Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin is a ‘useless man’: Eurasia Group

According to Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer, Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is a “dead man” after leading a botched insurgency against Vladimir Putin.

The weekend’s armed uprising by Prigozhin, a former Putin ally who founded the private Wagner militia group, was widely seen as the greatest threat to the Russian president’s 23-year tenure. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the episode exposed “cracks” in the Kremlin that had not previously been seen.

Prigozhin was “kind of a dead man at this point,” Bremmer said on Monday in Squawk Box Asia. “I would be very surprised if he was still with us in a few months.”

This Prigozhin-led uprising was unprecedented territory for Putin, who, as of Friday, had managed to quickly crush occasional unarmed protests. This time, the Wagner mutineers came within 200 kilometers of the capital Moscow before their leader suddenly announced that they would call off the operation.

Anyone who believes that Putin is suddenly on the verge of leaving power must also recognize that this is not the case.

Ian Bremer

President of the Eurasia Group

“Putin imprisoned and murdered people for far less money than Prigozhin did to him,” Bremmer added. “It is inconceivable to me that Putin would let him live longer than absolutely necessary.”

The march of Wagner fighters towards Moscow sparked a major effort in the Kremlin to protect the capital after the mercenaries reportedly took control of the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don within hours.

Rostov is of strategic importance as the headquarters of the Southern Military District for the Russian military and as the logistics and command center for Putin’s war against Ukraine.

Mercenary Wagner fighters patrol the center of Rostov-on-Don – a hub of Russia’s Ukraine campaign – after it took over key facilities in an armed insurgency on June 24, 2023.

Stringers | Afp | Getty Images

Under the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin would go into exile in Belarus in exchange for the cancellation of the uprising. According to the state-controlled TASS news agency, the Kremlin agreed to drop the criminal case against Prigozhin.

“Obviously, this shows a level of unprecedented weakness on the part of President Putin,” Bremmer said.

“Yet while Putin has been subjected to an unprecedented scrutiny, there hasn’t been a single high-level defector from the Russian military, from the Russian government, or from among the Russian oligarchs — so anyone who thinks Putin suddenly stands is on the brink.” If we take power left, we must also recognize that we are not there,” he added.

The bitter feud between Prigozhin and the Moscow military establishment has escalated in recent weeks after the Kremlin demanded that all private mercenary troops sign contracts with the Defense Ministry by July 1. Prigozhin refused.

The standoff came to light when Prigozhin launched an armed uprising on Friday after accusing the Russian army of shooting at his mercenaries.

“Prigozhin’s aim was to get Putin’s attention and start a discussion about the conditions for maintaining his activities – a defined role, security and funding,” wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, on Twitter.

“These were not calls for a government overthrow; it was a desperate attempt to save the company in the hope that Prigozhin’s merits in taking over Bakhmut… would be taken into account and Putin’s concerns would attract serious attention,” she added.

The Wagner fighters were a significant force in Putin’s war against Ukraine and played an important role in the capture of the eastern city of Bakhmut.

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