization, where there is a very clear code, even street code. In such a code, the man who allows himself to be weak, who does not punish insubordination, who gets along with whoever has raised a hand against him, comes across as a weakling. Such a weakling quickly loses respect in the eyes of his surroundings, in the eyes of people subordinate to him. And this can be very dangerous for Vladimir Putin – says the interlocutor of tvn24.pl

In his opinion, the situation in which Putin is unable to suppress Prigozhin’s rebellion shows that there has been a breach in the power structures in Russia. The vision in which Putin is the sole leader, the final authority in all matters, is no longer valid.

The Beginning of the End for Putin? Experts: Prigozhin has weakened the position of the Russian leaderPAP/EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

In the course of its “march of justice”, the Wagner Group took control of the city of Rostov-on-Don with over a million inhabitants. As Piechal points out, the mere fact that the Wagnerians managed to seize any city is unimaginable in the context of Russia. – Putin’s power is weakening. War in Ukraine significantly weakened Putin’s ability to act and control the situation inside the country, Piechal assessed.

According to him, the next steps of the Russian leader will be crucial. – If there is no hard reaction of Putin to insubordination, some wave of repression aimed at the opposition, it will be a signal to many people in the Russian system of power that Putin is simply weak. This opens up the possibility that in some time someone will want to take over power from him – said the interlocutor at tvn24.pl.

History comes full circle

Vladimir Putin has been at the helm of Russia for more than two decades. During this time, he became known as a ruthless and undisputed leader. He always ruled with a firm hand.

– The foundation of Putin’s power was to deal with the power of the oligarchs at the beginning of his presidency. He wanted to force their subordination, make them all under him, that he distributes the fiefs, he distributes the influence, he is the final authority. Recent events in Russia show that he has ceased to be such an authority – believes Tomasz Piechal. – It seems – he adds – that history has come full circle and today Putin is in a similar position to which he was at the beginning of his presidency, when there were many other entities in Russia who could want to influence the situation in the country.

Read also: Former head of the British army warns Ukrainians: Prigozhin may attack from Belarus

Wagnerians PAP/EPA

The Wagnerian Rebellion was over before it could really get going. The march towards Moscow was interrupted after several dozen hours, and the Wagnerian revolt ended in an unexpected agreement between Prigozhin and the Kremlin. According to Piechal, however, this is not the end of the Russian dictator’s problems.

– Perhaps this is an introduction to something that we will see in a few or a dozen or so months, i.e. a play-off in the process aimed at weakening Putin. It will certainly be very difficult for Putin to erase – in terms of the thinking of the Russian elite – a certain disgrace that he has covered himself with, the expert said.

“Mad move” or “awareness of the situation inside Russia”

The motives behind the leader of the Wagner Group, who so openly decided to throw down the gauntlet against the Russian regime, remain a mystery. There are many speculations. It could have been his crazy move. Prigozhin was against the wall. His insubordination and unequivocal criticism of the Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu and the tops of the Russian army made him feel at some point that he had crossed a certain line and could soon become a target for liquidation. So he fought to avoid this death somewhere on the front by unknown people and took up a fight that was supposed to give him some form of security – said Piechal, when asked what could have driven the head of the Wagnerians.

Read also: Prigozhin has never belonged to Putin’s inner circle. Who is in it?

– Perhaps he knew, he got information from sources in the Kremlin, he was aware of how weak the situation inside Russia is. Moreover, most of the army is at the front and there was not much to oppose him, the expert noted.

Vladimir Putin MIKHAEL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN/POOL/EPA/PAP

In his opinion, Prigozhin, starting his assault on Moscow, “was aware that many people would watch his attempt with interest and would not stand against it, and this is very important.” – If he knew that the power camp is consolidated around Putin, he would not take it. It doesn’t have to be an organized conspiracy, but awareness of the situation in the Kremlin. It could have been an act of bravado by a man who was aware that this bravado would meet with a lack of reaction, and perhaps even with the favor of part of the power environment – ​​said the interlocutor at tvn24.pl.

Announcement of the next chapters

He noted that the events we witnessed in Russia are still shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. According to Piechal, only more clear steps – possible nominations, resignations, reshuffles in the Russian system of power – will show whether Putin suspects that someone from the circles of power had a hand in the Wagnerian rebellion.

It is not known what the consequences of the events that took place last weekend in Russia will be. – We will certainly have to deal with a gigantic weakening of Putin as a leader and a change in the image of how the system of Russian power looks and works today – summed up Piechal. “Perhaps it heralds the next chapters and further cases of this type of insubordination, including a scenario in which Putin – even if he does not resign from power – will not run in the next presidential election,” he added.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/EVGENY BIYATOV



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