Two men and a never-ending power struggle: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin appears to have changed his strategy towards Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Like the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analyzed in their most recent situation report, the Russian President apparently intends to intensify his course against Prigozhin again.
According to the experts, for some time he has been trying to portray Prigozhin as “corrupt, a liar”. “His reputation is to be destroyed, not only among the Wagner mercenaries, but also among the Russian public,” reads the ISW report.
New phase of discrediting and isolation of Prigozhin
The fact that Putin now wants to take tougher action against the Wagner boss is particularly surprising because Prigozhin was able to continue his activities in the Russian power apparatus even after the “March on Moscow”.
On June 24, he had his private army occupy the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and sent a military column towards Moscow. The mercenaries were able to travel hundreds of kilometers practically unhindered before Prigozhin himself gave the order to retreat.
Actually a reason for Putin to turn his back on his former confidante forever. Some experts even assumed that Prigozhin would not survive his rebellion. But things turned out differently.
The Wagner boss was not only present at a meeting with the president at the end of June, but also appeared on the fringes of the important Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in July.
Putin wants to separate the Wagner group from Prigozhin
The head of the Russian House in the Central African Republic, Dmitry Syty, even published a photo on Facebook supposedly showing Prigozhin. The ambassador shared the first pictures from the summit with him, Syty wrote.
Experts explained the strangely calm handling of Prigozhin with the fact that his mercenaries could still be used for international business, especially in Africa. Wagner men are active in Mali and Niger, among other places.
However, the calm between Putin and Prigozhin now seems to be over. According to “ISW”, a new phase of discrediting and isolating the Wagner boss has begun.
The reason: Putin is apparently convinced that Prigozhin could stand in the way of his long-term plans. The meetings of the Kremlin boss with Prigozhin and 35 Wagner commanders at the end of June would indicate that he wants to preserve the Wagner group.
Tightening of Putin’s strategy against Wagner boss
However, only the Wagner troupe. According to ISW, Putin is apparently trying to separate Prigozhin from his men. Analysts cite an insider as saying that the Kremlin’s “rhetorical attacks” on Prigozhin have increased since early August.
“Such an increase in Kremlin attacks against Prigozhin, if true, could indicate that Putin has resumed his earlier goal of destroying Prigozhin and clearly separating him from Wagner,” the ISW report said .
After the Wagner boss’s failed mutiny, thousands of gunmen were sent to Belarus, where their status and role are unclear. The military in Poland and Lithuania estimate that there are 4,000 Wagner fighters in Belarus so far.
Individual Wagner mercenaries continue to profess loyalty
According to unconfirmed reports, however, some mercenaries have left Belarus and are back in Russia.
The “ISW” analysts consider it possible that Putin will bring the Wagner soldiers back to Russia in order to have better control over them and to integrate them into Russian military units.
This has not been crowned with success so far. In July, Putin offered the mercenaries integration into the Russian security forces. In an interview, the Kremlin chief stated that Prigozhin rejected the proposal. To this day, individual mercenaries repeatedly declare their loyalty to Wagner and Prigoshin.