Wagner boss Prigozhin could become a danger to Vladimir Putin. At least that's what former intelligence officer Igor Girkin is convinced.
Moscow - Yevgeny Prigozhin is the man of the hour in Russia. After the successes in the Battle of Bakhmut, pro-Kremlin media rave about how well organized, efficient and successful the Wagner Group led by him is acting. This strengthens the 61-year-old's back. Again and again, he bluntly criticizes Russia's conduct of the war in Ukraine, denouncing corruption, vanity and bureaucracy in the army.
Especially with the Ministry of Defense, Yevgeny Prigozhin is constantly engaged in new skirmishes. He holds Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov personally responsible for grievances and defeats of the Russian army.
Vladimir Putin still has the situation in the Kremlin under control. But Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin could challenge him for power in the long term. © ALEXEY FILIPPOV/AFP
Vladimir Putin on the verge of falling? Girkin reproaches Prigozhin
While ordinary people in Russia would find themselves in prison for years because of such failures, the ubiquitous Prigozhin rumbles as if he were untouchable. The Russian ultra-nationalist and former intelligence officer Igor Girkin, who used to use the nom de guerre Strelkov, has now even accused Prigozhin of declaring "war" on part of the Russian army and elite – and of planning a coup. "If Prigozhin remains the head of the Wagner Group, the mutiny will come quickly and radically," Girkin said in a video.
Girkin criticized Prigozhin's unacceptable "insults" against the Russian army as a crime and called for steps by the Kremlin against the former restaurateur, who is one of the Russian president's closest confidants and is also known as "Putin's chef." "We don't have another army and we need to make it a combat-capable tool," Girkin stressed in the video. Should Moscow suffer a defeat in the counteroffensive planned by Kiev, Russia would be threatened with complete chaos by the end of the summer.
Prigozhin allegedly plans revolution in Russia: Is Putin slipping away from power?
In fact, organizations like Wagner are now not only questioning the role of the regular Russian army. There is already an open discussion as to whether Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin is not gradually losing the state's monopoly on the use of force. Western intelligence agencies are already talking about "paramilitarization" in Russia.
Russian political scientist Tatyana Stanovaya believes that Putin himself is still relatively strong in order to maintain the balance of power. "For the president, a private military company is an attribute, as it belongs to a great power with geopolitical ambitions," she told the German Press Agency. However, Wagner has long since developed a life of its own. And Prigozhin? He does indeed have revolutionary views. "War produces monsters whose ruthlessness and desperation can pose a challenge to the state." Even the slightest weakness could tip the system. (cs/dpa)