Mercenary expert explains whether Putin now has to fear Wagner revenge

FOCUS online: If Prigozhin was really liquidated by Putin, how will his supporters behave now? Is a Wagner revenge campaign to be expected?

Herfried Muenkler: Personally, I find it difficult to imagine a second coup attempt. Announcing it is one thing, actually doing it is another. Most of the mercenaries will continue to serve the Kremlin, after all they have always been financed by the Russian state. So I don’t think anything is coming.

However, it could be that individual, smaller groups will try to do something by force of arms. But I would be very surprised if this becomes a bigger campaign.

“That, of course, was the point of the whole operation.”

Who takes over now at Wagner? Who holds the reins after so many leaders have been eliminated?

Muenkler: That, of course, was the point of the whole operation: the point was not only to eliminate Prigozhin, but ultimately the leadership of the Wagner troupe. And the Kremlin can’t just dissolve Wagner himself now, the troops are too important for that. Keywords: North Africa, Sahel, and so on.

And they will probably also remain important for the Ukraine war. And they are also needed to balance the internal balance in Russia. Wagner isn’t the only mercenary group, there are many.

Regimes like the Russian one always fear that the arms bearers will depose them and become independent. Therefore, the different groups are a form of self-assurance. Therefore, the Wagner Group will also pass it on, but it will work much more closely with the Kremlin and there will probably no longer be a single leader.

Those who come into question have seen what can happen and will therefore certainly be wary of accepting such a post.

“For large parts of Wagner there is no reason not to continue exactly as before”

What’s next? How will decisions be made within the mercenary squad from now on?

Muenkler: I’m not involved in Wagner’s structures, but what you can say: mercenaries remain mercenaries. They come from economically poor areas or from prisons. They’re mostly motivated by the idea that it’s a get-rich-quick scheme, although that’s a flexible term. Of course, Prigozhin was a beacon for getting rich.

Others in such troops are concerned only with plundering villages or robbing slain opponents; they tend to be violent. That also happened in Ukraine. So you’re going to be looking around to see who your next client will be.

In Africa, for example, things are likely to continue as before. There are stable command structures, the mercenaries may be smaller in the future, but the troops will not disintegrate.

They will probably continue to be fed from Russia as before. And so there will be no reason for large parts of the group not to carry on exactly as before.

“It’s strange,” says the mercenary expert about the Prigozhin flight

What are the consequences of Prigozhin’s death for Putin? Will this strengthen his power or does he have to fear even more before being disempowered?

Muenkler: At the moment the only thing that comes to mind is the military as a possible Putin overthrow. But here, too, no commander is really capable of such a project at the moment. Of course, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of an attack being carried out by someone whom no one has in mind.

Nevertheless: Putin has currently secured his power, he has sent a clear signal: Anyone who messes with Putin will not survive for long. He then falls off the balcony or is poisoned or the plane just crashes.

What is striking, of course, is the thoughtless manner in which the entire leadership team of the Wagner circle flew in a single airplane. That’s strange. Apparently, the decision-makers felt they were too safe.

Some observers put forward the theory that Prigozhin’s death was merely staged. Do you think that is plausible?

Muenkler: Whether Prigozhin is really dead or not – there are all sorts of speculations in Russia. Nobody will believe that the Russian state organs work properly; nothing is likely to be 100 percent true.

Whatever the speculation, it ultimately shows that in Russia we are dealing with a regime geared towards secrecy, fraud and repression. And they also show that this regime is believed to be capable of almost anything.

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